DSM 5 Criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder

Explore the DSM 5 Criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder. Understand BPD diagnosis and its impact on mental health professionals and patients.

By Nate Lacson on Apr 08, 2024.

Fact Checked by Ericka Pingol.

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What is borderline personality disorder (BPD)?

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a complex mental health condition characterized by a pervasive pattern of instability in moods, self-image, behavior, and relationships. Individuals with BPD may experience intense emotions, impulsive actions, and chronic feelings of emptiness, leading to difficulties in maintaining stable relationships and functioning in daily life, particularly in early adulthood.

What is the cause of borderline personality disorder?

The cause of BPD is not fully understood, but it is believed to be a combination of genetic, environmental, and neurobiological factors. Adverse childhood experiences, such as trauma, abuse, neglect, or posttraumatic stress disorder, are also associated with an increased risk of developing BPD.

What are the consequences of BPD?

The consequences and negative effects of BPD can be significant, impacting various aspects of an individual's life. People with BPD may struggle with emotional regulation, leading to intense and rapidly changing moods. They may also engage in self-destructive behaviors, such as substance abuse, self-harm, or suicidal ideation, as a way to cope with their emotional pain. Additionally, BPD can affect interpersonal relationships, causing instability and conflicts due to fears of abandonment and difficulties in trusting others.

Understanding BPD is crucial for providing appropriate support and treatment to individuals affected by this disorder. By recognizing the signs and symptoms of BPD, healthcare professionals can help patients manage their emotions, build healthier relationships, and improve their overall quality of life.

Printable DSM 5 Criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder

Download this DSM 5 Criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder to help mental health professionals and their clients better understand the DSM-5 criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder.

How is BPD different from other personality disorders?

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is one of several personality disorders, each with its unique set of characteristics. While there are similarities among personality disorders such as bipolar disorder and antisocial personality disorder, BPD has distinct features that set it apart:

  1. Emotional instability
  2. Fear of abandonment
  3. Unstable relationships
  4. Impulsivity
  5. Self-image issues
  6. Chronic feelings of emptiness

While other personality disorders, such as Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) or Avoidant Personality Disorder (APD), may share some overlapping symptoms, the combination and intensity of symptoms in BPD are unique. For example, NPD is characterized by an inflated sense of self-importance and a lack of empathy, while APD involves a pervasive pattern of social inhibition and feelings of inadequacy. BPD, on the other hand, is primarily marked by emotional dysregulation and instability in interpersonal relationships.

Understanding the distinctions between BPD and other personality disorders is crucial for accurate diagnosis and effective treatment. Each disorder requires a tailored approach to address the specific challenges and needs of the individual.

How is BPD diagnosed?

The diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a multi-step process that involves a comprehensive evaluation by a mental health professional.

What assessments are conducted?

First off, some assessments need to be done before BPD is diagnosed. Here's what you should expect:

  • Clinical interview: A thorough clinical interview is the cornerstone of BPD diagnosis. The mental health professional will ask about symptoms, personal and family medical history, and the individual's functioning in various areas of life.
  • Psychological assessment: Standardized psychological tests and questionnaires may be used to assess BPD symptoms and rule out other mental health conditions.
  • Observation: The clinician may observe the individual's behavior and interaction patterns during the assessment process.
  • Medical evaluation: Although there are no laboratory tests to diagnose BPD, a medical evaluation may be conducted to rule out other conditions that could be contributing to the symptoms.

DSM 5 Criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), is a comprehensive classification system for mental disorders. It is published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and is widely used by mental health professionals in the United States and around the world. The DSM-5 serves as a guide for diagnosing mental disorders and provides standardized criteria to ensure consistency and accuracy in diagnosis.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), outlines the following criteria for diagnosing BPD:

  1. Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment.
  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., spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating).
  5. Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behavior.
  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.
  8. Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights).
  9. Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms.

To be diagnosed with BPD, an individual must exhibit at least five of these criteria.

Are there differences between the DSM 4 and DSM 5 criteria for this?

The DSM has a long history, with the first edition published in 1952. Since then, it has undergone several revisions to reflect advances in our understanding of mental health. The most recent edition, DSM-5, was released in 2013 and introduced several significant changes, including the reclassification of some disorders and the addition of new ones.

The criteria for BPD in the DSM-5 are largely consistent with those in the DSM-4. However, the DSM-5 provides more detailed descriptions and examples to clarify the criteria and improve diagnostic accuracy.

DSM 5 Criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder example (sample)

To help mental health professionals and their clients better understand the DSM-5 criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder, Carepatron has created a sample template filled with fictitious information. The template contains unchanged information from DSM 5, and it has fields for mental health professionals to input their information. This will allow patients and clients to contact them easily.

Download our free DSM 5 Criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder example here.

