Promoting mental health, demystifying mental illness, countering stigma and discrimination

Borderline Personality Disorder

What is Borderline Personality Disorder?

It is often assumed that borderline means a 'marginal but not full blown disorder', but the name comes from the fact that it was originally thought to be on the 'border-line' between psychosis and neurosis.
People with BPD experience difficulty in regulating their emotions.
What are the symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder?
People with BPD experience some or all of the following:
  • Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment.
  • Emotional instability, particularly in relation to others.
  • Unstable sense of self.
  • Impulsiveness.
  • Intense inappropriate anger.
  • Suicidal behavior or self- harm.
  • Chronic feelings of emptiness.
  • Experiencing minor problems as major crises.
  • 'Black and white" thinking which often means flipping between love and hate in personal relationships.
  • The use of self destructive coping mechanisms to express anger, frustration, desperation and dismay.

These symptoms impact seriously on their lives and their relationships with others. They are often blamed for their symptoms and can be seen as attention seeking or manipulative, however they are not at fault and require professional treatment.
What causes Borderline Personality Disorder?
The causes of BPD are unclear it is however thought that traumatic experiences in early life are common in people with BPD. People with BPD often experience other disorders such as:
  • Abuse of alcohol and drugs.
  • Depression.
  • Anxiety disorders.
  • Eating disorders.
  • Other personality disorders.
  • Obsessive compulsive disorders.
How many people develop Borderline Personality Disorder?

It is thought that up to 2% of people will develop BPD at some time in their lives. Women are three times more likely to be affected than men.

Recovery strategies for those with Borderline Personality Disorder?
  • Learn about the condition and treatment options.
  • Find a therapist that suits you and try to stay with him/her.
  • Take an active part as far as possible, in decisions about treatment and support. This ensures you can make informed choices about what is best for you.
  • Get treatment and support from people you trust, who expect the best for you and are able to accept how you are at any time.
  • Find ways of coping that work best for you.
  • Avoid the use of alcohol and illegal drugs as these may worsen the condition.
  • Get the continuing support of family/whanau and friends who know about the condition and understand what they can do to support you. Involve family/whanau, friends or other people who are important to you in your treatment team if you wish.
  • Get support and understanding from culturally appropriate support groups, organisations and advocates(trained supporters).
  • Make sure your physical and spiritual needs are met.
  • Be part of developing a plan to maintain wellness. Health professionals involved in your care will help with this.
  • Talk to your health professional if you are considering stopping treatment and work together with them to find some compromise that will ensure continuing wellness but address your concerns about treatment.
How is Borderline Personality Disorder treated?

Treatment can help some people manage, reduce or even eliminate the symptoms of BPD. Currently the most effective treatments are:

Psychotherapy: Support and behavioural strategies are the cornerstone of treatment for people with BPD, which include:

  • Cognitive Behaviour Therapy: an action-oriented form of psychosocial therapy that assumes that maladaptive, or faulty, thinking patterns cause maladaptive behavior and "negative" emotions. (Maladaptive behavior is behavior that is counter-productive or interferes with everyday living.) The treatment focuses on changing an individual's thoughts (cognitive patterns) in order to change his or her behavior and emotional state.)
  • Dialectical Behaviour Therapy: a new psychosocial treatment that was developed specifically to treat BPD and appears promising.
  • Psychodynamic Therapy: A therapeutic approach that assumes dysfunctional or unwanted behavior is caused by unconscious, internal conflicts and focuses on gaining insight into these motivations.

Medications: are prescribed for specific symptoms.

  • Antipsychotics are used to reduce the tendency to paranoid and distorted thinking or misinterpretation of events.
  • Tranquillisers are used for the treatment of anxiety.
  • Sedatives are used to treat sleep problems.
  • Antidepressants are used to reduce anxiety and depressive symptoms.
  • Mood stabilisers are used to help reduce the extremes of the mood.

As BPD often occurs with mood disorders, (including bipolar disorder and depression), eating disorders and misuse of alcohol and/or other drugs, it is essential that these conditions are recognized and treated.

Further Information about Personality Disorders available from:

Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand
P.O. Box 10051,
Dominion Road,
81 New North Road,
Eden Terrace,
Tel: 09 300 7010 Fax: 09 300 7020
Resource Centre Tel: 09 300 7030
Other websites providing information on Personality Disorders:

Resource for those affected by their own or another's Borderline Personality Disorder.

Personality Disorders Site.
An international website with data on most mental illnesses.
An excellent U.S. based site with information on Borderline Personality Disorder.
An Australian charity helping people affected by mental illness, including Personality Disorder.


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Taranaki Mental Health Sector