If you feel you may have some of the Borderline Personality Disorder symptoms listed below, or others that concern you, you should visit your GP and discuss how you are feeling, to begin the process of diagnosis (there are other conditions which could cause similar symptoms, so it is important to seek medical advice if you are concerned).
Here are some of the more common BPD symptoms. It is important to remember that there are hundreds of combinations of symptoms, not everybody will have every symptom, and the severity or frequency of symptoms depends on each individual.
BPD presents symptoms in four main areas:
- emotional instability (feeling intense and/or uncontrollable emotions such as rage, sadness, panic, fear or emptiness, and suffering mood swings between emotions)
- disturbed patterns of thinking or perception (having upsetting thoughts about yourself, feeling out of your body, hearing voices)
- impulsive behaviour (obsesssive compulsive behaviours, impulse to self-harm, impulse to engage in reckless or dangerous activities such as substance abuse, gambling or unprotected promiscuity)
- intense but unstable relationships within other (extreme fear of abandonment or rejection, threatening to self-harm if the relationship ends, constantly calling or texting the person)
‘Black and White’ Thinking
People living with BPD tend to see things as extremes – something is all good, or all bad. Their opinions of people can change dramatically based on this way of thinking – someone who is their friend one day could be considered an enemy the next. These shifting feelings lead to unstable and intense relationships with others.
Abandonment and Rejection
Those living with BPD often have an issue with abandonment and/or rejection. They may make extreme efforts to avoid the abandonment, by rapidly developing extreme attachments to others, being very clingy or over-possessive.
They may obsessively call or text someone, be physically present as much as possible, or rush the relationship along.
They may also go to the other extreme – cutting people out of their lives completely to avoid being abandoned or rejected.
Shifting goals and ideas
Uncertainty in their self-image, low self-esteem and shifting emotions make it difficult to form and stick to a plan. They often find themselves jumping from project to project, job to job, relationship to relationship.
They may have trouble identifying themselves, and as such their interests change rapidly. They may become religious, develop an intense passion for a hobby or join a social group, very soon become disinterested and move to the next obsession.
Impulsive and Dangerous Behaviours
An inability to control moods and emotions, combined with a lack of self-esteem and identity, can lead to impulsive and reckless behaviour. This behaviour could be spending sprees and gambling, substance abuse, binge eating, unsafe sex and dangerous driving.
Self-harming is when a person deliberately hurts themselves, as a way of coping with difficult or overwhelming feelings, painful memories or situations and experiences that are overwhelming.
Self-harm gives people an outlet for their pain, an escape from their thoughts or to feel in control.
While most people think of cutting as self-harm, it can actually take several forms:
- over or under eating
- excessive exercise
- biting, picking or scratching skin
- hitting yourself or objects
- substance abuse
- pulling out hair
- getting into fights where you know you will get hurt
Many people living with BPD suffer from dissociation. It takes several forms but is commonly described as the feeling of being out of control of body and mind, seeing yourself outside of your body, or feeling numb and cut off from yourself.
Not everyone with borderline personality disorder will suffer every symptom
Some people will experience only a few and others suffer many.
Symptoms can be triggered by events, actions, words – seemingly ordinary events. The severity and frequency of symptoms depends on each person, their lifestyle and medications, and the nature of their illness.