What is borderline about borderline personality disorder

Without stopping - living with borderline personality disorder

We all have a bad day every now and then, angry, or sad. Usually we cope with such everyday frustration quickly, the negative feelings subside. It is different for people with an emotionally unstable personality disorder of the borderline type, or borderline personality disorder (BPD) or borderline syndrome for short. Often a minimal occasion is enough and your emotional balance is overturned. Anger, fear or despair then overwhelm them suddenly and often uncontrollably.

Feelings out of control

What is discharged in this way is a massive internal tension. This arises because those affected are not able to classify their everyday experiences directly emotionally and thus to process them. Borderline patients often do not even know who they really are or who they want to be. In other words, they suffer from low self-esteem and a persistent feeling of emptiness. This prevents them from processing frustrating experiences emotionally.

If the emotional stress is too strong, the affected person's organism looks for emergency solutions in order to relieve the tension: They then often act impulsively and rashly, often endangering themselves. Some spend excessively, abuse alcohol / drugs, or change sexual partners frequently. Self-harm and suicidal thoughts are also not uncommon.


As a relative, always take suicidal statements seriously! Well over half of all borderline patients commit at least one suicide attempt.

Emotional neglect is a common trigger

The borderline disorder often first shows up in early adulthood. It affects up to three percent of adults. Their causes are as complex as their symptoms, but traces of traumatic experiences can almost always be found in the biographies: 40 to 70 percent report a lack of emotional affection in childhood and a lack of recognition by important caregivers. Maltreatment and sexual abuse are also frequently mentioned reasons.

Borderline patients often find it difficult to establish stable interpersonal relationships. You look for the lack of personal appreciation in intensive contact with your counterpart, idealize it. At the same time, they are very afraid of being alone or of being abandoned. No partner can meet the high demands associated with this in the long run: At some point every borderline patient feels deeply disappointed, rigorously devalues ​​the previously idealized partner and separates from him.

Experts also discuss hereditary factors and disorders in the brain as the cause of the disease. Malfunctions in certain brain regions that are responsible for emotional control, fear and aggression are probably partly responsible for the emotional instability of borderline patients.

The diagnosis

Not every borderline patient suffers from all symptoms and behavioral patterns at the same time. In addition, they can be of different degrees. Diagnosis is therefore not easy. In order to ensure this, an internationally standardized diagnosis code is available to specialists. In detailed, structured discussions and, if necessary, psychological tests, other (mental) illnesses are excluded or identified as concomitant illnesses: Many borderline patients also suffer from depression, eating disorders or addictions.

Because of the self-endangering behavior, borderline personality disorder is considered a serious, serious illness. Your treatment belongs in the experienced hands of a psychotherapist or specialist in psychiatry and psychotherapy. The good news: There are proven therapy concepts.

Good results through psychotherapy

Behavioral therapeutic methods have proven to be particularly effective, providing those affected with strategies to better control their extreme sensations and behavior. These so-called skills for coping with stress, such as those imparted by Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), can help to deal with inner tension in a healthy way, to recognize negative emotions earlier, to control and to reduce them.

Other forms of therapy have also shown good success: The so-called schema-focused therapy (SFT) aims to identify and discard unconscious stuck behavior patterns. Mentalization-based therapy (MBT) trains you to better understand your own wishes and thoughts as well as those of other people. If the cause of the illness can be traced back to trauma, specific trauma therapy can also help. Medicines can be used to support all forms of therapy, especially if there are additional anxiety disorders or depression.

What can relatives do?

Living with borderline personality disorder is often a great challenge - for those affected, but also for partners, family and friends. The strong mood swings often cause incomprehension and put a lot of strain on interpersonal relationships.

Being informed helps

It is therefore important, as a relative and partner, to first and foremost be well informed about the disease and thus better classify the behavioral patterns of the person affected. Above all, it is important to learn not to take the difficult behavior of the sick person personally: The cause is the illness, not the person.

The best way to support the person affected is by showing them that they are there for them, supporting them, getting professional help and accompanying them in the therapy with understanding. It takes a lot of strength. Therefore, keep an eye on your own emotional well-being. Exchanges with other relatives or a so-called relatives seminar can also help.

Useful addresses and links

Below you will find helpful links to further information for those affected and their relatives:

Borderline platform
Extensive information, including on diagnostics and therapy, addresses of local contact points and self-help groups, experience reports, exchange opportunities (forums, mailing list)

Borderline Network e.V.
Extensive information about the disease and self-help, contact points for those affected and relatives, forum and chat

Federal Working Group of Relatives of the Mentally Ill (BApK)
Extensive information as well as telephone and e-mail advice for those affected and their relatives