Unfortunately, there is no single test to diagnose borderline personality disorder (BPD) – Borderline Personality Disorder diagnosis is the result of physical checks and a professional assessment of your mental and physical health, lifestyle and history.
If you think you or someone you know has symptoms of BPD, the first step is to see a medical professional.
Borderline Personality Disorder generally presents symptoms in four defined areas:
- emotional instability (this means feeling intense or uncontrollable emotions such as anger or rage, sadness, panic, fear or emptiness, and also includes suffering mood swings between emotions – quickly switching from euphoric to depressed, for example)
- disturbed patterns of thinking or perception (these might include having upsetting thoughts about yourself, feeling out of your body, or hearing sounds or voices that aren’t there)
- impulsive behaviour (these may include some obsesssive compulsive behaviours, the impulse to self-harm, or the impulse to engage in reckless or dangerous activities – such as substance abuse, gambling or unprotected promiscuity)
- intense but unstable relationships within other (this can lead to extreme fear of abandonment or rejection – which may lead to actions such as cutting someone off before they can hurt you, threatening to self-harm if the relationship ends, or constantly calling or texting the person)
Within each of these sections there are many other symptoms, and to be diagnosed with borderline personality disorder you need more than 5 of those symptoms. This means BPD sufferers may find they have symptoms that others don’t, or that their symptoms are more or less severe than someone else’s. Your symptoms, lack of certain symptoms, or severity of symptoms do not invalidate your condition.
Diagnosis is important for several reasons.
Firstly, diagnosis means that you can get the medication, treatment and support you need to help you get back on track and manage your symptoms.
Secondly, it validates you. It allows you to understand what is happening, and lets you know that your suffering is valid. It allows you to begin the process of moving forward safe in the knowledge there is a cause for the way you feel and behave.
Some people feel diagnosis isn’t helpful to them – they may disagree with the diagnosis or elements of it, they may not be able to accept the diagnosis, or may be in denial over some of their symptoms.
They may also feel their is a stigma attached to their diagnosis. Talking therapies can be of great use to coming to terms with your diagnosis.
How is BPD diagnosed?
Diagnosis usually begins with a visit to your GP. You can explain to the GP what symptoms you are living with, and how it affects your daily life. Be as honest as possible with the GP, the room is a safe space, and they will not judge you or dismiss your symptoms.
They may then refer you to a psychiatrist who will talk through your medical background, general health and wellbeing, and your symptoms. Sometimes they (or your GP) will arrange for some further tests to be carried out (blood tests for example), to rule out any medical causes of your symptoms.
They may then offer a diagnosis, or perhaps offer some further sessions to investigate your symptoms more. Once you have a diagnosis, they will talk through the treatment options with you, and you can begin medication to help reduce some of your symptoms while you wait for therapy.