Women's Health and Equality Queensland


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Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a complex mental disorder that is often misunderstood. Symptoms for people with this disorder include emotional distress, self-harm, difficulty relating to others and the world around them, and an unstable sense of self. While the causes of BPD are not fully understood, they are likely to involve biological, social and/or environmental factors. For some people these factors may relate to childhood experiences of trauma or neglect.

There are a number of signs and symptoms that someone with BPD might have, including fears that people might leave or abandon them, feeling very unsure about themselves, repeatedly harming themselves, having relationships that are unusually intense and unstable, and chronic feelings of emptiness and intense anger.

With early diagnosis, appropriate treatment and support, the prognosis for people with BPD is positive. Seek help from a doctor or mental health professional if you, or someone you know may be experiencing symptoms of BPD.

Although recent studies have found that BPD is equally prevalent among men and women, however approximately 75% of people diagnosed are women. Studies have found that diagnosis is gendered, and there is a subtle bias towards women. Women are more likely to undertake more self-harm behaviour than men, therefore are more likely to end up in mental health settings and subsequently receive diagnosis. Men however are more likely to display aggressive behaviours and substance abuse, and therefore end up in prison or justice systems without diagnosis. Furthermore, traits stereotypically associated with femininity are more likely to be categorised as a disorder. There is harmful stigma surrounding BPD, such as stereotypes of being “crazy” or “manipulative”. It is important to not place blame, assumptions, or prejudice towards people who are diagnosed. Using person-first language (for example, “a person with BPD”, rather than “they are borderline”) shifts from the negative associations assigned to the individual, and reinforces the fact that people with BPD are worthy of dignity and respect.

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