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Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a mental illness that manifests as ongoing patterns of difficulty with self-regulation.
People with BPD often feel that everything is unstable in their lives—their moods, relationships, thinking, behaviour, and self-image. BPD usually begins in adolescence or early adulthood and affects relationships due to an inability to manage emotions. BPD is often misdiagnosed or connected to other mental illnesses, such as Bipolar Disorder or Depression and can sometimes get lost in the treatment of these illnesses.

What are the signs & symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder?

  • Impulsive, self-destructive behaviour
  • Difficulty maintaining relationships
  • Fear of abandonment
  • Unclear sense of self
  • Self-harm
  • Intense mood swings
  • Explosive anger
  • Severe feelings of emptiness or boredom
  • Suspicious thoughts and feeling out-of-touch from reality
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All of Papillon’s residents follow their own Individual Treatment Plan that is used to guide their progress through the three Rehabilitation Blocks: Self-System Development; Trauma Processing; and Reintegration. The result is a personalised and holistic approach to each of our residents’ mental recovery with the goal of sustainable reintegration at the end of their 3-month stay.
People with Borderline Personality Disorder can recover. Research shows that treatment for BPD is effective, and many people with BPD experience a lessening of symptoms and a substantially improved quality of life after receiving treatment.
Treatments typically involve a combination of psychotherapy, medication, and social support.
At Papillon, BPD is treated primarily with psychotherapy. In some cases, medication may be prescribed in conjunction with other treatments to manage specific symptoms, such as anxiety. In cases where a patient is under the care of more than one professional, it is imperative for the professionals to work as a team on the patient’s treatment plans. As the treatment plan may take time, it is also important for friends and family to be patient and supportive during their loved one’s treatment.
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What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder?

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a complex disorder, and not everyone with BPD will experience the same symptoms. The following, however, may be a good indication that a person suffers from this disorder:


Impulsive, Self-Destructive Behaviour

People with BPD frequently engage in impulsive, risky, and potentially self-destructive behaviour. This could include reckless driving, substance abuse, binge eating, or engaging in unsafe sex. These behaviours are frequently a reaction to the intense emotions they are experiencing and their difficulty managing these emotions.


Difficulty Maintaining Relationships

Individuals suffering from BPD frequently have volatile and intense interpersonal relationships. They may idealise someone one minute and then dramatically devalue that same person the next.

This insecurity can make it difficult to maintain long-term relationships and because of the intense emotions and mood swings that people with BPD experience, this is a recognised symptom of the disorder.


Fear of Abandonment

People with BPD frequently experience intense fear of abandonment or instability and may struggle to tolerate being alone. This can be seen in strong reactions to perceived slights or rejections.

However, despite their desire for close relationships, their intense emotions and mood swings may drive others away.


Unclear Sense of Self

A persistently unstable self-image or sense of self characterises BPD. Individuals suffering from BPD may experience frequent changes in their self-image, goals, values, and aspirations, leading to feelings of being “empty” or “lost.”



Self-harm is common in people with BPD, and it is frequently used to cope with overwhelming emotions. This could include self-harming behaviours such as cutting, burning, or hitting oneself.

This can be identified by visible signs of self-harm, such as cuts or burns, or by the individual admitting to self-harm.


Intense Mood Swings

People with BPD often experience intense mood swings, which are more frequent and intense than typical mood fluctuations.

This can be recognized by rapid changes in mood, from extreme happiness to intense sadness or anger. These mood swings can last from a few hours to a few days and can lead to relationship turmoil and impulsive behaviour.


Explosive Anger

Individuals with BPD may experience intense anger. This is a symptom of BPD because people with this disorder frequently struggle with intense anger, which can sometimes turn into rage, often in response to minor irritants.

Despite their desire for close relationships, these outbursts of rage can drive others away.


Severe Feelings of Emptiness or Boredom

Chronic feelings of emptiness are significant in the lives of people with BPD. This can manifest as a feeling of being “numb” or “void,” and it’s often associated with feelings of loneliness or boredom.

This can be recognized by the individual frequently expressing feelings of emptiness or boredom, or a lack of interest in activities they once enjoyed.


Suspicious Thoughts & Feeling Out-Of-Touch from Reality

People with BPD often struggle with paranoia or suspicious thoughts about others’ motives.

When under stress, they may even lose touch with reality, an experience known as dissociation. They may feel foggy, spaced out, or as if they’re outside their own body.

This can be recognized by the individual expressing unfounded suspicions about others or describing experiences of feeling detached from their own thoughts or body.


Borderline Personality Disorder Causes & Pre-Dispositions

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a complex mental health disorder that is believed to result from a combination of factors.

It’s important to note that while these factors can increase the risk of developing BPD, not everyone with these risk factors will develop the disorder. The exact interplay of these factors and how they lead to BPD is still not fully understood and is a topic of ongoing research.



