What are the signs of BPD?

While symptoms vary and each person with BPD diagnosis or traits is different, all individuals with BPD will experience some of the symptoms listed below.

Symptoms on their own, or as isolated events are not necessarily a sign of BPD, however persistent, multiple or severe symptoms may require a professional mental health assessment.

MedCircle – How to spot the 9 traits of Borderline Personality Disorder

Possible symptoms

There are a range of symptoms which may indicate BPD traits, these include:

  • Rapid change in moods – anxiety, depression and worry
  • Inappropriate or extreme emotional reactions – happy, sad, angry outbursts
  • Highly impulsive and self-destructive behaviour
  • Self-harming or suicidal thoughts and behaviours
  • A history of unstable intense relationships
  • Unclear identity
  • Fear of abandonment and rejection (whether real or imagined)
  • Feelings of emptiness or boredom
  • Paranoia or out of touch with reality
  • Black-and-white thinking


The Mighty – Secrets of people who live with BPD

What can I do to help?

A supportive network of trusting and caring family and friends is equally important to evidence-based psychotherapies in the recovery of the person with BPD traits or diagnosis. This means collaborative involvement from health professionals and close family, friends and carers to provide a holistic approach to care. Remember that BPD is a serious medical condition that requires appropriate intervention.

Knowledge is power

Find out as much as possible about the illness as you can. If you can understand the thought processes of the BPD mind, it will be a lot easier for you to empathise and give you a much better chance of helping out.

Be patient

Treatment for BPD is effective over time. People with BPD need to also come to an understanding and acceptance of their illness before they can learn to control the symptoms. This is not always easy and takes time.

Communicate calmly

Respect each other when communicating. Families affected by BPD often explain how negative emotions can be contagious. However, you can turn this around to create a calm atmosphere in which everyone speaks calmly of how they’re feeling and why to have a better chance of resolving the disagreements. It may be easier to talk while walking or being outside where the environment is more relaxing than across the table.


Learn about the mental heath system to know what services are available and be proactive about seeking appropriate care. Link in with peer support groups and services whether in the community or online that complement with mental health service system.

Take care of yourself

BPD often impacts on relationships so do not underestimate what the condition can do to you, your family and friends. Look out for support to develop coping strategies of your own too.

Information sheets you can download

Wellways – Understanding BPD

SANE Australia – BPD

Orygen Youth Health –  BPD + Young People

Your Health in Mind – BPD

Project Air Strategy – For families, partners & carers: the basics

Project Air Strategy – For families, partners & carers: Effective communication

Books you can read

Understanding and Treating Borderline Personality Disorder

Useful links

Psycom – A guide to spotting the signs of BPD

Psycom – BPD test

Very Well – Signs and symptoms of BPD

Very Well – Signs of BPD

bpdfamily.org is a site where you can access video library and short essays for family and romantic partners of people with BPD.

bpdfamily.com is a site in which you can read helpful articles with facing emotionally intense relationships for family members and partners of people with BPD.