What is BPD?

It’s likely to be one of the first questions that some of us think when we have discussed a diagnosis (or have been diagnosed) with a psychiatrist or mental health professional – what is BPD? Many people have never even heard of the condition before this point!

So, Just What is BPD?

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is also sometimes known as emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD). We all experience difficulties with our relationships, self-image and emotions throughout our lives. But you might get a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder if these feel consistently unstable or intense, or if they cause you significant problems in your daily life.

People with Borderline Personality Disorder tend to be very sensitive (sometimes called ’emotional sensitivity’), and the small things in life (things that don’t bother other people) can trigger intense reactions. Once upset, you will have trouble calming down. It’s easy to understand how these extreme emotions impact on our relationships.

Emotional sensitivity is how we react to other people, and how we react to their reactions. Think of it as all of your nerve endings being exposed, which means everything remotely emotional hurts, leaving you feeling raw.

Someone with a personality disorder will also differ significantly from an average person in terms of how he or she thinks, perceives, feels or relates to others.

You may be:

  • worried about people leaving you, so you cling to them to avoid that, or you push them away
  • having very intense emotions, or extreme emotions that you don’t feel you can cope with, and that can change very quickly (mood swings)
  • get very angry and struggle to control it
  • worried that you don’t have a good sense of who you are, and your ideas about your identity and goals in life can change quickly depending on where you are or who you are with
  • acting impulsively, or doing things that may harm you (self-harm, binge-eating, promiscuity, driving dangerously, etc)
  • having suicidal thoughts
  • feel empty and/or lonely

People living with BPD can also suffer more severe symptoms, often brought on by stress:

  • feeling extremely paranoid
  • having audio or visual hallucinations
  • having psychotic episodes such as feeling numb and ‘not real’. out of control of your body, or not remembering things after they have happened – this is called dissociation.

Not everyone living with BPD suffers from psychotic episodes – psychosis is when someone loses some contact with reality which may mean they have hallucinations or delusions. 

There is no known cause for Borderline Personality Disorder, though many people with BPD have suffered trauma during childhood (such as parental neglect or physical, sexual or emotional abuse).

Many people with BPD also suffer other conditions or behavioural problems, such as substance abuse, eating disorders or secondary personality disorders.

Important disclaimer: The contents of the CALIA website such as text, graphics, images, and other materials are for information only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always seek the advice of a qualified mental health professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on the CALIA website.


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