Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

Those with borderline personality disorder (BPD) have extremely negative, distorted views of themselves, characterized by low feelings of self-worth. This leads to problems creating and maintaining relationships with others. Though their beliefs and behaviors stem from feelings of inadequacy, teens with the BPD may offend and ostracize others or make inappropriate comments, while exerting moodiness, and experiencing occasional outbursts of anger.

What Does Borderline Personality Disorder Look Like in Teens and Young Adults?

  • Teens with borderline personality disorder may be aware and feel guilt over the effects of their behavior on others, and yet, may be unable to change or behave differently on their own.
  • The aftermath of their compulsive behavior and the resulting guilt can ultimately lead to even more negative feelings about themselves, and even depression.
  • A teen with borderline personality disorder exhibits inflexible and maladaptive (destructive) personality traits, with chronically bad behavior leading to impairment in everyday life.

Different Types of Teen Borderline Personality Disorder

Discouraged Borderline – characterized by depression, a grave or serious demeanor, outbursts of anger, and reckless, harmful behavior.

Impulsive Borderline – characterized by risk-taking and thrill-seeking, flirtatiousness, extreme need and desire for attention, and dangerous and risky social behavior.

Petulant Borderline – characterized by difficulty maintaining relationships, moodiness and gloominess, fear of disappointing others, a bad temper, and anxiety and fear about being unloved.

Self-Destructive Borderline – characterized by people turning their negative outlook about life onto themselves, carried out in punishing, harmful behaviors such as eating disorders, substance abuse, and other reckless behavior.

What Are The Causes Of Teen Borderline Personality Disorder?

It’s important to understand that personality disorders in general are quite rare, and while they are triggered mostly through forms of stress, there is no way of concretely knowing whether a teen will develop a personality disorder in response to stress or not. It isn’t known what exactly in the brain causes borderline personality disorders in teens, but there are various risk factors that contribute to one happening:

Genetics – The biggest indication of a potential personality disorder is a family history of personality disorders, particularly if a close relative also struggled with a borderline personality disorder.

Trauma and abuse – a single highly traumatic event or series of events early on in a teen’s formative years can be severely psychologically scarring, creating deep-seated issues, and potentially leading to self-esteem issues, post-traumatic stress and anxiety, dissociation, and personality disorders.

Stress at home or in school – chronic, unaddressed stress, relationship issues coming to a dramatic end, unstable and invalidating relationships and interpersonal conflict are a few possible forms of stress severe enough to incur a shift in personalities and result in borderline personality disorder.

How Can I Help My Teen with Multiple Borderline Disorder?

Differentiate the person from the disease – a teen with borderline personality disorder struggles with relationships, conversations, thoughts, and behavior. Portions of their personality may be based on irrational thinking and self-loathing, and it’s difficult to tell where your teen has gone when their behavior becomes unpredictable and nonsensical. But remind yourself that when they act out, it is because of a lack of inhibition, a string of maladaptive habits, and other related symptoms. Don’t take your anger and frustration out on them for behavior they cannot yet control – as difficult as that can be.

Be there and offer support – the most important thing a parent can do for a teen struggling with borderline personality disorder is offer their support. Learn more about borderline personality disorder, speak with experts and professionals, seek out local resources and know what to do when symptoms of BPD evolve and worsen, and be prepared for arguments and anger. Try to remain calm, remind yourself of the days when the symptoms were not as strong, and work with therapists to help your teen understand what kind of behavior is appropriate and inappropriate, and how to recognize when their thoughts are being irrational and unfounded.

Be honest and appreciative – being honest with your teen who has BPD is important, as is being appreciative when you recognize that they’ve done something you truly cherish, or if you just feel like letting them know that they’re loved and cherished. It’s difficult for someone with a borderline personality disorder to have any semblance of self-esteem and feel happy about themselves without being fraught by an intense fear of abandonment or feelings of alienation. By showing your teen that you genuinely and honestly care for them, they may feel more secure, even if only a little.

What Types of Teen Multiple Borderline Disorder Treatment Are Available?

