3 mins

Borderline Personality Disorder: A Misunderstood Phenomenon

Many people are familiar with mental health problems such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety and depression. Fewer people, though, have heard of borderline personality disorder. But even among those people who do have a basic understanding of BPD, there is still a lot of doubt and misunderstanding.

So what is borderline personality disorder?

The term “borderline” is meant to describe people who are on the borderline of neurosis and psychosis. It was coined in the late 1930s when very little was known about this disorder. Today, though, some doctors have taken to using the terms “emotionally unstable personality disorder” or “emotional regulation disorder”. These more accurately describe individuals with BPD, since fast-fluctuating moods are a principle characteristic of the disorder.

Approximately 7 out of every 1000 people in the UK suffer from BPD, most of whom are women. BPD is normally diagnosed in young adulthood, but in rare cases it is diagnosed in individuals under the age of 18. The reason for this delayed diagnosis is that many symptoms indicative of BPD (see below) are inherently present in many adolescents.

Symptoms of BPD are varied among sufferers, so doctors must take care to monitor them and ensure that they are consistent and ongoing before making a diagnosis. BPD has nine main symptoms, and sufferers must consistently express at least five of these symptoms before a diagnosis can be made.

Symptoms of BPD include:

  • Intense, irrational fear of abandonment by family or friends. Even a missed phone call can send a BPD sufferer into a panic.
  • Impulsive, reckless behaviour, such as unsafe sex, substance abuse, or binge-eating.
  • Unstable, stormy relationships that quickly transition between idealisation (“I love everything about this person and can’t live without them”) to devaluation (“This person is the worst person in the world”).
  • Extreme angry outbursts not related to any other mental or mood disorder.
  • Chronic feelings of emptiness or loneliness.
  • Self-harming behaviour or suicidal thoughts/attempts.
  • Extreme mood swings not associated with bipolar disorder or another disorder.
  • Dissociative symptoms, such as feeling disconnected from thoughts, body or other people.
  • Poor self-image or sense of self-worth.

These symptoms can place a huge strain on interpersonal relationships, yet family and friends of people with BPD often don’t understand the severity of symptoms and may sometimes feel that sufferers are trying to manipulate them or “play games”. As a result, having a relationship with someone with BPD can be very emotionally and mentally intense, but remembering a few key points can make a world of difference for sufferers and the people who love them.

If you or someone you know suffers from borderline personality disorder, you can receive sensitive, professional help from experts at The Chelsea Psychology Clinic. For information about private therapy in London, you can make a booking or enquiry today.

Dr Elena Touroni

Dr Elena Touroni

7 April 2017

"Dr. Elena Touroni is a skilled and experienced Consultant Psychologist with a track record of delivering high-quality services for individuals with all common emotional difficulties and those with a diagnosis of personality disorder. She is experienced in service design and delivery, the management of multi-disciplinary teams, organisational consultancy, and development and delivery of both national and bespoke training to providers in the statutory and non-statutory sector."

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Dr Stacie Tay

Dr Stacie Tay attained her BSc (Hons) Psychology at the University of Nottingham and worked as a psychologist at the Institute of Mental Health, Singapore, before returning to the UK to complete her Doctorate in Clinical Psychology at the University College London.   

Dr Tay has worked in a variety of settings within the NHS for more than eight years, including primary and secondary care, specialist psychological services and forensic inpatient settings. She currently works as a Clinical Psychologist at the North East London Foundation Trust.  

She has extensive experience working with individuals and groups, providing evidence-based psychological therapies including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Interpersonal Psychotherapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) and Mindfulness-based approaches as well as Schema-informed therapy.   

Dr Tay’s clinical experience involves working with people who present with a range of mild to severe mental health difficulties. This includes depression, anxiety (OCD, social anxiety, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, health anxiety, phobia-related disorders, PTSD), stress related issues, low self-esteem, complex trauma, interpersonal difficulties, grief and bereavement, and long-term health conditions.