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Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as one of the ten standalone personality disorders. Borderline personality disorder is explained as a mental health condition “in which a person has long-term patterns of unstable or turbulent emotions and these inner experiences often result in impulsive actions and chaotic relationships with other people.” People with BPD often harbor an intense fear of abandonment, suffer from chronic feelings of emptiness, engage in suicidal behavior or threats, and have difficulty controlling anger. The specific signs and symptoms of borderline personality disorder are highlighted in the diagnostic criteria that is outlined in the DSM-5. According to the DSM-5, to be diagnosed with BPD an individual must experience five or more of the following symptoms in a variety of contexts:

  1. Emotional instability
  2. Feelings of emptiness
  3. Efforts to avoid abandonment
  4. Impulsive behaviors
  5. Identity disturbances
  6. Inappropriate, irrational and/ or intense bouts of anger
  7. Transient paranoid and/ or dissociative symptoms
  8. Unstable interpersonal relationships
  9. Suicidal and/ or self-harming behaviors

Borderline personality disorder typically develops in early adulthood, often with more severe symptoms occurring in the early stages of onset. Studies have shown that people with BPD are prone to experience chronic and significant emotional suffering and mental agony that can cause them to be both sensitive and insensitive to pain. Individuals with borderline personality disorder, for example, may display externalized aggressive behavior and experts indicate this can present as physical violence toward partners, physical violence toward known but nonintimate individuals, criminal behaviors that embody externalized violence (e.g., property damage), and, on very rare occasion, murderous behavior (either of family members or anonymous others through serial killing). The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the term sadistic as “taking pleasure in the infliction of pain, punishment, or humiliation on others.” Psychology Today assert that it is certainly possible for some individuals with BPD to be genuinely manipulative or sadistic. For example, studies show that men with BPD are more likely to exhibit paranoid, passive-aggressive, narcissistic, or sadistic symptoms. It would, however, be inaccurate to claim that all people with borderline personality disorder are sadistic.

For Information and Support

Every family in need of mental health treatment must select a program that will best suit the needs of their family. When one member of a family struggles, it impacts everyone in the family unit. To maximize the benefits of treatment we work closely with the entire family to ensure that everyone is receiving the support they need through these difficult times. Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person’s life, long term. Pursuing support at the beginning of one’s journey can put the individual in the best position to learn how to manage themselves in a healthy way so they can go on to live happy and fulfilling lives.


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