When Women Battle ADHD and Borderline Personality Disorder

Until recently, Jessie might have been labeled a normal teen. Society still doubts the credibility of women who appear too emotional, too demanding, or too needy. Today, Jessie’s impulsivity and low frustration tolerance might lead a clinician to consider a diagnosis of ADHD — or Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). ADHD and BPDshare many symptoms, which demand a challenging differential diagnosis. Because ADHD was rarely diagnosed in inattentive women until relatively recently, many lived with a misdiagnosis of BPD.

ADHD does often co-occur with BPD, but the combination brings severe impairments that can be debilitating without treatment and support. Here’s what women struggling with both conditions need to know.

BPD: Tough to Understand, Tougher to Treat

“Borderline” is a common personality style, affecting about six percent of the population. It usually develops in adolescence, alone or in combination with other disorders. The “Borderline style” reaches the level of a disorder when patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving become so rigid that functioning is impaired. It develops as a result of genetic and temperamental vulnerabilities combined with childhood stressors. Considered to be a difficult disorder for family and friends to understand, it is also a difficult disorder for clinicians to treat. And it is the personality disorder most likely to co-occur with ADHD in women.
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