What is borderline personality disorder



I’ve tried researching it and many explanations seem to be emotionally charged, judgmental, and non-factual. “They’re so evil and manipulative!” Okay, but can you actually describe what it is?

The the factual, non-biased explanations show what’s in the DSM-5, but it’s kind of vague. What exactly is it? What might people with BPD do to avoid abandonment? Etc.

Edit: Just wanted to thank everyone for their reply. Everyone has brought something of value and an interesting perspective.

In: Other

The definition on the NIMH website isn’t vague at all:

People with borderline personality disorder may experience mood swings and display uncertainty about how they see themselves and their role in the world. As a result, their interests and values can change quickly.

People with borderline personality disorder also tend to view things in extremes, such as all good or all bad. Their opinions of other people can also change quickly. An individual who is seen as a friend one day may be considered an enemy or traitor the next. These shifting feelings can lead to intense and unstable relationships.

Other signs or symptoms may include:

* Efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment, such as rapidly initiating intimate (physical or emotional) relationships or cutting off communication with someone in anticipation of being abandoned
* A pattern of intense and unstable relationships with family, friends, and loved ones, often swinging from extreme closeness and love (idealization) to extreme dislike or anger (devaluation)
* Distorted and unstable self-image or sense of self
* Impulsive and often dangerous behaviors, such as spending sprees, unsafe sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, and binge eating. **Please note:** If these behaviors occur primarily during a period of elevated mood or energy, they may be signs of a mood disorder—not borderline personality disorder
* Self-harming behavior, such as cutting
* Recurring thoughts of suicidal behaviors or threats
* Intense and highly changeable moods, with each episode lasting from a few hours to a few days
* Chronic feelings of emptiness
* Inappropriate, intense anger or problems controlling anger
* Difficulty trusting, which is sometimes accompanied by irrational fear of other people’s intentions
* Feelings of dissociation, such as feeling cut off from oneself, seeing oneself from outside one’s body, or feelings of unreality

Not everyone with borderline personality disorder experiences every symptom. Some individuals experience only a few symptoms, while others have many. Symptoms can be triggered by seemingly ordinary events. For example, people with borderline personality disorder may become angry and distressed over minor separations from people to whom they feel close, such as traveling on business trips. The severity and frequency of symptoms and how long they last will vary depending on the individual and their illness.

Emotion dysregulation, interpersonal issues, and sometimes self harming behavior usually linked to early trauma or emotional neglect. Also a heavily pathologizing wastebasket diagnosis for mental health workers who dislike their patients.

I worked in mental health years ago and there seems to also be a difference between genders for borderline personality disorder. I may be incorrect but since I am a female, most of my female patients i worked with this diagnosis were consistently on suicide watch (why I mentioned being a female bc this includes arms distance at all times including bathroom and shower)

Best book title ever (imho) is about borderline. “I hate you; don’t leave me.” Perfectly sums this disorder up.

Completely serious, if you have time watch “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” through all the seasons to watch Rebecca’s journey to her diagnosis. Bonus, it’s hilarious and heartfelt.

For normal people they seem manipulative and abusive because not even the person with BPD knows what they really want. Distorted emotions takes the best of them. Since to them they feel like they are the ones being manipulated and they go down the wrong thought loop which leads them to do the wrong thing or make the wrong decision.

This may seem out of control to the other person because all of this is imaginary.

Also Borderline personalities have had issues growing up. Abusive childhood that leads them to develop such personalities.

I actually have my first appt with a therapist for these very reasons(not all of them. But def a good chunk of what was included in this list.) Just kinda took me by surprising reading this

The word “borderline” means the border between psychosis and neurosis.

The NIMH definition is accurate, but doesn’t ELI5 as you’re requesting. Based on the book I link to below, and I can tell you also from my first hand experience, that BPD has roots in feeling worthless. Behavior which can be seen as damaging or uncomfortable or abusive, can also be explained as someone with BPD having an overwhelming need to be perceived as having worth. It’s not just being “evil” or “manipulative”, there’s a reason WHY the behavior occurs. The mindset is closer to: “You’re wrong, you aren’t hurt by me. I can’t have hurt you, because if I did then I was wrong, and if I was wrong you won’t love me, and if you don’t love me I’m worthless and will be abandoned. So I didn’t hurt you, you are not hurt, because I can’t be revealed to be worthless.” Something like that.

