How Common is Borderline Personality Disorder?
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a serious mental illness characterized by difficulties regulating emotions. A person with BPD usually experiences turbulent relationships and low self-image, and they often display a great deal of insecurity and instability.
It’s been estimated that approximately 1.6 % of adults in the United States struggle with BPD. The number may actually be much higher than that, and many experts believe that the correct number may actually be closer to six percent. Even at 1.6%, that’s over five million Americans who have this disorder.
Why Determining Actual Numbers is Difficult
Diagnosing borderline personality disorder (BPD) or other forms of mental illness can be much more challenging than diagnosing physical illness. There is no blood test or scan that will clearly diagnose mental health problems, so it’s hard to determine exactly how common BPD is.
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People are often reluctant to let their doctor know they are struggling with mental health problems. Like other forms of mental illness, BPD is often associated with stigma which discourages people from seeking help.
BPD in Adolescence and Early Adulthood
During adolescence, doctors may be reluctant to diagnose someone with a personality disorder when it’s possible that emotional turbulence may subside as the person matures. Emotional extremes are very common during the teen years when so many life challenges are being experienced for the first time, and a teenager may not exhibit enough of the identifying symptoms of BPD to diagnose them with this disorder.
Symptoms of BPD usually start by late adolescence or early adulthood. They can be very intense during the young adult years.
Symptoms of BPD are similar in many ways to symptoms of other forms of mental illness. People with BPD are often misdiagnosed with other conditions, particularly bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder. An accurate diagnosis is very important so that a person can receive effective treatment.
Symptoms of BPD include:
- Extreme fear of abandonment
- Unstable self-image
- Reckless and impulsive behaviors
- Suicidal threats
- Self-harming behavior
- Mood swings that include severe depression, anxiety or irritability
- Episodes of rage followed by shame and guilt
- Ongoing feelings of emptiness or boredom
Important Distinguishing Signs of BDP
What distinguishes BPD from other mental health conditions that share some of the same signs and symptoms? People with BPD tend to view things in extremes such as all bad or all good. Their moods and opinions change quickly, and they have a pattern of ongoing instability in their relationships.
Self-injuring behavior is an important sign of BPD, such as cutting or suicidal tendencies. Another hallmark sign of this disorder is an intense fear of abandonment and difficulty tolerating being alone.
It’s not unusual to have other disorders along with BPD. Some disorders that may co-occur with borderline personality disorder include:
- Substance use disorder
- Eating disorders
- Anxiety disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Bipolar disorder
BPD in Men Versus Women
At one time it was believed that BPD was much more common in women than men, but recent studies have determined that it affects both genders at similar rates. One recent study concluded that BPD affects approximately 6.2% of women and 5.6% of men.
Despite this evidence, BPD is diagnosed in women more frequently than in men. Many men are reluctant to admit they are struggling with mental health challenges, or they may be misdiagnosed with ADHD, PTSD and bipolar disorder. Symptoms of BPD in men may manifest as aggression and explosive anger, often driving loved ones away.
Evidence-based treatments such as dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can lead to less severe symptoms of BPD and an improved quality of life. This approach gives patients the ability to cope with extreme emotional ups and downs in a therapeutic setting while practicing new behaviors.
Millions of people have been diagnosed with BPD and are undergoing treatment, while millions more struggle with symptoms that seem beyond their control, but treatment works. BPD is a fairly common and treatable disorder affecting millions of people. Early intervention and treatment can make a big difference in the life of someone who has it.
If you or a loved one are struggling with borderline personality disorder or another mental illness, please contact us at (855) 409-0204 or submit the form below and a treatment specialist will contact you.
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Since 2004, Lori has worked with the behavioral health treatment community to bring awareness about mental health disorders and evidence-based treatments. Lori strives to help people better understand mental illness and provide support to those needing help and their families. As a mental health advocate, Lori works to be a voice for those suffering from borderline personality disorder, depression, anxiety, trauma, or any other disorder.