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The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) list ten standalone personality disorders, and based on similar characteristics, each personality disorder is grouped into one of three categories (i.e., cluster A, cluster B, and cluster C). Borderline personality disorder (BPD) belongs to cluster B, which are characterized by dramatic, overly emotional or unpredictable thinking or behavior. More specifically, BPD is characterized “by a pervasive pattern of instability and hypersensitivity in interpersonal relationships, instability in self-image, extreme mood fluctuations, and impulsivity.” Emotional dysregulation is a term used within the mental health field to denote irrational, poorly modulated emotional responses, which is a core feature of borderline personality disorder. 

BPD Symptoms

Individuals diagnosed with borderline personality disorder often experience swift mood swings, including intense episodes of depression, anger and/ or anxiety that could range in duration, lasting as short as a couple of hours to several days. The symptoms of BPD will often result in reckless and hasty actions, which can negatively impact one’s relationships. According to the DSM-5 key signs and symptoms of BPD that will have a direct effect on one’s relationships may include:  

  • Unstable personal relationships that alternate between idealization and devaluation, sometimes referred to as splitting
  • Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment by family and friends
  • Impulsive behaviors resulting in dangerous outcomes (e.g., engaging in unsafe sex, reckless driving, abuse of drugs, etc.)
  • Distorted and unstable self-image, affecting one’s moods, relationships, goals, values, and/ or opinions
  • Self-harming behavior (e.g., suicidal threats)
  • Chronic feelings of emptiness and/ or boredom
  • Periods of intense depressed mood, irritability and/ or anxiety lasting anywhere from a few hours to a few days long
  • Dissociative feelings
  • Intense, inappropriate, and/ or uncontrollable anger, typically followed by feelings of guilt and/ or shame

Borderline personality disorder directly affects how one feels about him or herself, one’s behavior as well as how an individual can relate to others. Due to its illusive nature, it is difficult to generalize or provide a clear, universal picture as to how someone with BPD acts in a relationship. 

Every individual is different, and each person contributes uniqueness to the relationship dynamics that make up a couple. The habits, patterns, and roles in a relationship are often assumed by each party early on. Individuals are constantly evolving, and as each individual changes and develops, so too must their relationship. Any untreated mental health disorder will impact the innerworkings of a relationship, especially when it comes to certain psychiatric ailments like borderline personality disorder. The treatment for BPD often includes long-term participation in psychodynamic models of psychotherapy such as dialectical behavior therapy (DBT).

The information above is provided for the use of informational purposes only. The above content is not to be substituted for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment, as in no way is it intended as an attempt to practice medicine, give specific medical advice, including, without limitation, advice concerning the topic of mental health. As such, please do not use any material provided above to disregard professional advice or delay seeking treatment.