DSM 5 Criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder example (sample)

Treatments for BPD

Addressing Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) requires a comprehensive approach that combines various therapeutic methods. Here are some key treatments for BPD:


Psychotherapy is the cornerstone of BPD treatment, with several types being particularly effective:

  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT): Developed specifically for BPD, DBT focuses on teaching skills to manage emotions, tolerate distress, and improve relationships.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): This therapy helps patients identify and change problematic thought patterns and behaviors.
  • Schema therapy: This integrates elements of CBT, DBT, and other therapies to help patients understand and change long-standing life patterns.
  • Mentalization-based therapy (MBT): MBT aims to improve the patient's ability to understand their own and others' mental states, which can be challenging for those with BPD.


While there are no medications specifically approved for BPD, certain medications can help manage symptoms or co-occurring disorders:

  • Antidepressants: May help with mood swings, depression, or anxiety.
  • Mood stabilizers: Can reduce impulsivity and mood instability.
  • Antipsychotics: May be used to help with symptoms such as anger, paranoia, or transient psychotic episodes.

Group therapy

Group therapy provides a supportive environment where individuals can learn from others with similar experiences, practice social skills, and receive feedback.


In severe cases, particularly when there's a risk of self-harm or suicide, short-term hospitalization may be necessary to ensure safety and stabilize the individual.

It's important for patients with borderline personality disorder to work closely with their healthcare providers to develop a personalized treatment plan that addresses their unique needs and symptoms.

Why use Carepatron as your mental health and therapy software?

Choosing Carepatron as your mental health and therapy software can significantly enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of your practice. Here are some compelling reasons why Carepatron stands out:

  • Comprehensive client management: Carepatron offers an all-in-one platform for managing client information, treatment plans, and therapy notes, ensuring that everything you need is easily accessible and securely stored.
  • Streamlined scheduling: With online booking, automated reminders, and calendar synchronization, Carepatron simplifies appointment scheduling, reducing no-shows and optimizing your workflow.
  • Integrated billing and payments: The software streamlines the billing process with features like auto-generated invoices and online payment processing, making financial management seamless and efficient.
  • Secure communication: Carepatron has integrated telehealth features such as secure messaging and group calls, allowing you to communicate with clients and conduct remote sessions easily.
  • Customizable templates: Tailor your documentation to your specific needs with customizable templates for therapy notes, treatment plans (such as the BPD treatment plan), and more, ensuring accurate and efficient record-keeping.
  • Data security and compliance: Rest assured that your client data is securely stored and protected, with Carepatron's compliance with healthcare regulations and industry-standard security measures.

By integrating Carepatron into your mental health practice, you can enjoy enhanced efficiency, improved client care, and streamlined administrative tasks, allowing you to focus more on delivering quality therapy.

Ready to take your practice to the next level? Download Carepatron today and experience the difference!

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Allen, T. A., Dombrovski, A. Y., Soloff, P. H., & Hallquist, M. N. (2020). Borderline personality disorder: Stress reactivity or stress generation? A prospective dimensional study. Psychological Medicine, 1–8. https://doi.org/10.1017/s003329172000255x

Bozzatello, P., Garbarini, C., Rocca, P., & Bellino, S. (2021). Borderline personality disorder: Risk factors and early detection. Diagnostics, 11(11), 2142. https://doi.org/10.3390/diagnostics11112142

Chapman, J., Jamil, R. T., & Fleisher, C. (n.d.). Borderline personality disorder. In Statpearls. StatPearls Publishing. Retrieved March 12, 2024, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430883/

Fertuck, E. A., Stanley, B., Kleshchova, O., Mann, J. J., Hirsch, J., Ochsner, K., Pilkonis, P., Erbe, J., & Grinband, J. (2022). Rejection Distress Suppresses Medial Prefrontal Cortex in Borderline Personality Disorder. Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging, 8(6), 651–659. PubMed. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bpsc.2022.11.006

Gunderson, J., & Links, P. (2008). Borderline personality disorder: A clinical guide (2nd ed.).

Lubit, R. (2018, November 5). Borderline personality disorder: Practice essentials, background, pathophysiology (C. Pataki, Ed.). EMedicine. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/913575-overview?form=fpf

What are the 9 symptoms of BPD?
What are the 9 symptoms of BPD?

Commonly asked questions

What are the 9 symptoms of BPD?

The 9 symptoms of BPD include fear of abandonment, unstable relationships, unclear or shifting self-image, impulsive and self-destructive behaviors, self-harm, extreme emotional swings, chronic feelings of emptiness, explosive anger, and feeling suspicious or out of touch with reality.

What are the 4 types of BPD?

The 4 types of BPD are discouraged BPD, impulsive BPD, petulant BPD, and self-destructive BPD. Individuals can experience more than one type simultaneously or at different stages in their life.

What impact does borderline personality disorder have on an individual?

BPD can have a significant impact on an individual's life, leading to unstable relationships, emotional instability, impulsive behavior, and difficulties with self-image. It can also result in challenges in employment, social interactions, and overall quality of life.

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