How to Tell if Someone has Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) affects more than 444 million people in the world today. This staggering figure is higher than the number of people affected by schizophrenia and bipolar combined. BPD is a serious illness and sufferers may struggle with it their entire life. Find out how you can tell if someone has BPD.

Borderline Personality Disorder


  • Wondering if you or a loved one has Borderline Personality Disorder? Find out what are the signs of BPD.
  • The Cabin shares the tips on how to recognize someone with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

Every time you plan a holiday, a weekend away or night out, does a friend or loved one try to thwart your plans? Have you ever showed up for an appointment two or three minutes late, or committed some other equally minor grievance, and had the other person go ballistic on you or blow the situation totally out of proportion? If you have experienced these strange situations, it is possible that the person you are dealing with may have Borderline Personality Disorder or BPD for short. This is a serious mental illness that can begin during early adulthood or adolescence.

People who are diagnosed with BPD face huge challenges when dealing with themselves and others because they are affected by impulsivity, uncontrollable emotions, fears of abandonment, and having an unstable self-image. Their unpredictable and negative behavioural patterns may be caused by an abusive childhood, problematic genes and more.

Signs of BPD or Borderline Personality Disorder

Below are several ways to determine if someone is suffering from BPD.

The person exudes a worrying level of impulsiveness.

A person with BPD may tend to act impulsively and oftentimes in ways that are self-damaging. While binge-eating is one of the signs, it is not a good indicator as people without BPD can also engage in binge-eating. However, this example is to show you an instance wherein that person loses control and engages in an impulsive or compulsive behaviour. Other examples include going on reckless shopping sprees, uncontrollable gambling or compulsive and often risky sexual behaviour.

Another issue involved here is compulsive lying and manipulation. While this is not a conscious decision on the part of the person who has BPD, this phenomenon will often arise in day-to-day activities. Do they make themselves sound like the victim every time? How do they make you feel when they ask you to do them a favour? Do you comply out of shame or guilt? Do take note of these red flags.

You Deserve to be Happy

The person constantly changes personas.

For many BPD sufferers, the sense of self has become distorted. Persons affected with BPD, may often display a 360° change in attitude due to dramatic changes in their values, life goals and aspirations. They may suddenly change their group of friends, begin to idolise a person whose way of life they previously despised or decide to completely change career. They may even shift their religious beliefs or sexual identity.

The person is overly paranoid.

Perhaps you and a few loved ones have planned something positive for the person, but they may take it the wrong way and think everyone is colluding against them. A common response is “You are all in this together!” Sometimes, even when they are a part of the plans, the person may believe they have not been included and accuse you of not considering them in the first place. This is because their fear of rejection or abandonment often overwhelms their conscious thought process. They may storm off only to call you at a later time to apologise, thank you for the things that you are doing for them or express their interest in other ways.

The person is overwhelmed with anger even in happy situations.

Anger is the most common emotion of someone with BPD, even when other feelings are much more appropriate. For example, that person has just won a double tennis game. Instead of enjoying and celebrating the victory, they may start ranting about their partner’s mistakes.

The person confides his or her persistent feelings of emptiness to you.

If the BPD sufferer regards you as his or her confidant, they may at some point reveal to you their constant feelings of emptiness or how they are “not really there” during social situations. These feelings do not just come and go, the person may experience them on a continuing basis. In some case, the person may also doubt their existence as they start to lose sight of their purpose in life.

The person overreacts to situations that most people would just ignore.

When someone accidentally bumps into you, you may just ignore it and brush it off after that person apologises. If a person with BPD were in your shoes, they may have an intense reaction and become very angry. Also, the person may become obsessed about a casual remark or joke. They may read too much into that joke, get offended and hold a grudge.

The person engages in self-harm behaviour.

There is a difference between being suicidal and engaging in self-mutilation. The former is behaviour conveys an intention of wanting to be dead. The latter is what many BPD sufferers engage in. They inflict physical harm on themselves but do not want to kill themselves. They may do this to relieve themselves from extreme or painful emotions. However, the person can eventually become suicidal and contemplate death. Whatever the case, it is pertinent that you seek help for someone you suspect suffers from BPD.

The person cannot be alone for a prolonged period of time.

If you are close to someone who struggles with BPD, you may have experienced unusual tactics to thwart your plans you have for a vacation. People with BPD often try to avoid “abandonment”. They consider close friends or loved ones as their support system, and when that system is about to be removed, they may start to act overly needy.

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The person has skewed views of the people around them.

On certain days of the week, sometimes unpredictably, you are idealised as the greatest person alive in the eyes of the BPD sufferer. However, there are days when you are regarded as the worst person on Earth. Individuals with BPD often have skewed views of the people around them. Yes, they have these views even if you are very close to them.

Getting Help for Borderline Personality Disorder

Just like reading body language, you need to pick out a cluster of the signs mentioned above before you can conclude whether the person may have BPD and require treatment. If you have enough evidence to determine that a family member, colleague or friend might be suffering from BPD, it is important that you encourage him or her to seek treatment. Remember that BPD sufferers are not fully aware of their ongoing behaviour and its effects on other people. You need to talk to them in a way that they do not take it personally and close their ‘doors’ to you.

If you think your loved one might have BPD and has a higher risk of destructive behaviours, such as drug addiction or suicide, it is wise to seek treatment as early as possible for your loved one. Contact us now to learn more about our treatment services and to arrange a confidential assessment.

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