Are there telltale signs?
BPD is a difficult illness that impacts nearly 1.6% of adults in the United States. That stat may seem small, but probably fails to represent the entire BPD population, says Behary. BPD can be difficult to diagnose because many of the symptoms overlap with other mental illnesses such as depression, bipolar, and narcissistic personality disorder. Plus, borderline happens along a spectrum. “At one end there’s a very low-functioning individual, who can barely manage day-to-day life, and at the other is someone who’s very high functioning,” Behary says. People may spend their entire lives unaware they have a mental illness, and never seek resources to ease some of their struggles.
But there are some major red flags. Based on the latest diagnostic model in the DSM-V, here are the signs you or someone you know might have BPD.
Symptom: Low self-esteem
We all have an internal critic, but people with BPD struggle constantly with overwhelming self-doubt. These individuals have an incredibly unstable self-esteem, so they rely heavily on external praise and approval to help define their identity, Dr. Oldham says. “Underneath that, there’s a sense of inferiority and incompleteness,” he says. People with BPD may even copy others’ actions and behaviors, because “their ability to be independent and autonomous is very impaired.”
Symptom: Avoiding thinking about the future
Don’t know where you see yourself in five years? While you certainly don’t need to have your entire life mapped out, most people have at least vague aspirations and plans. People who have BPD often lack any sort of self-direction “There’s very little sense of knowing what you want out of life or what you want to work toward,” Dr. Oldham says.