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Borderline Personality Disorder in Teens

Personality is one of the factors which distinguishes us from others. Informing how we interact with others, how we approach life, and what we like and don’t like, our personalities are unique to us and can shape our lives.

Aspects of our personality can be genetic, while other personality traits are formed by life events. Sometimes, due to several factors, people develop a personality disorder. This can happen at any age but it most commonly presents during adolescence. Personality disorders impact the way people behave and think about the world.

Our personalities can be impacted by life experiences without the presence of a personality disorder. If we go through big changes, grief, or hardship our character may be temporarily altered, but usually, over time we become ourselves again. For this reason, identifying when somebody is living with a personality disorder can be complex.

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a form of personality disorder, which manifests in experiencing very extreme emotions which are difficult to de-escalate. Living with borderline personality disorder can have significant impacts on a person’s life. In this blog, we are going to look at the impacts of borderline personality disorder in teens and identify signs of the condition and effective treatment options.

What is Borderline Personality Disorder?

What is Borderline Personality Disorder?

Borderline personality disorder predominantly affects a person’s thoughts and behaviors, which can result in intense and unstable relationships, self-destructive behaviors, and extreme emotional reactions. BPD symptoms vary between people but they can include fluctuating mood, distrust of other people, difficulties socializing, and extreme anxiety about the future.

People with borderline personality disorder find it difficult to manage and regulate emotions which can interfere with their ability to function and complete daily tasks. Somebody with this condition may have a distorted view of themselves and the world around them.

Borderline personality disorder typically presents first in the teenage or early adult years. During this time, all young people go through a number of changes and challenges. This increases the need for professional mental health support in accurately diagnosing and treating the condition.

BPD can be triggered by a number of things, often underneath the condition is underlying trauma or co-occurring mental health conditions. Although there is no specific cure, symptoms of BPD can be well managed and people living with the condition can achieve full and happy lives. There are several treatment options to support people living with the condition to find healthier strategies for coping with their condition.

Research has focused on this condition in recent years, and we have a better understanding of the signs of a developing borderline personality disorder, who is at risk, and how to manage it.

BPD in Teens and Young People

As a condition that impacts personality, every case is different and ranges significantly from person to person. Typically, it appears first in adolescence and may continue into adult years.

Young people with BPD are likely to find forming and maintaining relationships difficult. Unfortunately, this can result in loneliness and isolation, perpetuating depressive symptoms of the condition.

The teenage years can be turbulent regardless of a person’s mental health, when this is combined with a mental health condition like BPD young people can feel extremely lost and ungrounded. This means that experiences which may otherwise be straightforward, like going to school or the shop, can be tense and difficult.

Fortunately with increasing research on the condition diagnosing the condition is easier and there are a growing number of effective treatments for young people with BPD. Diagnosing borderline personality disorder does not have to limit somebody’s life. Instead, it can empower them to make positive changes that improve their mental well-being.

Common Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder in Teens

Common Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder in Teens

Teenage years can throw up significant challenges, relationship changes, and fluctuating hormones. Young people may behave in ways that are little understood by adults around them, but this is often a natural response to the changes they are experiencing. If these fluctuating moods become more intense, interfering with everyday life and inhibiting a young person’s ability to engage with peers this could indicate something more than typical teen behavior.

If it feels as though a teenager is dominated by their mood swings, unable to take control over how they behave, they could be living with a mental health condition.

Distinguishing between natural teen developments and the presence of mental health disorders is important in order to respond in a helpful way. The earlier BPD is diagnosed, the more successfully it can be managed.

Some common borderline personality disorder symptoms include the following:

  • Extreme emotional reactions
  • Disproportionate responses to situations
  • Distorted perception of self and others
  • Very low self-esteem
  • Confusion about own identity
  • Difficulty connecting with others
  • Trouble connecting and forming relationships
  • Unable to empathize with others
  • Fear of being abandoned
  • Dysmorphia which can lead to disordered eating
  • Outbursts of anger
  • Self-medicating with substances
  • Self-destructive behaviors
  • Extreme anxiety can lead to panic attacks or a loss of reality
  • Impulsive behaviors which can be of a sexual or drug-taking nature
  • Difficulty making decisions, fluctuating between things frequently
  • Self-harming behaviors, suicidal ideation, suicide attempts.
Why Does BPD Develop?

Why Does BPD Develop?

It’s still unclear exactly what causes borderline personality disorder, but it is thought that a number of factors including genes, environment, and social influences could increase the risk of developing the condition. Below we look at some of these.


Those with BPD in the family are at a higher risk of developing the condition. This is thought to be a combination of genes and environmental factors. One study looking at family members and twins suggested the heritability rate of BPD was approximately 40%.

Brain Structure

Research would suggest that individuals with borderline personality disorder may have differences in brain structure and function, especially in regions that control impulse and emotional health. It is still unclear whether these occur as a response

However, the studies do not demonstrate whether these changes were risk factors for the illness or if such changes were caused by the disorder.

