Borderline Personality Disorder

What are personality disorders?

We all have unique personalities that have developed as a result of both genetics and environment. As we grow our personalities are constantly shaped by our experiences and behaviour choices.

Those with a personality disorder have developed rigid or extreme thoughts and behaviours that they cannot control. They have trouble relating to others and are often limited in their ability to deal with daily life. Personalities normally continue to develop through teenage years so disorders are generally not diagnosed until adulthood.

There are 3 main groups or clusters of personality disorders.

Cluster A – odd or eccentric behaviour

  • Schizotypal Personality Disorder
  • Schizoid Personality Disorder
  • Paranoid Personality Disorder

Cluster B – Dramatic or erratic behaviour

  • Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder
  • Histrionic Personality Disorder
  • Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Cluster C – Anxious or fearful behaviour

  • Avoidant Personality Disorder
  • Dependant Personality Disorder
  • Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder


What is Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)?

Borderline Personality Disorder is a common but often misunderstood mental health issue. The term ‘borderline’ was originally used as it was believed to be on the ‘border’ between psychosis and neurosis but this is no longer accurate. BPD now known to be characterised by mood instability and impulsive behaviour.

BPD affects around 2% of Australians with women more often affected than men. Symptoms may vary in intensity and usually affect sufferers for life. Excellent treatments are available to help manage extreme behaviour allowing sufferers to have a much healthier quality of life.


What causes Borderline Personality Disorder?

Currently, there is no definitive cause of BPD however there are several factors believed to contribute to it.

Genetic factors

While the genetic link has not been proven, research has shown that those who have a relative with BPD have an increased risk of developing the condition.

Biological factors

It is widely believed that those with BPD have an abnormally functioning neurotransmitter in the brain called serotonin. This chemical messenger has also been linked to other mental health conditions such as depression and substance abuse. Two other neurotransmitters – dopamine and noradrenaline – may also play a role.

Environmental / social factors

Traumatic childhood experiences are considered to be very influential in the development of Borderline Personality Disorder. These may include:

  • Being neglected by one or both parents
  • Experiencing major trauma, distress or chronic fear
  • Being a victim of sexual, physical or emotional abuse
  • Having a close family member with a mental health issue


What are the most common symptoms?

Sufferers of BPD often have trouble maintaining healthy relationships due to their mood swings and self-destructive behaviour. They have difficulty relating to people and to their environment. Symptoms can be similar to those of Depression and Bipolar Disorder and often include:

  • Indulging in risky behaviours such as gambling and unsafe sex.
  • Having intense but unstable relationships – including intense admiration or dislike of others
  • Having rigid, unhealthy patterns of thinking or having difficulty compromising

In extreme cases, sufferers may demonstrate harmful behaviour such as self-mutation. They may fear being abandoned and crave constant approval from others. Many of these behaviours stem from unresolved anger or fear. Counselling provides an opportunity for sufferers to explore the origin of these feelings and to develop new, healthier ways of thinking.


What are the main treatment options for Borderline Personality Disorder?

BPD is usually treated predominantly with counselling or psychotherapy. Medication may sometimes be used in conjunction with therapy to help stabilise mood swings.

The main therapies used in borderline personality disorder treatment are:

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)

Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) is a form of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. It is focused on neutralising mood instability and impulsivity. This approach helps sufferers to reflect on their self-beliefs, to become more open to other opinions and ideas and to develop a healthier, more accepting mindset.

A critical aspect of the therapy is to manage self-harm and suicidal behaviour.

Mentalisation-Based Therapy (MBT)

Those with BPD are unable to step back and question their own behaviour and thought patterns. They also cannot see how their actions affect others. MBT therapy helps the person address these issues and learn to see themselves and others in a more realistic light.

Counselling for BPD usually takes a long term approach as it is a life-long condition. The sooner it is identified by a qualified medical practitioner, the more positive the outcome is likely to be.

Some counsellors offer group sessions for those with BPD to help them learn to interact effectively with others. People with BPD often also have other mental health issues so these will need to be addressed separately.


Why seek professional help?

Mental illness can be frightening and isolating, especially if you are in a depressed or suicidal state. Talking to friends and family may help but having the support and guidance of a professional counsellor is usually more beneficial. Therapy sessions are confidential and non-judgemental. Seeking help early gives you a greater chance of overcoming your condition and getting your life back to normal.


Where to find help

Our True Counsellor Directory lists hundreds of psychotherapists and counsellors from Australia.

Some psychotherapists and counsellors listed in our directory offer counselling over the phone and online in addition to one-on-one consultations. Many also offer workshops and seminars.


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