Borderline Personality Disorder


“I’m so good at beginnings, but in the end, I always seem to destroy everything, including myself.”

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a serious emotional condition with the following characteristics¹:

  • Out-of-control emotions
  • Unstable interpersonal relationships
  • Fear of abandonment
  • Self-damaging behaviour
  • Impulsivity
  • Often accompanied by depression, anxiety & anger

Individuals with borderline personality disorder grow up being emotionally unstable, hostile and impulsive. It is only diagnosed in early adulthood. The behaviours occur at home, at work and in the community. The actions significantly disrupt normal functioning socially and occupational.

Symptoms of BPD

  • Impaired Emotional Control: excessive, poorly regulated emotional responses, especially anger, that change rapidly.
  • Harmful Impulsivity: impulsive behaviours that are harmful to you or others, such as spending sprees, drug & alcohol abuse, self-harm, physically aggressive acts and sexual indiscretions;
  • Impaired Perceptions and Reasoning: suspiciousness, misperceptions, an unstable self-image, a poor sense of your identity, and difficulty in reasoning under stress; and
  • Disrupted Relationships: tumultuous relationships with a person close to you that vary from extreme fear of abandonment to episodes of excessive anger and the desire to get away from that person.

An individual diagnosed with borderline personality disorder needs to show at least 5 of the following criteria ²:

  • Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment.
  • A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships
  • Low self-esteem
  • Impulsivity in at least two potentially self-damaging areas (e.g., spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating).
  • Suicidal threats or self-harm
  • Affective instability: irritability or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days.
  • Chronic feelings of emptiness.
  • Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger.
  • Blurred sense of identity, memory loss, feeling of being detached from oneself

How do people think/feel who suffers from BPD?

  • They feel misunderstood and mistreated.
  • They blame others for their shortcomings.
  • They are often involved in power struggle battles.
  • They fail to perceive the good and evil in another person – they will see just one side.
  • They need the help of another person to soothe themselves.
  • They hold grudges for a long time.
  • They use immature forms of coping with distress like throwing tantrums – explosive moods.
  • They are irrational and ‘catastrophise’ anything that happens to them – they create chaos.
  • They have little psychological insight into their behaviour or motives – they blame someone else.

What is the difference between Bipolar and Borderline Disorders?

BPD is quite different from Bipolar I Disorder. The mood swings in BPD seldom last more than one day, even hours. Mood swings in Bipolar I Disorder last much longer. BPD doesn’t exhibit the prolonged episodes of decreased need for sleep, hyperactivity, pressured speech, reckless over-involvement, and grandiosity that are characteristic of Bipolar I Disorder.

BPD is part of a cluster of personality disorders, namely:
anti-social, narcissistic, borderline and histrionic personality disorders.

Antagonism (dislike/ bitterness/ hatred) is a common feature in all the personality disorders.

The KEY FEATURES of persons with antagonistic behaviour is that they are manipulative, callous (cold-hearted), deceitful, hostile, attention-seeking and grandiose.

How is a personality disorder diagnosed?

Personality disorders such as borderline personality disorder are typically diagnosed by a trained mental health professional, such as psychologists or psychiatrists. Family physicians and general practitioners are generally not trained or well-equipped to make this type of psychological diagnosis. So while you can initially consult a family physician about this problem, they should refer you to a mental health professional for diagnosis and treatment. There are no laboratory, blood or genetic tests that are used to diagnose a borderline personality disorder.

Get help

10 Coping Skills

For a person with BPD, intense emotions can be overwhelming.  BPD has emotion dysregulation as a key feature. Because of this emotion dysregulation, you may have robust emotional responses and difficulty managing those responses. Coping skills are healthier ways of addressing situations and their resulting emotions.  Listed here are ten copings skills that can help you:

  • Play music
  • Do something: take a walk, dance, clean your house.
  • Find support: call your counsellor/ friend/ family member.
  • Ride it out: Grab an egg timer from the kitchen, and set it for 10 minutes. Wait it out.
  • Practice mindfulness: Notice the emotion you are having and let yourself experience it as a wave without trying to block it, suppress it, or hold on to it. Try to accept the emotion for what it is.
  • Ground yourself: When emotions seem to be taking you out of the current moment, such as when you start to feel “zoned out”, do something to ground yourself. Grab an ice cube and hold it in your hand for a few moments.
  • Breathe deeply:  Sit or lie somewhere quiet, and bring your attention to your breathing. Breathe evenly, slowly and deeply. Watch your stomach rise and fall with each breath.
  • Pray – talk to God.
  • Relax: Take a hot bath or shower.
  • Help someone else. Do something nice for someone else.

Coping with anger

Excessive and explosive anger is a problematic factor in many disorders, particularly in the syndrome referred to as borderline personality disorder.

Learn and practice anger management techniques. Talk to an online counsellor for more guidance on how to manage anger.

More tips:

Try keeping a mood diary. This could help you identify things or situations that trigger a change in your mood. You can then use that information to learn how to cope with starting situations in future.

Get enough sleep. This can help you have the energy to cope with complicated feelings and experiences. (See our pages on coping with sleep problems for more information.)

Do regular exercise. Physical activities like dancing or going for a walk can distract you from your current mood and help eliminate anxious or angry energy. (See our pages on physical exercise for more information.)

Eat a healthy diet. This can help you have the proper nutrients and energy to cope with things when you’re having a difficult time. (See our pages on food and mood for more information about how your diet can affect the way you feel.)

Find specialist support.

Mentalization-based therapy (MBT) is a talk therapy that helps people identify and understand what others might be thinking and feeling.

Transference-focused therapy (TFP) is designed to help patients understand their emotions and interpersonal problems through the relationship between the patient and therapist. Patients then apply the insights they learn to other situations.



You can text chat to an online facilitator on LIVE CHAT. It is a text-based chat, and you may remain anonymous.




To learn more about BPD, you can do a  quiz to learn more about it:

Borderline Personality Disorder Quiz.



  1. Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, Abnormal Psychology. 2014. New York. McGraw-Hill Education
  2. Borderline Personality Disorder
  3. Borderline Personality Disorder: Treatment and Management. NICE Clinical Guidelines, No. 78.
    National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health (UK).Leicester (UK): British Psychological Society; 2009.

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