Borderline Personality Disorder Symptoms, Diagnosis
Individuals with borderline personality disorder symptoms are often in a state of upheaval. They do not experience emotions with appropriate intensity for the situation, which can cause great distress for those around them.
Common Borderline Personality Disorder Symptoms
Symptoms of borderline personality disorder occur as a result of a person's uncertainty about their identity, causing interests, goals, and values to change in a flash. These individuals often see things as black and white and in the extreme. Their feelings and perceptions of others tend to shift suddenly, causing chaos and instability in both personal and professional relationships.
Common borderline personality disorder symptoms include:
- Powerful emotions that change quickly and often
- Episodic anxiety and depression
- Self-harming and self-mutilation (i.e. cutting)
- Risky behavior (i.e. promiscuous sex, reckless driving, overspending, drug abuse)
- Inappropriate hostility and antagonistic behavior
- Poor impulse control
- Emotional eating (i.e. bulimia or anorexia)
- Suicidal thoughts and attempts
- Intense fear of abandonment and being alone
- Unstable sense of self
- Feelings of emptiness
- Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation
These symptoms are present in both men and women with the disorder. But, borderline personality symptoms in men can sometimes look different. This is why many think men with BPD are often misdiagnosed. Some examples of borderline personality disorder symptoms in men include:
- Aggressive and thin-skinned – anything someone else says that could be perceived as criticism can send the BPD male into a rage
- Controls others through criticism – overly controlling in intimate relationships by using criticism
- Extremely jealous – when another man appropriately compliments the BPD male's significant other, he will frequently take it as an attempt at seducing his lover away from him
- Emotionally detached – the BPD male does not share his inner emotional experience with his significant other
- Inability to form and keep friendships – rejects every friendship or potential friendship after only a short amount of time
- Holds grudges – may hold a grudge for months, even years
- Substance abuse
- Uses sex to feel secure
Signs of Borderline Personality Disorder – Living Black and White
You may know someone with signs of borderline personality disorder. Imagine this scenario: You've recently become friends with a female coworker. The relationship became close and intense quickly. You spend large blocks of time together. It even seems as if your new friend sort of idealizes you – looking up to you as if you can do no wrong.
But the next day, she suddenly changes her behavior toward you, acting antagonistic and hostile. No longer does she want to have long conversations or hang out with you. Just like that, for seemingly no reason at all, you lose favor with this person. The friendship you thought would end up being a long-lasting, lifetime relationship turns out to be a false start.
What happened to change your friend's mind about you? You'll probably never know. Maybe you said something that set her off, or slighted her in some way in which you're not aware. As you observe her over the next few months, you begin to see this pattern repeated over and again with same gender friends, love interests, work colleagues, as well as with values and goals.
People with BPD may seem to have strong religious or political values, but when they meet someone who they admire with different views, they can change their own to match, like a chameleon. They may engage in sex with multiple partners and without protection from sexually transmitted diseases. Other times, a person with a borderline personality may experiment with and use illegal drugs or abuse alcohol – sometimes even at work or in other inappropriate social situations.
Borderline personality disorder traits manifest in a variety of ways. This scenario simply illustrates a few signs of the disorder. Go here to read more about what it's like living with borderline personality disorder.
Diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder
Only a qualified mental health professional can give a person a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder. A psychiatrist or psychologist will conduct a comprehensive family medical history and psychological evaluation so he or she can assess the severity of the borderline personality disorder symptoms. The practitioner will compare the individual's symptoms and history to the diagnostic criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. If the person meets the criteria to receive a borderline personality diagnosis, the doctor will begin to develop an individualized treatment plan.
If you or someone you know has borderline personality disorder symptoms, finding professional mental health help is a good first step in the treatment process.
Last Updated: 20 July 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD