BPD is characterized by a pattern of impulsivity and instability in interpersonal relationships, self-image, and affect, as indicated by five or more of the following symptoms:
- Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment, including efforts to avoid being left alone
- A history of intense and unstable personal relationships that are characterized by alternating extremes in how the other person in the relationship is perceived
- Significantly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self
- Impulsivity in at least two potentially damaging areas (e.g., substance use, spending, sex, reckless driving, binge eating)
- Recurrent self-injury or suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats
- Significantly reactive mood leading to emotional instability (e.g., intense emotions that usually only last a few hours)
- Chronic feelings of emptiness
- Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger
- Transient, stress-related paranoid thoughts or dissociation
Symptoms of BPD are often triggered or exacerbated by interpersonal stressors, including perceived rejection, neglect, or abandonment. Recurrent suicidal ideation is the reason that many individuals with BPD present for treatment and risk of completed suicide is elevated in individuals with this disorder. For BPD to be diagnosed, the symptoms must be present across a variety of contexts. Although the disorder is often chronic, many adolescents who meet criteria for the disorder will remit by early adulthood.
Because many adolescents experience some of these symptoms from time to time, BPD should be diagnosed only when these patterns persist for at least one year and cause clinically significant distress or impairment.