When Women Battle ADHD and Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline personality disorder, or BPD, is marked by volatility, seemingly manipulative behaviors, and crushing anxiety. It’s difficult for family and friends to understand, and for doctors to treat — particularly when it affects women living with ADHD. Here’s what patients and clinicians should know about this less common comorbid condition.

Jessie had been impulsive and prone to tantrums since she was in kindergarten. As a teen, she was obsessed with social status and desperate to be liked by the popular girls. When she was included, she took great pleasure in lording her status over everyone. But when she was left out, she took it personally. Sometimes, she tried to buy friends with gifts; other times, she sought to get back at them.

At home, Jessie ran the house. In response to her angry demands, her mother indulged her, but, regardless of the concessions, Jessie kept up the threats. Eventually, the family’s home life revolved around anticipating her needs, and her parents were constantly exhausted from walking on eggshells. Jessie described herself as “super-sensitive and super-anxious,” and entered college an intense young woman who clung to anyone willing to be accessible, validating, and compliant. She felt miserable and alone.

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