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What is Borderline Personality Disorder?

Posted: 05/06/2014

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is defined by a number of characteristics including: feeling unsure about who you are, a strong fear of being abandoned or rejected, low self esteem, extreme mood swings, suicidal feelings, and in some cases, self harm. Traditionally, BPD has been associated with some very negative stereotypes, however, in the last 10 years the view of BPD has fundamentally changed. There is a new understanding of the problem as resulting from very difficult early experiences, in some cases combined with a naturally sensitive temperament. People with BPD are no longer seen as being flawed but instead as having a psychological problem that can change with effective therapy.

In fact, many of us have some fear of being rejected or abandoned, at times can feel unsure of who we are, and find our moods can swing surprisingly quickly – in BPD these issues are just more intense and difficult to cope with. People with BPD have usually had very difficult experiences when they were children – typically they never learnt to feel that they were loveable, acceptable or wanted, or that other people could be trusted to meet their needs in a safe way. It is important to note, that borderline ‘traits’ (meaning aspects of the diagnosis) are often present without meeting criteria for a full disorder. This means, for example, that you may have a strong fear of being abandoned or rejected but may not self harm or feel suicidal. A number of therapies (including Cognitive Analytic Therapy, Schema Therapy, Mentalisation Based Therapy and Dialectical Behaviour Therapy) have been specially developed to help with the problems underlying BPD, and have been shown to improve people’s sense of well being, their personal relationships and to reduce self harm.

By Dr Gill Heath, Chartered Clinical Psychologist

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