Borderline Personality Disorder Information

Statistics on Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) affects approximately 1.6% of the population, or an estimated 4 million people, in the US alone1.

Studies have found that women present with BPD more frequently than men in clinical settings. In fact, three quarters (75%) of people in the US diagnosed with BPD are female.

The rate of BPD in the US (1.6%) may actually be even higher as a recent study found that around 40% of people diagnosed with BPD had previously been misdiagnosed.2

What is BPD?

Borderline Personality Disorder, which usually presents in childhood or early adolescence3, is a psychological illness characterized by extreme mood swings, poor self-image, and impulsive behavior. Those with the disorder usually have a deep fear of abandonment. Though Borderline Personality Disorder is a difficult condition to live with, treatment options are available. Medication for symptom management combined with various therapies can help clients alleviate some of the symptoms, come to a better understanding of their disorder, and learn effective coping skills and self-management techniques.

Borderline Personality Disorder and Addiction

People suffering from BPD are often perceived as highly dramatic and manipulative. However, many of these apparent characteristics actually arise from significant emotional pain, fear, and dysfunctional coping skills.

The fear and pain, emotional instability, and impulsivity characteristics of Borderline Personality Disorder mean that those suffering are at high risk of developing a substance addiction.5

When Borderline Personality Disorder and Substance Use Disorder (SUD) co-occur, the consequences can be extremely dangerous. Drugs and alcohol are used to suppress or avoid emotional pain, feelings of distress, and the fear of abandonment, yet the same substances can exacerbate the more extreme symptoms of BPD, such as outbursts of anger and severe depression.

Emotional emptiness is a major symptom of the disorder. In order to cope with these feelings, sufferers might turn to maladaptive and dangerous coping methods, such as self-injurious behavior, excessive substance use, or cutting. When substances are involved, there is also a significantly increased danger of attempting suicide.

Signs of BPD

Borderline Personality Disorder can be a life-threatening condition due to the maladaptive behavior sufferers often use to cope. For this reason, it is important to be aware of the signs of the disorder. Noticing these signs can mean the difference between life and death.

Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder include6:

  • Fear of abandonment
  • Unstable relationships
  • Unclear sense of self
  • Impulsivity
  • Self-destructive behavior
  • Self-harm
  • Mood swings
  • Suspicion and paranoia
  • Feelings of emptiness
  • Outbursts of anger
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

A person does not have to display all of the above symptoms to be suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder. Sometimes a symptom can be triggered by feelings of stress, such as when a loved one is not responding to messages or one perceives that they have been rejected by friends or family. Each individual and their condition is different, so the length and severity of symptoms can vary.

What Causes Borderline Personality Disorder?

The precise causes of Borderline Personality Disorder are not yet fully clear, but it is believed and generally accepted that the causes and risk factors relate to7:

  • Genetics
  • Early Childhood Attachment

People with a family history of the condition, such as a parent, uncle, aunt, or sibling, may have a higher risk of developing Borderline Personality Disorder.

  • Brain function

Studies have found that people suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder exhibit structural differences in the brain when compared to those without, particularly in the areas associated with emotional regulation and impulse control. It is still unclear whether these structural changes are a cause or result of the disorder.

  • Environmental and social factors.

Many sufferers of Borderline Personality Disorder have been through a traumatic experience, such as abuse during childhood, or neglect and abandonment.8 Other environmental and social factors may include exposure to hostile conflict at an early age or invalidation in relationships.

Such factors may contribute to the development of Borderline Personality Disorder, but just because a person has been through trauma or has a family history of BPD doesn’t mean they will develop the disorder.

Professional Help is Available

Addiction can be difficult to treat and can become more complex when it co-occurs with other mental health conditions such as Borderline Personality Disorder. At Heather R. Hayes & Associates, our team of recovery specialists can help our clients and their families by figuring out the most appropriate treatment options and providing in-depth case management to help clients along every step of the recovery journey.


1 Chapman J, Jamil RT, Fleisher C. Borderline Personality Disorder. [Updated 2019 Nov 22]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-. Available from:

2 Ruggero CJ, Zimmerman M, Chelminski I, Young D. Borderline personality disorder and the misdiagnosis of bipolar disorder. J Psychiatr Res. 2010;44(6):405–408. doi:10.1016/j.jpsychires.2009.09.011

3 American Psychiatric Association (APA) Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. 5th ed. Arlington (VA): APA; 2013

5 Wapp, Manuela et al. “Risk Factors for Borderline Personality Disorder in Treatment Seeking Patients with a Substance Use Disorder: An International Multicenter Study.” European addiction research vol. 21,4 (2015): 188-94. doi:10.1159/000371724

6 Brüne, Martin. “Borderline Personality Disorder: Why ‘fast and furious’?.” Evolution, medicine, and public health vol. 2016,1 52-66. 28 Feb. 2016, doi:10.1093/emph/eow002

7 “Borderline Personality Disorder – Causes”. Nhs.Uk, Accessed 16 Oct 2020.

8 “Borderline Personality Disorder – Causes”. Nhs.Uk, Accessed 16 Oct 2020.

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