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Borderline Personality Disorder: Symptoms & Treatment

Need help finding treatment & support? Learn more from SunCloud Health, a leading outpatient facility serving Chicago and suburbs.

Everyday life has its ups and downs. Borderline personality disorder (or BPD) is marked by rapid shifts in mood, self-image and behavior.  

One minute we may feel happy and secure, then something may happen that makes us feel less sure of ourselves. Dealing with shifts in mood and confidence is an ongoing challenge – but for some, this everyday task seems especially tough. This may be one sign of a mental condition known as borderline personality disorder.

IMPORTANT: Symptoms like these can cause great pain. If you are having thoughts of suicide, call 911 now or go to the nearest emergency room.


People who suffer from this disorder have intense periods of anger, anxiety and depression that can last a few hours or a few days. They may make choices on the spur of the moment that can cause big problems later. These tendencies often make for stormy relationships with family, friends, neighbors and work colleagues.


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People who suffer from borderline personality disorder (BPD) tend to feel unsure of themselves and their role in the world. Their interests and values can shift quickly, often leading to spur-of-the-moment actions and decisions that create even more issues.

Another sign of borderline personality disorder is the tendency to see things in black-and-white terms, viewing something as “all good” or “all bad.” If you are suffering from BPD, your opinion of others may change quickly. Someone who seems like a friend one day may appear to be an enemy tomorrow.

Here are other signs that you or someone you care about may be suffering from BPD.

You work hard to avoid real or imagined abandonment. People with borderline personality disorder may get close to others very quickly. They may also cut off communication with someone because they get the sense the person may be preparing to abandon them.

You have intense, unstable relationships with family, friends, and loved ones that tend to swing between extreme closeness to extreme dislike or anger.

Your self-image shifts frequently, marked by periods of intense self-love that later turn into self-criticism or even self-harm.

You practice self-harming behaviors such as cutting.

You have thoughts of suicide, including suicidal behaviors or threats.

Your moods are intense and highly changeable, with each episode lasting from a few hours to a few days.

You have chronic feelings of emptiness.

You feel inappropriate, intense anger that is difficult to control.

You find it hard to trust others and feel suspicious of their intentions.

You feel cut off from yourself. This may mean having the sensation that you are actually living outside your own body, or the feeling that nothing is real.

You make reckless choices leading to risky behaviors such as spending sprees, unsafe sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, and binge eating. 

Keep in mind that this is a general list of symptoms. You may be dealing with only a few of these issues, while someone else many experience more of the symptoms on the list.

BPD symptoms can be triggered by seemingly ordinary events. For example, you may become angry and stressed when you’re far away from loved ones, even for a brief business trip. A simple change in plans can trigger an episode of anger and blame that leads to a fiery argument.

IMPORTANT: BPD symptoms can cause feelings of pain and despair. If you are having thoughts of suicide, call 911 now or go to the nearest emergency room.


For yourself or someone you care about.
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You may have heard that BPD is similar to bipolar disorder, a condition that causes periods of elevated mood (mania) and depression. In fact, BPD and bipolar disorder so share some common symptoms. But it’s important to know that they are two different disorders.

Borderline personality disorder tends to cause abrupt, moment-to-moment changes in mood, self-image, relationships and behavior. In contrast, bipolar disorder involves distinct periods of mania or depression that usually last for weeks or months. With bipolar disorder, mood shifts develop a bit more gradually and tend to stay longer.

Mental health conditions like bipolar disorder and BPD are very complex. No two people experience these conditions in exactly the same way.

Please don’t feel discouraged if you’re unsure which symptoms might apply to you or your loved one. We are ready to help you learn more and find the help you need.


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The exact cause of BPD is not yet clear. Studies show that genetics, brain structure and function, and environmental, cultural, and social factors may play a role. Here are a few of the things we know about the possible causes of this disorder.

Family history. People who have a close family member who also has BPD may be at higher risk of developing the disorder.

Brain factors. Research shows that people with borderline personality disorder often have brain-based differences. Areas of the brain that help to control impulses and regulate emotions may be affected. However, it isn’t clear whether these differences cause the disorder or are actually created by the disorder.

