Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a mental illness that affects the way you relate to other people and the way you relate to yourself. If you're living with borderline personality disorder, you might feel like there's something fundamentally wrong with who you are—you might feel 'flawed' or worthless, or you might not even have a good sense of who you are as a person. Your moods might be extreme and change all the time, and you might have a hard time controlling impulses or urges. You may not trust other people and you may be very scared of being abandoned and alone.
BPD is made up of five groups of symptoms: unstable behaviour, unstable emotions, unstable relationships, unstable sense of identity, and awareness problems.
Unstable behaviour means that you often act on impulses or urges, even when they hurt you or other people. Some examples of impulse control problems are:
- Thinking about, threatening, or attempting suicide
- Hurting yourself on purpose, such as cutting yourself or burning your skin (self-injury)
- Risky behaviours like spending a lot of money, binge eating, or risky substance use
Unstable emotions mean that your moods can be extreme and change very quickly. Some examples of unstable emotions are:
- Extreme depression, anxiety, or irritability that might last for only a few hours or days, usually in response to a stressful event
- Intense anger or difficulty controlling anger
- Intense boredom
- Feeling 'empty inside for a long time
Unstable relationships mean that you have a hard time maintaining relationships with other people. Some examples of relationship problems are:
- Doing anything you can to avoid being abandoned or feeling alone
- Feeling like you don't know yourself or having a very unstable sense of who you are and how you feel about yourself
- Intense relationships where you often impulsively shift between seeing the other person as 'all good' or 'all bad (for example, suddenly and intensely disliking a loved one because they annoyed you)
An unstable sense of self means that you don't have a good sense of who you are as a person. Some examples of an unstable sense of identity include:
- Feeling like you don't know yourself
- Not being sure of who you are and how you feel about yourself
- Feeling empty much of the time
Awareness Problems: Especially when dealing with stress, you might experience the following awareness problems for brief periods of time:
- Symptoms of psychosis (such as feeling quite paranoid or hearing voices)
- Feeling feel disconnected from your body, like feeling 'spacey'
There are many different combinations of symptoms, so BPD can look very different among people with the illness. To diagnose BPD, mental health clinicians look for patterns of behaviour that last for a long time and cause problems in different areas of your life.