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9 Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline personality disorder can be frustrating, but effective management is possible with good therapy. Here are some common signs and symptoms.

Borderline Personality Disorder: How Does One Feel Like?

So, what is a borderline personality disorder? It is a mental health illness characterized by impulsivity and abrupt swings in mood, behavior, self-image, and relationships.

Most people with BPD tend to experience a distorted sense of self. They often struggle with self-perception and their role in the world. This means that their self-image is warped, and their values and interests tend to change fast.

Persons with a borderline personality disorder also tend to look at issues in extremes, either as entirely bad or all good. For them, relationships and opinions of others can change rapidly — a friend today can be seen as an enemy the next day. Such rapid changes in perceptions and feelings affect the quality of relationships. It leads to intense and unstable connections, even though a person may want to have long-lasting and strong relationships.

People with BPD also experience periods of intense anger, happiness, stress, anxiety, irritability, and depression, lasting from a few hours to several days.

Is it common? Yes — there are over 4 million people in the US alone diagnosed with BPD. Most people with BPD tend to get better over time with online therapy and can lead meaningful lives. So, don’t get discouraged if you or your loved ones have this disorder.

In this article, we look at some of the notable symptoms of borderline personality disorder.

Symptoms & Signs of Borderline Personality Disorder

Now that you know what a borderline personality disorder is, it is time to look at some of the defining symptoms.

Although the causes underlying borderline personality disorder remain unclear, research points towards a combination of social, cultural, and genetic factors. For example, traumatic events during childhood can increase the risk for the development of this disorder.

In terms of borderline personality disorder symptoms, it is important to reiterate that signs of the disorder may vary from one person to the next. It manifests in many different ways and can be easily confused with other mental health conditions.

So, for the purposes of diagnosis and treatment, seek help from mental health professionals. They categorize the symptoms into 9 specific diagnostic criteria. For one to be diagnosed with the disorder, they should show signs of at least 5 of the following symptoms for a prolonged period.

Fear of Abandonment

People with BPD are often terrified of being left alone or abandoned. Even seemingly normal things like a loved one arriving home late from work or going away for a weekend can prompt intense worry. Such fear often results in a person trying frantically to keep the other person close to them.

A person with a borderline personality disorder may seem clingy, start fights unnecessarily, or keep track of the movements of their partner. This form of possessive and clingy behavior tends to have an effect that is opposite of what is intended, and the loved one is often driven away.

Unstable Relationships

Another sign that someone could be struggling with BPD is unstable relationships. People with this disorder often struggle with short-lived and often intense relationships. They often fall in love quickly, believing that the new partner will make them feel whole.

The relationships are often seen either as perfect or completely terrible. There is never a middle ground. Even friends and family struggle to keep up with the dramatic changes in moods and transformations from idealization to hate.

Swing of Self-Image

Another common sign is a constant shifting of self-perception or self-image. When someone has BPD, their sense of self-worth is often unstable. There may be periods when someone with borderline personality disorder feels very good about themselves, but this can change very fast.

There are instances when people with the disorder loathe themselves without a clear idea about who they are. Such people tend to change jobs, religion, friends, loved ones, goals, values, and even sexual identity frequently.

Impulsive and Self-Destructive Behaviors

Another sign that a person could be struggling with a borderline personality disorder is the tendency to engage in sensation-seeking, risky, and often harmful behavior. Since people with this disorder usually struggle with unpredictable mood shifts, they have a likelihood to cause harm when upset.

Impulsive and destructive behavior may be in the way they spend money or other habits like:

  • Reckless driving
  • Excessive eating and drinking
  • Shoplifting
  • Risky sexual contacts
  • Excessive use of drugs

The risky behavior is often linked with a distorted sense of self-worth. While it may make a person feel good at the moment, they end hurting themselves and those who care about them.


Deliberate self-harm and suicidal behavior are common borderline personality disorder symptoms. People with BPD tend to harm themselves when upset, which may include behavior like burning or cutting.

Suicidal tendencies may include thoughts, threats or gestures related to suicide, or even actual suicide attempts.

Extreme Emotional Swings

Mood swings are common for borderline personality disorder. Someone struggling with the condition may feel happy at one moment and furious the next. Although the swings in moods tend to be very intense, they pass relatively fast.

Chronic Feelings of Emptiness

One common symptom of borderline personality disorder is constant feelings of emptiness. People often feel like there is a hole inside them. There may be instances when a person feels worthless or insignificant.

They may engage in compulsive behaviors to try and fill this void with things like food, sex, or drugs. However, it seems that nothing can be truly satisfying for someone struggling with a borderline personality disorder.

Episodes of Explosive Anger

People with BPD also tend to struggle with frequent periods of intense anger. They are often short-tempered, and it’s hard to control anger once triggered.

Sometimes the anger may be directed inwards, with scathing self-criticism being highly common.

Feeling Suspicious or Out of Touch with Reality

Another sign of borderline personality disorder is frequent suspicious thoughts or paranoia regarding the motives of those around them. When someone struggling with the disorder is under stressful situations, they may even lose a grasp of reality. It’s known as dissociation.

Self-Help Tips to Cope with Borderline Personality Disorder

People with BPD may feel like every day is a struggle. However, there are measures one can take for self-care. When feeling overwhelmed, we recommend these self-help techniques:

  • Looking for strategies to calm the emotional storm by observing your emotions and focusing on physical sensations;
  • Focusing on one feeling at a time;
  • Distracting yourself;
  • Learning to be calmer and control impulsivity;
  • Improving interpersonal skills;
  • Taking responsibility.

Getting Professional Mental Help with BPD

It is important to note that not everyone with a borderline personality disorder has all the symptoms indicated here. The most important thing is identifying the warning signs and considering getting borderline personality disorder treatment as soon as possible.

If you or someone you love are experiencing symptoms of BPD, consider seeking professional help. Look for a certified mental health professional experienced with borderline personality disorder therapies, including cognitive behavioral therapy, schema-focused therapy, and dialectical behavior therapy.

When choosing a therapist, take time to identify someone with whom you will feel safe — a mental health professional with experience who will make you feel understood and accepted.

This is the kind of effective support you can get at Calmerry — an online therapy platform. You can get there the support from a competent and experienced online therapist and greatly improve your life.

Start caring for yourself start living a meaningful life!

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