5 Common Symptoms Of Borderline Personality Disorder

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson, MA
Updated September 21, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a type of mental health disorder that affects the way an individual views themselves and others. Symptoms can impact moods, behavior, relationships, work and school, and other aspects of a person’s life. Personality disorders can sometimes be difficult to recognize because some symptoms can be mistaken for a person’s natural demeanor, so getting familiar with the key signs can help you be more aware of whether you or someone in your life may be exhibiting signs of one. Below, we’ll explore five common symptoms and patterns of borderline personality disorder along with key treatment options.

Do You Think You May Be Experiencing Symptoms Of BPD?

Borderline Personality Disorder, Defined

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a mental health condition characterized by mood, self-image, and behavior fluctuations. It can also impact a person’s ability to control emotions and manage impulses, which may negatively affect work and relationships and can even lead to self-harming behaviors if left untreated. An individual with BPD may have trouble separating their perception of the behavior and moods of those around them from reality, which can cause fear and conflict.

Compared to other personality disorders, borderline personality disorder is relatively rare. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, only about 1.4% of adults in the US experience symptoms of BPD.

Nearly 75% of these are individuals who identify as women. Healthcare professionals usually recommend immediate treatment for those who are diagnosed with borderline personality disorder to prevent harm to themselves or the people around them.

5 Common Symptoms Of Borderline Personality Disorder

Remember, only a qualified healthcare professional can properly diagnose a clinical mental health disorder like BPD. However, gaining a better understanding of the common signs and symptoms of this condition can help you decide when you or a loved one might need to consider seeking treatment. Some of the most common signs of BPD are as follows.

1. Avoidance Of Abandonment

People living with BPD often go to extreme lengths to avoid what is typically one of their deepest fears: being abandoned by those they love. Examples of behaviors an individual with BPD might exhibit in an attempt to avoid abandonment include quickly getting close to people they care about (physically or emotionally) or creating rapid and extreme distance between themselves and others in anticipation of abandonment. These behaviors can be especially evident in the context of romantic relationships. They may also be unable to tolerate being alone, even for short periods.

2. Unstable Relationships

The way an individual with BPD typically views friends, family relatives, and romantic partners can change abruptly, leading to a pattern of unstable, “on again, off again” relationships. For example, they might view the people around them as "perfect" one day and "monstrous" the next. Someone who is in any kind of relationship with an individual with untreated BPD may get frustrated with the ups and downs and end things, leading to the abandonment that the individual so fears.


3. Impulsive Behaviors

Those experiencing borderline personality disorder also commonly demonstrate difficulty managing impulses, which can lead to reckless, dangerous behaviors. These behaviors may vary based on the individual and the severity of their symptoms, but they can include things like:

  • Promiscuity and unsafe sex
  • Excessive alcohol and/or substance use*
  • Eating disorders**
  • Reckless driving
  • Suicide threats and/or attempts***

*The SAMHSA National Helpline for substance use issues is available 24/7 and can be reached by calling (800) 662-4357.

**If you or a loved one is experiencing an eating disorder, you can contact the National Eating Disorder Association Helpline for support and resources at 1-800-931-2237 (M–Th from 9AM–9PM EST and Fri 9AM–5PM EST).

***If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or behaviors, seek help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached 24/7 by dialing 988.

4. Severe Mood Swings

Mood swings are a common symptom of multiple mood and personality disorders, so these alone don’t necessarily signify borderline personality disorder. However, they’re almost always present in those who do go on to be diagnosed with BPD. An individual with this disorder may fluctuate between irritability, sadness, euphoria, anxiety, boredom, and/or emptiness within hours or days. That said, what often differentiates BPD mood swings from those associated with other conditions is the severity and frequency. For example, a person living with BPD may feel profoundly empty one day and ecstatically fulfilled the next, either for no apparent reason or for a reason they attribute to the actions of someone else.

5. Stress-Induced Dissociation 

Some people living with borderline personality disorder may experience dissociative episodes. Dissociation usually involves feeling like you're "out of your body", like you’re lacking or losing your identity, or like the world around you isn’t real. Feelings of paranoia or suspicion about the motives of other people may also precede full dissociation. Individuals living with BPD most often experience dissociation during times of high stress. 

Do You Think You May Be Experiencing Symptoms Of BPD?

Treatment For Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline personality disorder is a mental health condition that generally requires immediate treatment upon diagnosis. While the causes of BPD aren't entirely clear yet (genetics, environmental factors, and impaired brain function may all play a role), various treatment methods are available to help individuals manage the disorder’s symptoms and enable them to live happy, fulfilling lives. Some of the most commonly recommended treatments for borderline personality disorder include:


Medications such as antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and antipsychotics are commonly prescribed to treat BPD.


Dialectical behavioral therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and psychodynamic psychotherapy are often invaluable tools for individuals living with BPD. These methods of learning techniques for emotional management and awareness are usually essential for managing the disorder, and they’re considered to be some of the most effective ways to improve symptoms over time.

Short-Term Hospitalization

Depending on symptom severity, some individuals living with BPD may be hospitalized for a short time to defend themselves and others until their symptoms are under control.

Many licensed therapists and psychiatrists specialize in working with individuals who have personality disorders. Connecting with such an expert is generally the recommended way to obtain a proper diagnosis and access effective treatment.

Online Therapy For Borderline Personality Disorder

While in-person treatment can be effective as well, research suggests that people living with BPD also show signs of improvement with virtual interventions such as online therapy. In addition, online therapy can make finding treatment more convenient and less stressful for those who are uncertain about in-person therapy or who have few provider options in their area. If you’ve already been diagnosed with BPD and were advised to see a therapist or are experiencing non-severe symptoms of a mental health condition, meeting with a provider online may be a viable option for you. With an online therapy platform like BetterHelp, you can get matched with a licensed therapist who you can meet with via phone, video call, and/or in-app messaging to address the challenges you may be facing.


Borderline personality disorder is a serious mental health condition that typically requires professional diagnosis and treatment. If you’re experiencing key symptoms of this or another mental health disorder, it’s usually recommended that you meet with a licensed healthcare professional for evaluation and treatment.

Work through personality disorder symptoms

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
Get the support you need from one of our therapistsGet Started