Skip to main content

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as a chronic, mental health disorder. It is a complex psychological condition that is characterized by pervasive instability in moods, emotions, behaviors, and interpersonal relationships. This instability interferes with one’s ability to function in his or her daily life, long-term planning, as well as an individual’s sense of identity. Although the cause of borderline personality disorder remains unknown, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIH) alludes to research that “suggests that genetics, brain structure and function, and environmental, cultural, and social factors play a role, or may increase the risk for developing borderline personality disorder.” The signs and symptoms of borderline personality disorder are highlighted in the diagnostic criteria that is outlined in the DSM-5. According to the DSM-5, to be diagnosed with BPD an individual must experience five or more of the following symptoms in a variety of contexts:

  1. Emotional instability
  2. Feelings of emptiness
  3. Efforts to avoid abandonment
  4. Impulsive behaviors
  5. Identity disturbances
  6. Inappropriate, irrational and/ or intense bouts of anger
  7. Transient paranoid and/ or dissociative symptoms
  8. Unstable interpersonal relationships
  9. Suicidal and/ or self-harming behaviors

Borderline personality disorder typically develops in early adulthood, often with more severe symptoms occurring in the early stages of onset. BPD affects between 2.6% and 5.9% of American adults.

BPD and Relationships

People with borderline personality disorder have a more difficult time returning to an emotional baseline, which can make sustaining relationships challenging. Typically, within a relationship dynamic where BPD is present, an overwhelming emphasis is placed on meeting the needs of the person with BPD. When this does not happen, it often results in mood swings, angry outbursts, devaluation of their partner, feelings of chronic abandonment, and impulsive or irrational behaviors. The quick changing nature of BPD symptoms (e.g., emotional peaks and valleys) can lead to conflict-filled, chaotic relationships. Hence, people with BPD typically have rocky relationships with others, both platonic and romantic.

No two individuals share an identical personality, and the same is true for a relationship: no two relationships are the same. Every individual is different, and each person brings a uniqueness that contributes to the dynamic of a relationship. Results from one study, found the average length of a BPD relationship between those who were either married or living together as partners was 7.3 years. Other sources suggest that relationships lasting between 2-5 years is more common for people with BPD. Still, with treatment and continual support from family and partners, people with BPD can have successful relationships, and some have reported these relationships lasting for decades.

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.