I STRONGLY recommend you read the book [“Stop Walking On Eggshells”](https://www.amazon.com/Stop-Walking-Eggshells-Borderline-Personality/dp/1572246901), which describes BPD through the lens of the family and friends of those who suffer from it. It makes it much easier to identify, and to understand the difference between “high functioning” and “low functioning” BPD.

Also, it’s worth noting that BPD is often diagnosed alongside narcissistic personality disorder, they amplify each other in some ways.

I hope this helps.

I think one thing worth mentioning is that BPD is a treatable disorder. Since it’s often the result of trauma or neglect, basically nurture over nature, it seems to be easier to work through than say mood disorders like bipolar disorder. It’s also something that’s commonly misdiagnosed.

I personally witnessed someone close to me be misdiagnosed as bipolar when they actually suffered from bpd. When we realized that the bipolar diagnoses didn’t really fit, we were eventually able to recognize that bpd might be the culprit.

The awesome part is that with the correct therapy, this person was able to get phenomenally better in a relatively quick span of time. They really turned their life around in a way that sadly isn’t typical of someone suffering from bipolar disorder.

So while many people who suffer from bpd can have a very difficult go of it, there is hope they can recover.

My mother had this.

For an eli5 explanation:

Think of a time when you felt an extremely intense emotion. Maybe rage or grief or fear. If you have experienced an emotional extreme – and most of us have – you’ll notice it temporarily changes the way you think.

Most people know that thoughts create emotions, but the opposite is also true. When you’re enraged with someone, you probably can’t remember much you like about them. You could even forget every positive thing about them and wonder why you ever hung around with that person in the first place!

Now most of us have what’s called meta cognition, which is thinking about our thoughts. So when I get angry with someone and think ‘why do I even hang out with this person?’ there’s another part of me that says ‘yeah, you feel that way now, but give it an hour and you’ll remember everything you like about them’. This is a type of emotional regulation that we learn through experience of noticing our thoughts shift with our mood – we start to take them with a pinch of salt and that knowledge that not everything we feel is reality helps us stay relatively calm.

But I bet you’ve sometimes had emotions strong enough to override that, right? You’ve occasionally acted regrettably due to a very strong emotion? Most people have, it’s very normal.

People with bpd tend to experience very extreme emotions on a far more regular basis and are trapped in that state where the emotion overrides regulation, so they tend to take their emotionally driven thoughts as fact and they act accordingly. They also tend to lack meta cognition – often because they haven’t been in an environment safe enough to learn it – so can’t calm down. They often also deal with very high levels of shame derived from an abusive or troubled upbringing that add fuel to the emotional fire.

And that’s essentially what bpd is.


Dave Foley, whose ex-wife was BPD, explains it like this (paraphrasing) ‘when they love you, you are the most angelic creature ever. When they hate you, they’ll do anything to destroy you: and you never know who’s going to show up’.

I am not a psychiatrist but ive known 2 seperate people with bpd, so il try to explain my observations.

They tend to attatch themselves to 1 person, and dub them their ‘FP’ (favorite person). They were very attached and felt upset when they werent around. They also experienced ‘splitting’ and would be set off by minor things. They tend to see things in black and white, and tended to idolize or despise people. They also can be unstable, and threaten their FP’s with Suicide, Self harm, and Threats if they think theres even a slim chance they will be abandoned.

the stereotype for BPD is that its the ‘crazy ex girlfriend’ but thats not always the case. BPD is highly stigmatized but it can be treated with the right help. Again, im not a psychiatrist so this is purely from observations

Ive heard someone say somewhere “They are just like everyone else… Just more so.”

“Understand the bordline Mother ” was a great read on this issue.

Very simply, people with BPD experience emotions very strongly. They often struggle with impulse control, see things in extremes, and have an intense fear of abandonment. A good phrase to remember is “I hate you! Don’t leave me.” They are not evil.