Research indicates that BPD may be genetic. Individuals who have a parent or sibling with this condition may have a high chance of developing it themselves. According to a 2021 study, BPD has a heritability rate of 46%. The genes DPYD and PKP4 have been identified as increasing a person’s risk of developing BPD. However, these genes are also linked to schizophrenia and bipolar disorder risk.


Environmental Factors

Adverse life experiences, such as child abuse, neglect, or anything that causes long-term fear and distress, seem to play a key role in causing BPD. In fact, some experts propose that BPD is a neurodevelopmental condition that stems from maladaptive responses to trauma and stress. According to an analysis of literature, people with BPD are 13 times more likely to report childhood trauma than those without BPD.


Myths about Borderline Personality Disorder

Several myths persist due to stereotypes, inaccurate media depictions, and a general lack of understanding about the condition. It’s important to debunk these myths to reduce the stigma surrounding BPD and to promote a more accurate understanding of this mental health condition.

Here are some common myths about Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) followed by the actual facts:

Myth: BPD Isn’t a Valid Diagnosis

Some people may believe that individuals with BPD symptoms are overly dramatic or attention seeking. However, BPD is a universally-accepted mental health diagnosis.


People with BPD do not enjoy or benefit from the condition because it can cause chaos in their life.


Myth: Only Women Have BPD

It is true that most people who have BPD are women, but it is incorrect to say that only women have the condition.


Men make up about 25 percent of all people with BPD. The myth that only women have BPD is harmful in its inaccuracy because of the possible stigma.


Myth: BPD is Directly Caused by Childhood Trauma

The view that childhood trauma causes BPD is partially correct, but childhood trauma is only one risk factor, not the single cause.


BPD risks factors include family history, brain/biological influence, and environment and social factors.


Myth: BPD Is Extremely Rare

Because the condition is not widely discussed, it remains stigmatised, even among some mental health professionals, but in actual fact it affects millions.


Around 1.6% of people are diagnosed with BPD, and the disorder is thought to affect up to 20% of psychiatric patients.


Myth: People with BPD Are Manipulative & Attention Seeking

This myth may stem from the intense emotions and mood swings that individuals with BPD experience.


While individuals with BPD may exhibit behaviours that can be perceived as manipulative or attention-seeking, it’s important to understand that these behaviours are often a response to the intense emotions they’re experiencing and their difficulty in managing these emotions.


Early Warning Signs of Borderline Personality Disorder

The early warning signs of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), also known as the prodromal stage, can vary depending on the individual and usually include:

  • People with BPD often have a distorted view of themselves, which can manifest as shifting goals and values, and seeing themselves as bad or as if they don’t exist at all.
  • Individuals with BPD may feel isolated from others and struggle with feelings of emptiness or boredom.
  • People with BPD often experience intense mood swings, which can include intense happiness, irritability, shame, or anxiety.
  • Anxiety is a common early sign of BPD. This can manifest as a pervasive worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome.
  • Individuals with BPD may lose interest in activities they once enjoyed, which can be a sign of the disorder.
  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviours are a serious sign of BPD.
  • Delusions, or false beliefs, can be a sign of BPD. These can manifest as beliefs that are not based in reality.


Negative Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder

Negative symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) refer to the absence of normal behaviours. Here are some of the negative symptoms associated with BPD:

  • People with BPD often have a distorted view of themselves and seeing themselves as bad or as if they don’t exist at all.
  • Individuals with BPD may feel isolated from others.
  • People with BPD often experience intense mood swings, which can include intense happiness, irritability, shame, or anxiety.
  • Individuals with BPD may lose interest in activities they once enjoyed.


How Borderline Personality Disorder is Diagnosed

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is diagnosed by medical professionals such as doctors and psychiatrists through a series of evaluations, tests, and screenings.

Here’s how the process generally proceeds:

  • A detailed interview with a doctor or mental health provider is conducted to understand the person’s symptoms and experiences.
  • A psychological evaluation follows, which may include completing questionnaires to assess the person’s mental health.
  • The person’s medical history is reviewed, and a physical exam may be conducted to rule out other health conditions.
  • The doctor or mental health provider will discuss all signs and symptoms in detail with the person.


The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association, provides nine criteria for BPD:

  1. Chronic feelings of emptiness
  2. Emotional instability in reaction to day-to-day events
  3. Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment
  4. Identity disturbance with markedly or persistently unstable self-image or sense of self
  5. Impulsive behaviour in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging
  6. Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger
  7. A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterised by extremes between idealisation and devaluation
  8. Recurrent suicidal behaviour, gestures, threats, or self-harming behaviour
  9. Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms


To be diagnosed with BPD, a person does not need to exhibit all nine of the symptoms. However, he or she must exhibit at least five of these symptoms, and they must be long-standing.

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