Borderline personality disorder (BPD)

BPD is a type of personality disorder. It is a diagnosis given to adults and is sometimes also called 'emotionally unstable personality disorder' (EUPD). When thinking about young people, we tend to talk about 'emerging' BPD, as young people are still developing and it often isn't clear until early adulthood whether they have BPD.

Generally, people who have BPD experience difficulties with the way they think and feel about themselves and others, and as a result have problems managing their day to day life. People who develop BPD will often have had difficult experiences growing up like some kind of trauma or abuse, bullying or other stresses in their lives.

Symptoms of BPD

People with BPD might experience some or all of the following:

  • Intense, changeable moods that you have no sense of control over, like your feelings are 'all over the place'
  • Confusion about who you are. You might feel like you change depending on who you are with, and don’t really know what your goals are or what you are feeling
  • Difficulties making and keeping stable relationships. You might also feel very worried about people leaving or abandoning you and often feel lonely. You might find that you swing between intensely liking someone to intensely disliking them
  • Self-harm and suicidal feelings
  • Acting impulsively, which means doing things without thinking them through, and behaving in ways that suggest you are escaping difficult emotions, like overeating or using drugs or alcohol
  • When very stressed you might feel paranoid or zone out.

Find out more about BPD and how CAMHS can help below.

Many of the signs of BPD are normal feelings and stages that young people can go through. It is only when there are more risks to yourself and the problems start to interfere with day to day life and relationships that we would think about CAMHS involvement. We talk about emerging BPD, as it means that you may or may not go on to have that diagnosis in adulthood.

Treatment can help you so that you don’t go on to have that diagnosis later in life. People feel differently about having a diagnosis of BPD. Some find it helpful as it explains things, others dislike it and feel it is labelling.

If you are worried that you are experiencing symptoms of BPD, talk to your parents/carers or an adult you trust, such as a teacher or your GP. Our advice on Getting the Support You Need might help. If you are are parent, encourage your child to talk to a GP about how they feel. A GP will make a referral to CAMHS if they feel we can help.

There are different types of therapy that can help in the treatment of BPD.

Therapies such as dialectical behaviour therapy or mentalisation-based therapy involve one-to-one and group work and can involve some support to parents too. Cognitive analytic therapy is a one-to-one therapy that can be helpful. It is generally helpful to understand the difficulties and how they might have developed.

It is also essential that everyone working with the young person communicates well with each other and helps them in a consistent way. Often meetings are held where everyone contribute and agrees a joint plan of support together. This is particularly important when people are engaging in risky behaviours and are harming themselves.

There are lots of useful resources available online that can give you more information about BPD including:

Borderline Personality Disorder - information and advice from Mind

NHS - a guide to symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment of BPD