Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline Personality Disorder (sometimes known as Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder) can be a controversial diagnosis for many reasons. The term itself is often misunderstood, sounding as if someone has a “bad personality” and that there is no cure.
In reality, this term describes symptoms of emotional instability and difficulty coping with emotions, that often (although not always) can be associated with some form of childhood trauma. In addition, helpful treatments do exist, predominantly based on a therapy called DBT (dialectical behavioural therapy). Other treatments can be helpful too.
BPD can be a difficult diagnosis to make and not everyone finds a label useful. It is usually made by a Psychiatrist or Clinical Psychologist because there may be an overlap with other conditions such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or severe anxiety, and of course, it can co-exist with these. For others who recognise the common symptoms and feelings in themselves, a diagnosis can feel validating and can help find the right treatments.
If you as a teenager or young adult are wondering whether you might have BPD, or if you as a parent or carer of a young person would like to know more, start with these links which explain what it is and how to recognise it.

Symptoms of BPD from YoungMinds
About BPD- from Mind This also explains the overlap with other conditions and approaches to treatment
BPD summary on NHS website : a good overview of current knowledge and thinking, causes, treatments and support.
Supporting someone with a Personality Disorder (Mind Charity)
What I wish people knew about BPD Laura aged 21 years shares her experiences.
Getting the facts straight on BPD – this article from The Mix explains it in simple terms



Approaches and treatments

Everyone with BPD is different and some symptoms may be more of a problem than others. Some young people find that medication such as anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medication can be helpful, others not at all. Specialised therapy such as Dialectal Behavioural Therapy (DBT) or such as ‘mentalisation’ can be very difficult to access (often only available privately). The books, podcasts and other resources here are to help you as a parent, carer or young person understand some approaches that might help. Many of these methods are useful for anyone who struggles to cope with overwhelming feelings such as anxiety, stress, eating disorders or self-harm

Learning techniques for emotional regulationbooks, apps, worksheets and podcasts

  • Centre for Clinical Interventions This respected Australian website has really excellent workbooks for tolerating distress but also for a huge number of other topics. Accessible, broken down into sections and used by therapists worldwide. Highly recommended
  • The DBT Skills Workbook for Teens  A workbook based on DBT which has games to illustrate concepts such as learning emotional regulation, suitable from early teens and helpful for anxiety, self-harm and more.
  • Equoo App Designed by psychologists and one of the Apps recommended by the NHS, this App lets you develop emotional intelligence coping skills while playing adventure games
  • Calm Harm An App designed mainly to help reduce the urge to self-harm but generally useful for helping you cope with extreme emotions as it suggests soothing, distracting, breathing or other activities that you can choose from. Appealing graphics and lots and lots of ideas and suitable from young teens onwards.
  • Positive Psychology – this fantastic American website explains DBT in a lot of detail including how it differs from Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and even provides some free worksheets to get you started. 
  • DBT weekly: A weekly podcast by Stephanie Edsall that focuses on mental health therapy and skills development. This link takes you to a page of reviews where you can also download it on Apple or Google
  • The Skillful Podcast: A bi-weekly podcast by the Bay Area DBT and Counselling Center that explores skills and concepts from DBT to help listeners reduce emotional suffering, improve relationships, and create the life they want to live
  • Building a Life Worth Living by Marsha Linehan: from the developer of DBT, her story of living with BPD
  • The Dialectical Behaviour Therapy Skills Workbook second edition by Matthew McKay, Jeffrey C. Wood and Jeffrey Brantley

Sometimes it can be helpful to pick something specific you’d like to learn more about or learn how to cope with. If you are supporting a family member, then this will help you understand what they may be going through and how they might start to tackle it.

Unstable or intense interpersonal relationships, fear of abandonment

Impulsive, self-destructive Behaviours

Self-harm, suicidality 

Extreme mood swings/ emotional dysregulation 

Explosive or inappropriate anger

Feeling suspicious or out of touch with reality (paranoia, dissociation, psychosis)