Borderline Personality Disorder: What Does It Mean?

by | Feb 26, 2013

What does it mean to have a borderline personality disorder (BPD)? Basically a person with this condition has unstable or turbulent emotions that can sometimes make them act on impulse and encounter trouble in their relationships.

So what else is new? Don\’t we all have a certain amount of instability in our lives? Don\’t we all get emotional at times? But if you have this disorder, the issues are severe and you have long-term patterns of disruption such as:

  • Mood swings and intense emotions
  • Dangerous, addictive behaviors like substance abuse, eating disorders, unsafe sexual activity, gambling sprees, wild spending or risky driving
  • Fear of abandonment, which may cause you to be too clingy in relationships, or may trigger the opposite effect and make you reject others before they have a chance to reject you.
  • Low self esteem, sometimes to the point of self-loathing
  • Intense episodes of depression
  • Aggressive, antagonistic behavior

If you have these symptoms you should seek treatment. Individual talk therapy can be successful, and group therapy can help change self-destructive behavior. In some cases, medication may be called for to treat mood swings and other problems that accompany this disorder.


Experts are not certain what causes borderline personality disorder, but some factors have been identified. There may be problems with chemicals in the brain that control mood swings, and it may be genetic. Often people who have this disorder have suffered abandonment in childhood, sexual abuse or an unsettling family life. Sometimes they have difficulties coping with anxiety or stress.


People with BPD tend to see things as black or white, good or evil, and these notions can change at the drop of a hat. People with BPD may put someone on a pedestal, and then abruptly tear them down as a result of some perceived slight or misunderstanding. This is because there seems to be no middle ground—only extremes.

Their own feelings about themselves and who they are can change just as rapidly. They often have an insecure sense of who they are. And usually those suffering from BPD have a very distorted view of themselves, often negative. Because of their unstable self-image their relationships and work life are also unstable, and change frequently as their goals and values change.


Borderline Personality Disorder is often mentioned in the same breath as Narcissistic Personality Disorder as symptoms can be overlapping and similar. In addition, you may have other mental health disorders such as depression, substance abuse, or anxiety, eating or bipolar disorders. It is critical that you seek help if you recognize these symptoms in yourself. The good news is that treatment can help you live a more satisfying, rewarding life.

Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here:


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