Borderline is one of the most well-known personality disorders. Despite this notoriety, there still often is a mystery regarding the symptoms of borderline. Most people know that it has something to do with fast-changing emotions, but often do not know what is typical in someone with borderline.

What is borderline?

Borderline is a personality disorder, which was taken up in the DSM. The DSM is the most well-known manual for diagnosing illnesses. They describe the symptoms of borderline, of which we will talk more later. When you suffer from borderline, you are at the border of psychosis. Borderline is and remains a personality disorder, of which - according to some theories - an explanation can be found in the childhood. Other than that, some symptoms of borderline are similar to those of depression. However, the symptoms of borderline are more intense and change more often, while the symptoms of depression tend to be of the same type.

People with borderline have fast-changing feelings toward friendship, love, and so on. That makes it so that both their mood and their behavior becomes very unpredictable. This of course has an influence on their self-image and how they deal with relationships. Due to the unpredictability, people with borderline tend to function on a lower level than they are capable of.

How often does borderline occur?

It is estimated that about 1 to 2 % of the population suffers from a borderline personality disorder. Women have a larger chance of getting this disorder than men do. The family of someone with borderline more frequently suffers from:

  • Depression
  • Alcohol addiction
  • Drugs addiction

Borderline frequently occurs together with sleeping issues and mood disorders. Chances are large to get a depression when you suffer from borderline, for example. Borderline most frequently occurs in young adults and those younger than 40 years of age. Borderline does not necessarily express itself differently in young adults compared to adults. Oftentimes, therapy can help to minimize the symptoms.

Symptoms of borderline?


Automutilation frequently occurs in borderline. Scratching, cutting, and similar behaviors are very common among people with borderline. Automutilation also includes behaviors such as pulling out ones' hair. At some times, automutilation can be a cry for help. However, this is not the only goal of automutilation. Expressing anger or answering to an overwhelming pain can also be reasons for automutilation.

Because of the fast-changing feelings towards relationships, people with borderline tend to present themselves in ever-changing ways to people around them. Sometimes they can feel dependent on other people, and then suddenly become hostile a little later. Sometimes they suddenly trust someone they hardly know or suddenly enter a love relationship. The next moment they cheat and do not trust anyone. This, of course, is also difficult for the people around them. Maintaining a relationship with someone with borderline can thus be very challenging.

Feeling empty inside

Just like with some forms of depression, people with borderline often feel empty inside. Because of their confusing feelings, poor self-esteem,... it is difficult for them to determine who they are, to form an identity. Just like with relationships, they frequently change the way they think about themselves. In psychosis there is a disconnection from reality. In borderline this does not occur to the same extent, but there can definitely be some form of losing touch with reality which can be noticed.

The one symptom is connected to the next. Especially during phases in which they do not feel in touch with reality, automutilation tends to occur. This can be seen as a way to be returned back to the present.

The mystery of friendship

If you are friends with someone with borderline, it can sometimes seem like there are certain parts of their life that are missing. If you suffer from borderline personality disorder it can be so that you have impulsive and unpredictable responses to things. People with borderline are sometimes very closed about personal things. For example, they will not easily tell you about their empty feeling and their rocky friendships. It is so, however, that many people with borderline will answer truthfully if you ask questions. Despite the answer, this can also be taken the wrong way.

Despite the hostile and distant behavior of someone with borderline, they often have a fear of being left. A well-known technique is therefore to leave someone before they can be left themselves. Despite this mechanism, many people with borderline find it difficult to be alone.

Identity problems

As mentioned earlier, someone with borderline frequently changes the way they think about themselves. Because they sometimes partially or entirely lose touch with reality, people with borderline find it difficult to find their identity. On top of this, their changing emotions, which can move on into changing moods, make this even more difficult. It can be so that they manipulate as a result of identity problems in order to prevent that they are left.

Depressed feelings

The symptoms above, such as difficulties with keeping up relationships, feeling empty,... add to depressed feelings which someone with borderline can experience. Except for depression, impulsivity and anger are also frequent symptoms of borderline.

Diagnosis borderline?

According to the DSM-IV, at least 5 of the symptoms below must be present in order for a diagnosis borderline to be determined.

  1. You are anxious about being left alone and want to do all you can to avoid that
  2. Variable friendships and relationships. These friendships are characterized by changing feelings about other people, going from idealization to breaking them down. Someone with borderline can suddenly end a friendship that has been going on for several years.
  3. Black-white reasoning. This symptom is caused by distrust, picking fights only to then be unable to keep going.
  4. Quick mood shifts. One word can suddenly turn your entire mood around. These shifts can also cause extreme feelings to come quickly after each other.
  5. Impulsive behavior in at least two personal areas. This behavior mainly hurts yourself, such as spending a lot of money, addictions, criminality,...
  6. Difficulties with being alone and difficulties with finding a rhythm. People with borderline can change very quickly. Fear of being left is also part of this symptom.
  7. Suffering from an identity disorder. You cannot keep a stable self-image. Furthermore, you experience an empty feeling on a daily basis, which can be present for a long time.
  8. Intense feelings of anger and having difficulties keeping these in check. These feelings are not suited for the situation in which you feel them, either. This can apply both to you as well as to others.
  9. Threatening to hurt or kill yourself and suffering from dissociative and psychotic symptoms.

Treatment for borderline?

Borderline is frequently treated with a combination of medication and psychotherapy. It is recommended that this therapy is of an intensive kind in case of borderline. When we talk about medication for borderline, antidepressants can help for impulsivity, namely MAO-blockers. Tegretol, too, is sometimes prescribed to help someone with borderline to find a stable balance. Other types of antidepressants, namely serotonergant medication can offer a solution to an unhappy mood.

The duration of the treatment depends on the intensity of the treatment and the intensity of the borderline symptoms. Frequently it is chosen to stabilize the symptoms of borderline through hospitalization in a psychiatric ward. Thanks to medication and psychotherapy, someone with borderline can function in a normal way at home. However, it does require a lot of effort to maintain this positive balance.

When taking medication and/or diagnosing, a psychiatrist needs to be present at all times. This is namely the only person who is qualified to set a diagnosis and thus prescribe medication.

Depression test?

Depressed feelings are intensely linked to borderline. Would you like to know whether you feel depressed? Then test which symptoms of depression you experience using our free depression test!