Borderline Personality Disorder

What is Borderline Personality Disorder?

People with BPD have trouble controlling their emotions and behaviour

A child or youth with BPD may:

  • experience depression, anxiety or anger
  • act on impulse or seem aggressive.
  •  try to harm themselves, or take actions that can be hurtful to others (drive dangerously, binge-eat, self-harm, abuse drugs or alcohol)
  • avoid social situations or getting involved
  • worry about being embarrassed, criticized, rejected, or abandoned
  • feel misunderstood and not have a good sense of who they are

Day-to-day life can be very challenging for someone with borderline personality disorder. Because they have trouble controlling their emotions, it can be hard to have healthy relationships with family, friends and co-workers . The symptoms can make it difficult to do a job or take part in social events and deal with the pressures of everyday life. It can be hard to know how someone with BPD will react to small problems and daily situations.  .

BPD is difficult to diagnose because it often occurs in people who have depressive or bipolar disorders. It also looks similar to other personality disorders. That is why it’s important to have a trained person evaluate the youth or young adult (a psychiatrist, psychologist, or pediatric neurologist)

How do I know if it's Borderline Personality Disorder?

Borderline Personality Disorder usually begins by early adulthood. Someone with BPD will have problems with relationships, self-image and impulsive behaviour. To be diagnosed with BPD,  a youth must show five (or more) of the following:

  1. Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment
  1. A pattern of unstable, intense relationships and  extreme swings  of  positive and negative feelings toward people
  1. An unstable self-image or sense of self that seems to change with different situations or people
  1. Impulsive behaviour that could be self-damaging  in two or more areas (spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating)
  1. Self-harming or suicidal behaviour, threats, or signals
  1. Strong moods of feeling  hopeless, uncomfortable, unhappy, irritable or anxious  that last a few hours and only rarely more than a few days
  1. Feelings of emptiness
  1. Anger that is extreme and inappropriate,  difficulty controlling anger (often loses temper, physical fights)
  1. Paranoid ideas or seriously disturbed thinking that comes and goes when under stress  

Who does it affect?

BPD is found in about 2 – 6% of the population. It may be less common in older people.  A person is about five times more likely to have BPD if their parents, siblings, or children have it. It is much more likely in females than males. (about 75%)

What can be done?

Many patients with BPD receive psychiatric services through things like inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, or partial hospitalization.  The following  therapies  are also used to treat BPD.

  • Psychotherapy: May include cognitive behavioural therapy and other  interpersonal  therapies.
  • Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT): The most well established and accepted psychological treatment for BPD. It  focuses on learning mindfulness skills and how to manage feelings, cope with distress and improve relationships.  
  • Group psychotherapy:  Taking part in a group led by a professional may help people with BPD learn how to better interact with others and express themselves.  
  • Family therapy: Some forms of therapy (such as DBT)  may include family members  to help them  develop the skills to  understand and support a relative with borderline personality disorder
  • Mentalization-Based Treatment (MBT): This therapy focuses on  thinking about and reflecting on your beliefs, thoughts, feelings, and intentions and learning to recognize these feelings in others. MBT works to create and  strengthen this ability to ‘mentalize,’ which is often weak in people with BPD


Medications are usually not effective for BPD. However, sometimes they can be used to help treat specific symptoms of BPD, including anxiety, depression, and aggression. Medications can also be used along with psychotherapy to help treat BPD.

BPD is found in about 2 – 6% of the population. It may be less common in older people.  A person is about five times more likely to have BPD if their parents, siblings, or children have it. It is much more likely in females than males. (about 75%)

Where to from here?

Talk to your doctor and look for help from a mental health professional by:

For more information about options for support and treatment in BC, visit the Finding Help section of our site.

Below you will find some key resources. A full list of resources are on the right hand side bar. 

Borderline Personality Disorder Association of BC
To provide education and support for people with BPD, their family members and friends; to increase awareness to the community at large throughout BC; and to promote research about BPD.

BC Children's Hospital

This is an agency of Provincial Health Services Authority, providing provincial tertiary mental health services to the citizens of British Columbia. Programs include: Adult Tertiary Psychiatry, Geriatric Psychiatry, Forensic Psychiatric Services, Child & Adolescent Mental Health, Women’s Reproductive Mental Health, as well as the Provincial Specialized Eating Disorders Program for children and youth located at the BC Children’s Hospital.

Provincial Health Services Authority

Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) is one of six health authorities – the other five health authorities serve geographic regions of BC.

Ministry of Health

British Columbia Ministry of Health

RBC Children's Mental Health Project

RBC Children’s Mental Health Project is RBC's cornerstone “health and wellness” pillar; RBC Children’s Mental Heath Project is a multi-year philanthropic commitment to support community-based and hospital programs that reduce stigma, provide early intervention and increase public awareness about children’s mental health issues.

BC Children's Hospital Foundation

Through a wide range of fundraising events and opportunities, The BC Children's Hospital Foundation is united with its donors by a single, simple passion - to improve the health and the lives of the young people who enter BC Children's Hospital every day.