How to Detect Signs of Borderline Personality Disorder in Your Loved One

Are you worried that someone you love has a borderline personality disorder? While only a licensed mental health professional can make a proper diagnosis, it doesn’t hurt to educate yourself about the symptoms of borderline personality disorder so you can better understand your loved one and encourage him or her to seek professional help. Here’s how to detect borderline personality disorder in your loved one and get the help they need.

What is borderline personality disorder?

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a severe emotional disorder that affects nearly 6 million Americans. People with BPD suffer from many consequences, including frequent mood swings, impulsivity, repeated self-harm attempts, severe negative emotions (such as anger and shame), a distorted self-image, chaotic relationships, and an extreme fear of abandonment.

Nobody knows for sure what causes borderline personality disorder, but there are some theories. Most researchers and professionals believe that BPD is caused by a variety of factors, including biological, genetic and environmental factors, that work together to increase a person’s risk for developing BPD. Many people with BPD report having distressing childhood experiences that typically involve caregivers, such as childhood abuse, neglect, emotional abuse and early separation from caregivers. This plays a large role in the symptoms of BPD, which are outlined below.

Borderline Personality Disorder Signs

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) causes severe emotional pain and emotional instability. Here are some of the symptoms of BPD. As you explore this list of borderline personality disorder signs, ask yourself these questions.

Frequently fearing being abandoned by loved ones accompanied by frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment.

  1. Does your loved one take innocent remarks and blow them out of proportion, believing everything is a sign that they are being abandoned?
  2. Does it seem like there are no “safe” topics to talk about around your loved one, because they sometimes take anything said the wrong way, as if it’s a personal slight?
  3. A person with BPD might read too much into any little remark or action, taking them as definite signs that they will soon be abandoned.
  4. Has your loved one ever begged you not to leave, even if you were just going to work or doing some other routine thing?
  5. Has your loved one ever threatened violence to themselves, to you, or someone else to keep you from leaving?
  6. These kinds of desperate attempts to avoid abandonment can come with BPD.

A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships, including frequent arguments, conflicts, breakups and feelings of disappointment and even hatred toward loved ones.

  1. Has your loved one often fallen in “love at first sight”?
  2. Does your loved one form intense attachments with people right away, even when they might not really know the people they feel attached to very well?
  3. Does your loved one go through a lot of “breakups,” whether they’re in romantic relationships, or friendships, or even work relationships?
  4. Does your loved one seem to get into virulent conflicts with their friends, family members, or partners?
  5. Does your loved one make similar mistakes again and again, seemingly without achieving insight into what they’re doing?
  6. Does your loved one’s trouble with fighting and relationships impact their job, school, or everyday life?

Significant and persistent identity disturbance, including an unstable self-image and feeling unsure about who they are and what they believe in.

  1. Does your loved one seem to “pick up” new ideas about things—even really important, personal things—easily?
  2. Has your loved one gone through multiple major identity shifts, such as religious conversions, career changes, or lifestyle adjustments?
  3. Does your loved one seem to adopt whatever philosophy their partner has—until that relationship is over?
  4. If you asked your loved one about their core values, do you think they could identify theirs? Could they identify yours?
  5. Does your loved one seem to have an unusual amount of difficulty putting themselves in someone else’s shoes?

Exhibiting impulsive behaviors that are potentially self-damaging in at least two areas (e.g., sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating, self-injury, spending, etc.).

  1. Have you noticed your loved one engaging in impulsive, self-damaging behaviors?
  2. Has your loved one been engaging in impulsive, unsafe sex? When they do, do they perceive themselves to be in a relationship?
  3. Does your loved one go on shopping sprees that are far beyond what their budget should allow?
  4. Does your loved one have a problem with substance abuse, even alcohol?
  5. Have you noticed any evidence of self-injury on your loved one’s body?
  6. Have you ever seen your loved one engaging in cutting, scratching themselves until blood is drawn, punching or hitting themselves, or otherwise hurting themselves?
  7. Does your loved one binge, especially late at night?
  8. Has your loved one ever gotten stopped or ticketed for reckless driving?

Recurrent suicidal behavior, threats or self-mutilating behavior.

  1. Has your loved one ever mutilated themselves?
  2. Has your loved one ever expressed any suicidal thoughts or threats?
  3. Have you seen any suicidal behaviors from your loved one?

Frequent and intense mood changes, such as feeling okay one minute and feeling sad, irritated or angry the next, that typically last between a few minutes and a few hours.

  1. Does your loved one have “mood swings”?
  2. Have you noticed intense, rapid, frequent changes in mood in your loved one?
  3. Are your loved one’s mood swings so intense that they interfere with work, school, relationships, and life in general?
  4. Have you ever thought that your loved one can go from 0 to 100 emotionally in minutes?
  5. Does it seem like your loved one doesn’t know how to make themselves feel better?

Chronic and long-term feelings of emptiness or feeling emotionally dead.

  1. Does your loved one seem to feel empty all of the time?
  2. Has your loved one ever expressed a chronic feeling of emptiness or emotional “deadness”?

Inappropriate and intense anger or difficulty controlling anger.

  1. Does your loved one lash out uncontrollably, even with people they love?
  2. Does your loved one seem to overreact with anger or even rage, for no good reason?
  3. Does your loved one lose their temper over very small annoyances?
  4. Have you ever seen your loved one express inappropriate or intense anger?

Stress-induced paranoid thoughts, such as feeling like they’re being picked on, feeling “zoned out” or numb, or feeling like people or things aren’t real.

  1. Does your loved one feel like everyone is picking on them?
  2. Has your loved one ever expressed thoughts that sound paranoid to you?
  3. Does your loved one seem to think everyone is against them?
  4. Does your loved one believe that everyone leaves them, or they will?
  5. Has your loved one ever expressed a feeling of numbness or unreality?
  6. Does your loved one feel like nothing in life seems real anymore?

If many of these questions sound familiar, you’re recognizing many signs of borderline personality disorder.

What should I do if I think my loved one has a borderline personality disorder?

If someone you know exhibits any of these warning signs of borderline personality disorder, it’s a smart idea to seek help. BDP is a very complex issue, and without a proper diagnosis and treatment, these symptoms can interfere with your loved one’s ability to live a normal life. Professional treatment is the key to retaking control of life—for your loved one, and for you, too.


This blog is for informational purposes only and should not be a substitute for medical advice. We understand that everyone’s situation is unique, and this content is to provide an overall understanding of substance use disorders. These disorders are very complex, and this post does not take into account the unique circumstances for every individual. For specific questions about your health needs or that of a loved one, seek the help of a healthcare professional.