Environmental Risk Factors

Childhood trauma such as abuse, neglect, significant illness, or hardship is associated with borderline personality disorder.

Social Risk Factors

It is thought that problematic socializing, including abusive relationships or conflict-heavy relationships, could lead to borderline personality disorder.

These factors have been linked to borderline personality, but not everybody who experiences these things will go on to develop a condition. Similarly, some people who have BPD will not have had any of these experiences.

Some of these contributing factors can impact a person’s ability to recover. It’s crucial to seek help from mental health professionals in order to work through underlying factors which contribute to the condition. If a young person in your life is living with BPD it’s important to be patient and compassionate, healing can take time but the journey is worth it.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) suggests that people who don’t access adequate treatment for BPD are at a higher risk of developing other serious medical or mental disorders.

Treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder in Teens

Through a proper diagnosis of borderline personality disorder, teens can access treatment that significantly improves their quality of life.

New, evidence-based treatments are increasing the options for young adults with this condition. With the right treatment, teens can experience improved functioning, decreased symptoms, and a more positive outlook on life.

It’s crucial that treatment is administered by a licensed mental health professional. Unlicensed treatment could put the young person could be ineffective at best, or dangerous at worst.

Recovery should not exclusively revolve around treating the condition, it should incorporate educating young people about their mental health disorder, creating appropriate coping methods, and managing their symptoms. By understanding their symptom, teens can feel empowered to deal with their diagnosis and approach the future with more hope and confidence.

Treatment for young people should be specific, their lives and needs are different than those of adults and this should be reflected in their recovery.

Talk therapy is usually the initial treatment choice, unlike some other mental disorders where medication is the first option. Talk therapy varies in range and scope, but people could expect between 1 & 4 sessions a week depending on their circumstances.

There are several treatment modalities that can be used to manage borderline personality disorder symptoms. Below we look at some of them.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

This method of treatment was designed specifically for the management of BPD symptoms and is concerned with mindfulness and focusing on the present moment rather than getting stuck in the past or future. DBT helps people find ways to manage their emotions in healthier ways, reduce stress and anxiety, and improve communication skills. DBT works to accept the past and promotes change for the future.

Taking a problem-solving approach, DBT empowers young people to strategize for their own well-being and future mental health. Dialectical behavior therapy is the most commonly studied treatment for BPD and is considered one of the most effective.

Good Psychiatric Management (GPM)

Good psychiatric management is a form of treatment designed to support people living with BPD. GPM is a flexible program of treatment that can be tailored to the specific needs of the individual and can be carried out with few resources. Through GPM individuals learn to understand their symptoms and behavior through the interpersonal hypersensitivity model. In GPM treatment, symptoms of BPD which include self-harming or suicidal behavior are understood as responses to a disconnection from others.

Mentalization-based therapy (MBT)

This form of therapy helps people to identify the feelings associated with their condition, recognize trigger points, and increase their ability to empathize with others. Through MBT people can better understand themselves and those around them.

Transference-focused therapy (TFP)

This form of therapy aims to help people better understand their feelings and interpersonal relationships. It is designed to help people understand their emotions and interpersonal problems through the relationship between the client and therapist. They then apply the insights they learn to other situations.


Some people can benefit from medication in treating BPD, despite the fact that there are currently no FDA-approved options specifically for the disorder. Although medication cannot cure the condition, it can relieve symptoms associated with it. Depression, anxiety, psychosis, and impulsivity are all linked with the disorder, and these can be eased with medication. Before trying medication, other treatments are usually tried, especially in the case of teens and young adults.

If medication is used, it should be incorporated as a wider program of care, complementing traditional talk and alternative therapies.

General Self-Care

Generally taking good care of your physical and mental health is beneficial for the treatment of BPD. Incorporating regular physical exercise, maintaining a good sleep routine, eating a nutritious, balanced diet, and managing stress in healthy ways can do wonders for BPD recovery.

Caring for yourself, listening to your needs, and responding to them can lead to improved mood, reduce impulsivity, and balance emotions.

Some aspects of borderline personality disorder are easier to treat than others. Volatility, anger, and self-harm tend to reduce with treatment, while deep-rooted fears of abandonment or emptiness can take longer.

Those who have other mental health disorders such as a substance use disorder, eating disorder or PTSD may take longer to recover.

Clearfork Mental Health Support for Teens

At Clearfork Academy, we believe that every young person deserves to live out their youth happily and healthily. We know how difficult it can be to manage mental health disorders, especially during the tumultuous teen years, but that’s where we step in. We have a range of treatment options that aim to treat the mind and body, encouraging young people to build healthier coping mechanisms for the future.

Living with mental illness as a young person can be extremely complex and challenging, but our team specializes in treating borderline personality disorder in teens. We take a person-centered approach to treatment, offering tailored treatment programs with a diverse range of holistic and alternative therapies.

We have a number of treatment options that address the specific needs of young people that aim to give them hope for the future. Clearfork Academy offers intensive outpatient and inpatient options for young people living with borderline personality disorder.

Reach out to us today at Clearfork Academy to find out how we can help.

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