Since the term was first introduced, psychologists have been scrambling to figure out exactly what borderline personality disorder (BPD) is.
Some researchers believe this condition (which was originally thought to be at the “borderline” of psychosis) is merely a particular manifestation of post-traumatic stress disorder, similar to hysteria (a term applied to post-traumatic stress syndrome when body elements are emphasized). Others believe the term has been too misunderstood and misused to be of any value and should be scrapped.
According to the Borderline Personality Disorder Research Foundation, “Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a severe, chronic, disabling, and potentially lethal psychiatric condition. People who suffer with this disorder have extreme and long standing instability in their emotional lives, as well as in their behavior and their self-image.”
Whether it’s a unique condition or a psychological synonym, BPD is a serious mental illness characterized by pervasive instability in moods, interpersonal relationships, self-image, and behavior. While a person with depression or bipolar disorder typically endures the same mood for weeks, a person with BPD may experience intense bouts of anger, depression, anxiety and feelings of emptiness that may last at most a day. Most individuals with BPD resort to self-destructive behaviors such as self-mutilation, alcohol and drug abuse, serious over or under eating, and suicide attempts in frantic bids to escape from their emotional turmoil.
This condition often occurs together with other psychiatric problems, particularly bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, and other personality disorders.
As with all personality disorders, borderline personality disorder can disrupt people’s lives and careers and affect other people who associate with them. Even mental health professionals may find people suffering from this disorder hard to deal with.
According to the Borderline Personality Disorder Research Foundation, BPD affects 2% of the general population, with about 11% of psychiatric outpatients and 19% of inpatients meeting diagnostic criteria for BPD. Yet this often serious disorder has not received the scientific and clinical attention that other health and psychiatric problems of equal, or even lesser, level of disability have received.