Teen borderline personality disorder treatment involves addressing the mental and behavioral aspects of the illness. Often, therapists will use a combination of talk therapy and medication to help teens return to normal functioning. Therapists will help teens recognize their thought patterns and behaviors, develop new reactions to stress and triggers that lead to these behaviors, and also address underlying causes or belief systems that interfere with their relationships. Lastly, therapists work with teens during teen borderline personality disorder treatment to repair and develop healthy relationships, as well as adapt their overall lifestyle.


In certain cases, mental health professionals and therapists may prescribe medication in order to help a teen manage their most severe BPD symptoms. SSRIs, or antidepressants, are most often prescribed as they have a positive effect on teens with borderline personality disorder and have the least number of side effects. Herbal supplements and other alternative medicines are usually avoided because these are not well-regulated and may lead to unknown side effects or have no effect at all. Anti-psychotic and atypical anti-psychotic medication may also be used if teens exhibit delusions.

Talk Therapy

The primary form of psychotherapy used to help teens with borderline personality disorder is dialectical behavior therapy. Dialectical behavior therapy, or DBT, specializes in helping teens better deal with their behavior in a social context. Focusing heavily on psychosocial therapy, DBT teaches teens to recognize when their thoughts and behavior is being irrationally influenced by emotionally-charged environments, including home or school contexts, from the classroom to the locker room to the living room.

Through DBT and other cognitive behavioral therapies, therapists focus on helping teens with borderline personality disorder better figure out how their mind works, and how they can prevent themselves from reacting drastically in the face of their own overwhelming internal pressures, and external triggers. Other therapies include transference-focused psychotherapy (learning to judge individuals better, discerning a person’s qualities as good and bad rather than painting them as all good and all bad), and mentalization-based treatment (teaching patients how to develop more accurate pictures of themselves and others).

Alternative Therapies

Mindfulness training, meditation, exercise therapy, art therapy and animal-assisted therapy are just a few of the many different therapeutic treatments that can be used to help address some of the symptoms of borderline personality disorder, soothing a teen’s anxieties, helping them deal with their self-esteem issues, and giving them a better headspace with which to confront their thoughts and emotions.

Teen Borderline Personality Disorder Treatment at Paradigm Treatment

Paradigm Treatment has several treatment spots throughout the Malibu area, each designed to provide a space for psychological healing within a small, but social context. Treatment providers and therapists at Paradigm Treatment work hard to provide individualized treatment programs for each teen, and to help teens communicate and cooperate in a healthier way. Through one-on-one sessions, group therapy, classroom-style orientation and lessons, and group activities, Paradigm Treatment aims to create an environment that is conducive towards helping teens get better.

The social aspect of teen borderline personality disorder treatment cannot be understated – learning to properly communicate with others and associate with them in a healthy way while maintaining a healthy sense of self can be a great challenge to someone with a borderline personality disorder. But throughout the process, teens will learn how to navigate their behavior and differentiate between rational and irrational thinking, and better manage their BPD.

Frequently Asked Questions About Teen Borderline Personality Disorder

How long does therapy take?

Like treatment for many mental health problems, the timeline and process differ for every teen.  The central goals of therapy are to help you get back to a place of normal and healthy interaction with others, so that your outbursts and previously uncontrolled behaviors are no longer causing harm to relationships and are no longer impairing your ability to uphold your responsibilities at school or at home.  It may take a while for you to get there, and even when you can relate and engage functionally, you still may have to resist urges and old habits.  With that said, what’s true for almost all treatments is also true for BPD: the sooner you start, the better.

Why don’t people with personality disorders know they have one?

What may seem as obviously irrational and nonsensical thinking to most is not immediately viewed as flawed or wrong by the beholder. We are all ultimately only aware of our own reality, and while we can empathize with others, we don’t know what it’s like to feel, think, or be like someone else. In the same vein, a person with a borderline personality disorder will not know that how they feel, and think is atypical, maladaptive, or potentially destructive, until someone sits down with them and explains it all thoroughly.

There is such a thing as right thinking and wrong thinking, but it’s got little to do with subjective experience, and more to do with discerning between opinion and reality. A person with a borderline personality disorder exhibits behavior that is crass or potentially dangerous especially in social contexts because of a flawed understanding of self and others – but that’s not immediately clear, and it takes a while to realize that life is not all black and white, and that you as an individual are valuable and can be secure with yourself.

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