Borderline personality disorder (BPD) and ADHD share similar symptoms and can occur together. If you live with ADHD and BPD, treatment can help alleviate symptoms.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that consists of patterns of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity that interfere with development and the ability to function.

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a personality disorder that includes patterns of instability in relationships and self-image, as well as impulsivity.

There’s a similarity between the symptoms of BPD and ADHD. Factors, such as adverse early childhood experiences, can impact development and be a determining factor in developing both conditions. If you live with ADHD and BPD, there are treatment options available.

ADHD and BPD have many overlapping symptoms. Research suggests that the prevalence of ADHD in individuals with BPD ranges from 30%-60%.

Is it possible to be diagnosed with ADHD and BPD?

Yes, it’s possible to be diagnosed with both ADHD and BPD. While the two conditions have similar symptoms that can cause misdiagnosis, they can occur together.

One 2019 research review suggests that early adverse childhood experiences can be a factor in the development of both ADHD and BPD symptoms.

Additionally, a 2020 study about ADHD and BPD in adolescents suggests that a set of clinical symptoms occurred more in the group with both ADHD and BPD compared to those with either ADHD or BPD alone.

These symptoms include:

  • the severity of additional mental health disorders
  • self-harm
  • aggression
  • substance use
  • suicidal thoughts

Dealing with these symptoms can be isolating and overwhelming. If you live with ADHD and BPD, you may consider seeking support from a mental health professional.

Are you currently in crisis?

If you feel like you’re having a mental health emergency, you can:

If you decide to call an emergency number like 911, ask the operator to send someone trained in mental health, like Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) officers.

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While there are overlapping symptoms, ADHD and BPD are different mental health disorders. BPD is a personality disorder that consists of patterns of unhealthy behavior over time. ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that can affect the way your brain develops specific pathways.

BPD symptoms

Common symptoms of BPD include:

  • unstable sense of self or self-image
  • suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts
  • chronic feelings of emptiness
  • extreme shifts in mood
  • impulsive behavior
  • difficulty in interpersonal relationships
  • extreme views of others (e.g., all good or bad)

2023 research also suggests that BPD is also linked to substance misuse.

ADHD symptoms

Common symptoms of ADHD include:

ADHD can cause problems with executive functioning skills.

Overlapping symptoms

There are a few overlapping symptoms of both conditions, though these symptoms can range in severity across both disorders.

Research from 2023 suggests that overlapping symptoms include impulsivity, emotional dysregulation, and, to some extent, low self-esteem and self-image.

The authors also suggest that the emotional dysregulation symptoms caused by BPD tend to be more intense than those that have ADHD. Similarly, impulsive symptoms also present differently in each condition.

With BPD, impulsive symptoms may include:

  • excessive spending
  • binge eating
  • damaging or irresponsible sexual behaviors
  • reckless driving

With ADHD, impulsivity tends to look like:

  • interrupting others
  • difficulty waiting your turn to talk
  • impatience
  • answering questions before the answer is finished

The overlapping symptoms present differently in each condition.

There are various treatment options available for BPD and ADHD. The most well-known evidence-backed treatment for BPD is dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT). Dialectical behavioral therapy is a type of psychotherapy that combines four main skill components:

  • mindfulness
  • distress tolerance
  • emotional regulation
  • interpersonal effectiveness

A 2022 review of DBT for ADHD found that there’s some promising research showing that DBT can help individuals who live with ADHD improve their skills and help alleviate symptoms.

Other evidence-based treatments for BPD, according to 2017 research, include:

The authors also mention the psychiatric management of BPD. While there isn’t a medication specifically to treat BPD, psychiatric medications may be used to manage other mental health conditions that occur with BPD.

With ADHD, medication options are often the first line of treatment. If you take medications for ADHD, you may be prescribed stimulant or non-stimulant medications.

A 2022 review indicates that stimulants such as methylphenidates and amphetamines are the most effective in alleviating ADHD symptoms.

The authors also suggest that non-stimulant medications can be effective as a secondary treatment. Treatments such as behavioral therapy can also help alleviate ADHD symptoms.

There’s a risk of side effects and potential addiction if you take stimulants, so consider discussing whether stimulants may be right for you with your healthcare professional.

ADHD and BPD are mental health disorders where you may experience difficulty regulating emotions and engage in impulsive behavior that can have negative consequences.

The symptoms of both conditions can make it challenging to have healthy relationships, function at work, or go about your daily activities.

If you live with ADHD and BPD, consider seeking the support of a mental health professional. You can use the FindCare tool to locate mental health providers in your area. If you’re having suicidal thoughts, please reach out to a suicide hotline or go to your nearest emergency room.