Borderline personality disorder (BPD) affects twice the amount of people who suffer from schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

At least 20 percent of psychiatric inpatients are eventually diagnosed with the disorder. It is a persistent and exhausting illness characterized by deep emotional pain and instability in many areas of the sufferer’s life.

Ten percent of BPD sufferers succumb to suicide, a higher rate than any other mental illness. Those with BPD are often thought to be “chronically suicidal.”

Despite the seriousness of the disorder, or maybe because of it, borderline personality disorder remains greatly misunderstood.

BPD patients are thought to be particularly skilled manipulators with jealous and vindictive tendencies. Accordingly, mental health professionals often view sufferers negatively. BPD patients subject not only their loved ones, but their therapists and psychologists, to their emotional reactions and instability. Therapists tend to distance themselves when treating a BPD individual, which in turn affects the patient’s quality of treatment and outcome.

As further developments are made in dialectical behavioral therapy, aimed at borderline patients and the therapists who are unsure about treating them, the possibility of a successful outcome becomes more likely. However, just general demystification of the disorder and those it affects can aid in getting rid of the stigma that follows borderlines.

What Does a Person with BPD Feel?

A lot of things. Borderlines are thought to have longer, deeper and more extreme emotional reactions to situations. Sufferers are often unable to comfort themselves or see past a time of extreme emotion. Accordingly, borderlines are susceptible to impulsive behavior (e.g. reckless driving, spending or sex) in an attempt to relieve themselves of the unbearable emotional pain they experience.

All of that emotion is backed by a very real fear of abandonment. A person with borderline personality disorder will spend the majority of their time worrying about being abandoned by those they most love, and acting on that feeling in a negative way.

What’s it like to live with a person with borderline personality disorder? This article explores what it’s like to live with borderline personality disorder.

What Causes BPD?

Sufferers of BPD often experienced neglect, abuse or unstable attachments as children. Borderlines lack coping skills because they failed to learn them as children. Borderline sufferers did not have their emotions regularly validated as children. They were taught that the world and those closest to them in it should be expected to be unstable and unpredictable and their responses should coincide accordingly.

Have more questions? Check out this frequently asked questions guide to BPD.

What is the Treatment for BPD?

Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) has been found to be most effective for helping borderline patients. Designed by Marsha Linehan, herself a BPD sufferer, DBT attempts to teach the patient the emotional regulation coping skills mislearned as a child. It is based on ideas of self and situational acceptance and mindfulness (presence in the moment, instead of constant emotional monitoring).

You can learn more about borderline personality disorder treatment here.