Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) key facts

By Mental Healthy's charite partner SANE – The Mental Health Charity

Borderline Personality Disorder – The basic facts

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is the most commonly diagnosed personality disorder and it is estimated that three-quarters of those given the diagnosis are women. The term was coined by psychoanalyst Adolph Stern in 1938 to describe patients who were on a ‘borderline’ between neurosis and psychosis.

Understanding of the condition has progressed, and with it an effort to move away from the term ‘borderline’, an ambiguous, and for many with the diagnosis, distressing term. In the US, it has the less misleading term of ‘Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder’ and in the UK the term ‘complex needs’ is on the rise. This particular choice reflects the fact that many people with BPD also have other mental health-related difficulties such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder and substance abuse. Please see What is Borderline Personality Disorder for more on this.

Another common misconception is that people with BPD are attention-seekers and manipulative, as illustrated by the following quote from a caller to SANEline:

“ I am going to get a referral to see a clinical psychologist in addition to my psychiatrist… I want to focus on the parts of myself that are not blocked so I can move on with my life. I am a bit fed up though with being told I am playing games”.

Fortunately, positive work has been done in the NHS and in mental health services to combat this and educate staff.

What is Borderline Personality Disorder?

Typically, a person will suffer from a poor self-image, have difficulties maintaining stable personal relationships and will be prone to impulsive behaviour.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the manual used by psychiatrists, other features will include “chronic feelings of emptiness”, “frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment” and “self-mutilating behaviour”. The list has a total of nine indicators. Please see What is Borderline Personality Disorder for more on this.


UK studies have found that in the general population, seven in every 1000 people have BPD (Coid & colleagues, 2006).

Treatment options

Much research has been undertaken into BPD and there are a host of treatment options from which to choose. Studies indicate that many patients have positive outcomes. See Borderline Personality Disorder Treatments for more on this.

Further help on Borderline Personality Disorder

We hope you have found this information useful, please also see:

What is Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline Personality Disorder Symptoms

Borderline Personality Disorder Treatments

Living with Borderline Personality Disorder

Real Life: Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline Personality Disorder - A tribute to Louise Wright

Louise Wright's family speak out about BPD

For more information

If you would like to learn more about BPD, treatment options and sources of help visit

Be wary of trying to self-diagnose but if you believe you may have Borderline Personality Disorder from reading SANE’s fact sheets or other information from further sources of help, then seek help by first visiting your GP.

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