Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a complex and serious mental illness with a lifetime prevalence rate of almost 6% (Grant, 2008).

Image by Sean RogersSelf-injury (also known as NSSI—Nonsuicidal Self-Injury) is defined as intentional physical self-harm without a suicidal motive that sometimes takes the form of cutting, burning, head banging, reopening injuries and not allowing healing to occur, or inserting foreign objects underneath the skin. It's important to note that self-injury is only one criterion of BPD and not all individuals who engage in the behavior meet criteria for borderline personality disorder.

Men, women, and even teens can be diagnosed with the BPD and, sadly, the disorder is often misdiagnosed.

The DSM IV-TR criteria for BPD includes:

  1. Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment. [Not including suicidal or self-injuring behavior covered in Criterion 5]
  2. A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation.
  3. Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self.
  4. Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., promiscuous sex, eating disorders, binge eating, substance abuse, reckless driving). [Again, not including suicidal or self-injuring behavior covered in Criterion 5]
  5. Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, threats or self-injuring behavior such as cutting, interfering with the healing of scars (excoriation) or picking at oneself.
  6. Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days).
  7. Chronic feelings of emptiness, worthlessness.
  8. Inappropriate anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights).
  9. Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation, delusions or severe dissociative symptoms.

Someone must exhibit at least 5 of the 9 criteria over a significant period of time to meet criteria for BPD.

It is important to note that BPD is highly treatable given compassionate, evidence-based treatment, support from family and friends who are educated about BPD, and access to patient education about borderline personality disorder that includes but is not limited to: prognosis, etiology, research about effective treatments including medications, community mental health resources, and up-to-date books and articles about BPD that actively promote and encourage recovery.