I found a great resource for this question. This video spells out the most noticeable traits: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=to5qRLRSS7g

Hey I have this – if you have any questions I’d be glad to answer them 🙂 especially stuff relation to day to day life and relationships with my friends and family .

As someone with BPD, here is how I like to explain this to my friends. This may not be anything close to a scientific definition or anything, and I know that things like my ODD (oppositional defiance disorder) play a role too.

There is no middle ground. If I am thinking about ordering pizza, it’s either I get a pizza and wings and bread sticks and soda and desert, or I skip it all together. I am fully aware when I am being unreasonably emotional, but in the moment it feels right. The world is constantly against you, and sometimes you do bad stuff out of fear and anger. If I am trying to imagine the outcomes of let’s say me running away from home, what I see is either the cops will be involved and I will go to jail and my life will be over, or it will go perfectly and everything will work out and it will be sunshine and rainbows. My mind is not able to see that middle ground of I walk around for a bit and my parents freak out and then I come home and just get grounded, or anything like that.

It is a heavy burden on the people around you, but it is also very hard on the individual. Sometimes I will just be thinking “what the hell am I doing” But be unable to stop myself in the middle of one of these episodes. The hardest part is I’ve watched a YouTube video and then decided that I need to throw my life away, because one little thing in there influenced me, and that’s all that will be ringing in the back of my head.

As someone with BPD I can say that the best thing someone can do to help when I am in one of these episodes is just accept it and don’t take anything I say to heart. I know that may be hard, and I am not saying that you should accept abuse from others at all, but if you have a loved one with BPD and they are saying crazy shit like “you never loved me” Or “we need to get married tomorrow” Just try to console them until they can calm down a bit, and then have a serious talk about it. It may at times feel like you are playing into serious manipulation, but sometimes we can’t control it, and feel like shit later. If it gets serious, don’t accept it, don’t let yourself get abused by them, but if you can just play along it can truly help them calm down quicker. Don’t be afraid to after ask them “what’s going on, how much of that was rooted into the truth” And to say “I am not ok with this, you hurt me”, but if you can, try to help them find a coping mechanism.

If you only take one thing out of this though, if someone you love has BPD and you end up having to deal with one of their meltdowns, do not fight back heavily. Do not escalate it in the moment. Wait to talk about it once they can actually speak without shaking. It shouldn’t take too long normally.

Personally, as someone who has been diagnosed with BPD in the past (and then read everything I could find about BPD and non-suicidal self injury in my university’s library) , I think it’s a reaction to growing up in unstable and abusive families.

Many of the diagnostic criteria involve insecurity about relationships with others, fear of rejection, rapid changes in self image, poor boundaries, manipulative behavior, and self harm. If you grew up with erratic and abusive parents, these things make a lot of sense.

– Some of the most important relationships in your early life *were* unstable. It’s common for abusers to be loving, caring, and apologetic in between abusive moments. If your relationship with a parent rapidly swings between extremes of love and rage, you learn to expect that relationships will be either perfect or catastrophically bad.

– You don’t have a strong sense of self because you have to change the way you act all the time to try to avoid upsetting someone who might suddenly fly into a rage over something that used to be fine. You learn to manipulate people because it can keep you safe from the abuse.

– People often assume that self harm is manipulative or a cry for help, but that isn’t always the case. For some people, self injury can help people become more grounded when dissociating (and dissociation is a fairly common response to trauma…). Some people learn to self harm to express anger that they feel unsafe directing towards others (like, say, abusive parents). Self harming behavior has also been observed in primates deprived of maternal care (Harry Harlow did some experiments around this. They are ethically troubling, but also pretty informative/scientifically significant)

A lot of borderline behaviors and emotional patterns are bad in healthy relationships, but they can be effective survival strategies for people with abusive parents.

In the long run, it’s not that borderline people need to avoid abandonment, it’s that they need to learn that not everyone will abandon them. (but in the short term, they need to get therapy to learn to have healthier relationships, because there’s kind of a catch-22 where people are more likely to abandon you if you’re not emotionally well enough to be somewhat stable in a relationship)

Have you seen the show ‘Crazy ex-girlfriend’?

That’s a very good portrayal.