What is Borderline Personality Disorder

What is Borderline Personality Disorder


People who have Borderline Personality Disorder tend to be volatile, unstable, overreactive, impulsive, and lacking in boundaries. While not all people with BPD are abusive to their partners and others, the cluster of personality traits common with the disorder can contribute to abusive behaviors and attitudes in some. 

It can be very difficult to be a husband, wife, boyfriend, or girlfriend to someone who has Borderline Personality Disorder.

And it can be very difficult to get out of a relationship with someone who has BPD.


What's In This Post

What is Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)?
Volatile Relationships with Borderline Personality Disorder
Instability Borderline Trait
Borderline Personality Disorder Signs and Symptoms
Self-Harm and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
BPD Fear of Abandonment 
Books About Partner Abuse Help


What is Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)?

The term borderline was first used to describe a set of personality traits that bordered between neurotic (mental distress) and psychotic (break from reality).

That set of traits is included in what is now known in North America as Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

BPD is one of four Cluster B personality disorders that share similar traits and ways of being:

  1. Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
  2. Antisocial Personality Disorder (Sociopathy)
  3. Narcissistic Personality Disorder
  4. Histrionic Personality Disorder (HPD)

Cluster B is known as the group of erratic and dramatic personality disorders

I recently took a class in which they described BPD people as being unable to self-observe, self-monitor, or self-correct.  


Volatile Relationships with Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline Personality disorder trait They love you or hate you


People with borderline personality tend to run hot and cold.

They love you or they hate you.

They view people in absolute terms: absolutely wonderful or absolutely terrible.

They go through a lot of relationships, both romantic and platonic. They wear partners and friends out. Relationships that do last for them are usually with partners who are particularly perseverant.


Instability Borderline Trait

Borderline Personality Disorder symptom unstable emotions and relationships


The word, or concept of, unstable crops up a lot when describing people with borderline personality.

They have unstable emotions, unstable image of themselves, unstable relationships, and impulsive destructive behavior.

In fact, the international title for BPD is Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder. (North America is moving towards adopting the international system for mental health designations.)

Borderline Personality Disorder Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of borderline personality include the following (not all are necessarily present in an individual):

  • unstable relationships

  • separation anxiety when away from their loved ones

  • self-mutilation (self-harm) such as cutting or burning themself*

  • extreme fear of abandonment**

  • viewing people as absolutely wonderful or absolutely terrible

  • quickly flipping their assessment of a person from wonderful to terrible or vice versa

  • unstable self-image

  • chameleon-like: lacking a clear sense of self, they may take on the opinions and behaviors of others as their own

  • very intense emotions

  • very overreactive

  • extreme mood swings (short-lived episodes of depression, irritability, anxiety, anger . . .)

  • verbally and/or physically abusive

  • feeling empty and worthless

  • severe dissociation, numbness, or detachment

  • anger, rage, aggression

  • paranoia

  • recklessly impulsive with spending, shoplifting, dangerous driving, substance abuse, bingeing and purging, risky sexual behavior . . .

  • suicidal gestures, threats, or completion

  • lacking in boundaries

  • controlling

  • manipulative

  • sees themself as right and others as wrong

    *Self-Harm and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

    Borderline Personality Disorder self harm cutting relieves emotional pain


    ​The International Society for the Study of Self-Injury provides this definition

    "Non-suicidal self-injury is the deliberate, self-directed damage of body tissue without suicidal intent and for purposes not socially or culturally sanctioned."

    Other terms for self-harm are self-injury and self-mutilation. 

    What this category of self-harm is not:

    • It's not suicidal.

    • It's not risky behaviors like not wearing a seatbelt.

    • It's not behaviors that don't cause immediate injury (ie. It's not food restriction)

    • It's not culturally sanctioned behaviors such as tattooing. 

    While self-harm such as superficially cutting on arms and legs is very typical borderline personality behavior, it is not necessarily present in every person with BPD, and every person who “cuts” does not necessarily have BPD.

    **BPD Fear of Abandonment 

    Borderline Personality Disorder Symptoms Fear of Abandonment


    The borderline person’s fear of abandonment may result in them reacting in extreme ways to anything that triggers their feelings of abandonment.

    Their partner being a few minutes late can set off rage or tears. 

    They may lash out at a friend for cancelling a lunch meeting, or threaten suicide if they suspect that their partner is considering ending their relationship.


    To Learn More

    Biskin, R. S., & Paris, J. (2012). Diagnosing borderline personality disorder. CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association journal, 184(16), 1789–1794. https://doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.090618 



    Books About Partner Abuse Help

    People with Borderline Personality Disorder can be very challenging as romantic partners.

    They aren't always abusive, but as you can see from the signs and symptoms above, the cluster of personality traits that lead to a diagnosis of BPD can make for volatility and instability that can show up as abusiveness toward partners and ex-partners.


    Ann Silvers books about Partner Abuse

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    • Ann Silvers
    Comments 4
    • kimberly klein
      kimberly klein

      Thank you very much I’ve learned a lot my doctor just diagnosed me with having this borderline personality disorder. there’s a lot of things that are true but there are some things that aren’t I was always told I had bipolar two
      until this last doctor .if anybody could give advice it’s the lady that wrote the book she did a beautiful job and I thank you. I’m married to a wonderful man who understands me but everybody I think with BPD has a trigger that sets them off mine happens to be my mother she was never there when my father was beating me she always took care of other people’s kids and my brother he was her favorite I know this because she told me. People don’t understand that when a child is Young how you talk to them and how you treat them is how they grow up and treat other people. Thank you again for your story.

    • Ann Silvers
      Ann Silvers

      søren lund, thanks for telling us your story. So many men have similar experiences with the lack of support from people around them, family court, and service providers. It’s devastating to keep up the fight for the kids while repeatedly losing to a mom you know is not deserving of the preferential treatment she receives from the system. You bring up a great point in that when you cover for an abusive partner with family and friends, they don’t have a chance to see the reality and provide you with support. —Ann

    • John

      The first few weeks with a BPD lover are utterly intoxicating.
      The compliments, the adoration, the sex…
      Once you fail to fulfill even the most insignificant expectations, the clay model of you in their heads dries out, cracks, and crumbles to the ground.
      The crash from that high is devastating.
      You realize that it’s pointless to stay with someone that focuses on your shortcomings, and you plan your exit.
      As you draw down your involvement, or just leave – the realization of their behavior sets in, and they panic.
      They will admit their wrongdoing, apologize, and go to extremes to make it up to you.
      It’s a trap.
      You can expect to be on this merry-go-round forever until YOU do something about it.
      They simply don’t have the capacity for self-reflection when they aren’t in ‘panic mode’.

    • søren lund
      søren lund

      I can 100% relate to Johnny Depp too have been in a relationship with a woman with severe borderline. I just had two children with her. But I have spent the last seven years fighting in court to save the children. And seeing Amber in court gave me cold sweats because it was just like seeing my ex. She accuse me of beating the kids beating her raping her psychological violence everything. Family and friends didn’t believe me because I always covered for her and took the blame for showing up late etc. It is extremely hard taking a fight up with a woman like that and then you have the whole system of Family Court and social service and all of them just Believed her. I feel Johnny is fighting for all victims. Especially the focus on women as the abuser. Love from DENMARK🇩🇰🇩🇰🇩🇰 to all of you😘

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