Borderline Personality Disorder Symptoms & Effects

Learn how to recognize the signs, symptoms, and effects of borderline personality disorder. Resource Treatment Center provides comprehensive mental health and psychiatric treatment for youth who are suffering from borderline personality disorder.

Understanding BPD

Learn about borderline personality disorder

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a serious mental health condition in which individuals are unable to appropriately control their emotions, often leading to feelings of instability. Those in late adolescence who are struggling with BPD will have dysfunctional interpersonal relationships, disturbances with their identity, and are often impulsive in ways that are potentially self-destructive.

Those with borderline personality disorder have a fear of abandonment, experience intense anger and chronic feelings of emptiness, and often engage in self-harming behaviors. Additionally, while they are able to develop intense attachments, relationships with family or friends may suddenly and without explanation change from great admiration and love to intense anger and dislike. Even among close loved ones, those with BPD are highly sensitive to rejection and react with distress to even small separations, such as a short vacation.  These individuals may see themselves as fundamentally bad or unworthy and react accordingly. They may feel like they are being unfairly misunderstood and mistreated, while also experiencing distortions of thinking that cause them to constantly change long-term goals, friendships, and values.


BPD statistics

It has been estimated that 14 million adults in the United States have borderline personality disorder. Additionally, it is believed to be strikingly more prominent in women than it is in men, with studies showing that 75%-90% of all people who are diagnosed with borderline personality disorder are women. It is possible, however, that these statistics are simply the result of the fact that women are more likely to seek out treatment for BPD than men are. Recent studies have shown that symptoms of borderline personality disorder may be recognized earlier in an individual’s life than was previously believed, such as during adolescence, yet statistics regarding this fact are lacking as research is ongoing.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for BPD

Like most psychological disorders, the exact cause of borderline personality disorder is unknown, but research suggests that there are a number of factors working together that will lead to the development of this disorder. Some of the suspected causes include:

Genetics: Many studies have shown that there is evidence of genetic contributions that will make an individual more vulnerable to developing borderline personality disorder. More specifically, those with first-degree relatives who have BPD are ten times more likely to develop symptoms of this disorder than are those who do not have such family histories.

Physical: People suffering from BPD are said to have abnormalities in the specific parts of the brain that affect proper functioning. Those specific pathways and circuits in the brain are responsible for emotional information processing, perception, reasoning, and impulse control. When this functioning system is disrupted, symptoms of BPD may result.

Environmental: It is widely accepted that environmental factors can have a large impact on whether or not an individual will develop borderline personality disorder. Many individuals with BPD have a history of child abuse, neglect, or separation from a loved one or caregiver.

Risk Factors:

  • Family history of mental illness
  • Abandonment as a child
  • Substance abuse
  • Lack of appropriate parenting or the absence of parents during childhood
  • Repeated physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse, especially during childhood
  • Chaotic home environment

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of BPD

When an individual has borderline personality disorder, it is going to affect how they feel about themselves, how they interact with other people, and how they behave. These signs and symptoms will vary from person to person and the severity of the symptoms tend to fluctuate over time. Examples of symptoms that a person with BPD may experience can include:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Self-harm
  • Engagement in risky behaviors
  • Engagement in physical fights
  • Having a difficult time controlling impulses
  • Explosive outbursts
  • Partaking in unstable relationships, alternating between feelings of devaluation and idealization of loved ones
  • Excessive / hysterical crying episodes
  • Extreme reactions to perceived abandonment

Physical symptoms:

  • Weight fluctuations as the result of eating disorder behaviors
  • Injuries and scars from self-injuring

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Paranoia
  • Awareness of destructive behavior, but unable to cease engaging in it
  • Derealization
  • Dissociation
  • Delusions
  • Depersonalization

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Insecure sense of self
  • Fear of being alone
  • Feelings of self-hatred
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Chronic feelings of emptiness
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviors


Effects of BPD

Borderline personality disorder can damage many areas of an individual’s life, including intimate relationships, jobs, school performance, social activities, and self-image. While treatment can be extremely beneficial in helping an individual overcome the symptoms of this disorder, if the illness remains untreated, the effects on the individual’s life can be detrimental. The following are examples of possible long-term effects that untreated BPD can cause:

  • Demoralized sense of self
  • Repeated job losses
  • Broken marriages
  • Self-injury
  • Frequent hospitalizations
  • Depression
  • Alcohol and/or drug abuse and addiction
  • More vulnerable to unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases
  • Inability to develop and maintain healthy relationships
  • Chronic suicidal ideation
  • Death by suicide (It said that 10% of people with borderline personality disorder commit suicide)

Co-Occurring Disorders

BPD and co-occurring disorders

Borderline personality disorder is rarely the only mental health disorder an individual struggles with. Common co-occurring disorders include:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Substance abuse disorders
  • Depressive disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

I always felt so misunderstood, but at Resource it was like someone finally took the time to get to know me. That made a huge difference. This place helped me so much.