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Many teenagers display some amount of personality disorder traits during adolescence, and it is considered a matter of typical, non-problematic development by developmental experts. Personality disorder traits become problematic when they become exclusive and rigid in one’s arsenal of coping mechanisms. Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as a chronic, mental health disorder. It is a complex psychological condition that is characterized by pervasive instability in moods, emotions, behaviors, and interpersonal relationships which interfere with one’s ability to function in everyday life. 

Borderline personality disorder directly affects how one feels about him or herself, one’s behavior as well as how an individual can relate to others, which can have a significant impact on teen mental health. Mental health is explained by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” The connection between BPD and teen mental health can be best illustrated by reviewing its key signs and symptoms, which may include:  

  • Unstable personal relationships that alternate between idealization and devaluation, sometimes referred to as splitting.
  • Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment by family and friends.
  • Impulsive behaviors resulting in dangerous outcomes (e.g., engaging in unsafe sex, reckless driving, abuse of drugs, etc.).
  • Distorted and unstable self-image, affecting one’s moods, relationships, goals, values, and/ or opinions.
  • Self-harming behavior.
  • Chronic feelings of emptiness and/ or boredom.
  • Periods of intense depressed mood, irritability and/ or anxiety lasting anywhere from a few hours to a few days long.
  • Dissociative feelings.
  • Intense, inappropriate, and/ or uncontrollable anger, typically followed by feelings of guilt and/ or shame.

More specifically, the diagnostic criteria outlined in the DSM-5, indicates that to be clinically diagnosed with BPD a young person 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.

It is not uncommon for teenagers with BPD to feel extremely intense emotions for extended periods of time. This makes returning to a neutral and stable emotional baseline far more challenging, particularly after experiencing an emotionally triggering event. Treatment for BPD aims to help a teen learn to identify triggers, cultivate an armory of effective coping strategies for managing symptoms, improve communication and interpersonal skills, increase self-awareness, bolster self-concept, and enhance one’s mental health and emotional well-being. 

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.


We are available to answer any questions you may have regarding mental health treatment and our residential program, anytime. Contact us today using the form to the right.

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