Environmental and social factors. Many people with borderline personality disorder have experienced trauma in childhood. This may include abuse, abandonment, poverty, violence or hunger. BPD sufferers may have lived in unstable homes where adults did not deliver the love and nurturing they needed.

Keep in mind that not everyone with a family history of BPD, childhood trauma or brain differences will develop the disorder. Humans are complex beings – and when we’re suffering, the causes are as unique as we are.


For yourself or someone you care about.
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You may have heard that borderline personality disorder is difficult to treat. Fortunately, there are newer treatments that are helping people with BPD live more stable, satisfying lives.

The important thing to know is that BPD is a serious diagnosis that does not go away on its own. You or your loved one will need to work with knowledgeable, caring professionals who understand how BPD works and will create a treatment plan based on the unique pattern of your life history and symptoms.

Psychotherapy. Most people suffering from borderline personality disorder will enter talk therapy with a professional who will provide one-on-one treatment or group treatment. Therapist-led group sessions help people with BPD learn to work well with others and express their feelings more effectively.

Since lack of trust is a symptom of BPD, it can be hard for people with this disorder to rely on their therapists. The SunCloud Health team will provide the specialized support you need to create a comfortable and trusting bond with your therapist.

Specific forms of psychotherapy used to treat BPD may include:

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). This type of therapy uses concepts of mindfulness and acceptance to help you tune in to your own feelings. DBT also teaches specific skills, such as ways to control intense emotions, reduce harmful behaviors and improve relationships.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). This form of therapy can help to change core beliefs and behaviors that stem from an inaccurate picture you may have of yourself or others. CBT also focuses on specific difficulties you have in relating to other people. It can ease mood and anxiety symptoms and reduce self-harming behaviors.

As you learn about treatment, please keep in mind that BPD is a serious diagnosis that does not go away on its own. You or your loved one will need to work with knowledgeable, caring professionals who understand how BPD works and will create a treatment plan based on the unique pattern of your life history and symptoms.


Find Compassionate, effective help now.
(866) 729-1012


Many people struggle with more than one mental health condition at a time. You may have heard that it is possible to have a dual diagnosis or a co-occurring disorder. In fact, people with BPD often face other difficulties such as self-harm, eating disorders, addiction and other issues that threaten their overall health.

At SunCloud Health, we specialize in the treatment of co-occurring disorders. Our expert team has helped hundreds of people in the Chicago area who started their journey with symptoms of one diagnosis, only to find they were dealing with more than one issue. We know from experience that, with the right support, you can learn to manage your symptoms and create a life that is calmer and more fulfilling.


Find effective help now.
(866) 729-1012


Here are some things that will ease your mind, even before you begin treatment.

You don’t have to blame yourself. We know that borderline personality disorder often runs in families. And even though you may feel embarrassed about it, remember that BPD isn’t a character defect you can correct by trying harder. It’s an organic condition that requires professional treatment, just like diabetes or heart disease.

You’ve already taken the first step. By searching for information on our website, you’ve shown that you are ready to seek help, or support a friend or family member. This is the crucial first step in getting well.

We will make the journey easier for you. The SunCloud staff will use evidence-based techniques and therapies to help you and your family. We will stay with you, providing the education and support you need to manage your symptoms and remain healthy over the long term. We are here to answer your questions, so get in touch with us today.


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Treatment at SCH is really different.  I have been to several so I know… Most treatment centers are focused on normalizing eating behaviors, weight restoration (or loss) and that is pretty much it.  At SunCloud  this stuff all matters but treatment is much deeper and so much more!  I have been encouraged to look at what drive me to the disordered eating behaviors in the first place.  I have looked at early childhood trauma, I have looked at dysfunctional and unhealthy relationships in my family, I have learned skills to help me respond differently to my thoughts and feelings and most importantly I have learned that I am not alone in my journey.  Dr. Kim and her team genuinely care.  This place is special.  Thank you TK for suggesting I seek treatment at SunCloud!!!!

~ SCH patient