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Emotional Intensity Disorder: The New Name for Borderline Personality Disorder?

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There has been talk for quite some time about changing the name of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Experts believe it is an inaccurate term for the disorder, and sufferers complain of being stigmatized because of it.

When BPD was first being diagnosed, it was thought to be a borderline condition between neurosis and psychosis, which is how the name came to be. Psychologists later realized that wasn’t the case, but the name stayed.

The “borderline” label can be stigmatizing for people suffering from the psychiatric disorder because people make different assumptions about the term. It also suggests that the person’s personality is flawed, which can be upsetting to people with an already unstable sense of self.

“I think a lot of people don’t understand what BPD is, and the word ‘borderline’ isn’t clear to most,” says Nikki Instone, PhD. “If changing the name to something that more people can relate to helps them understand the nature of the disorder, then I’m all for it.”

Emotional Intensity Disorder a Popular Choice among Patients

In a survey, the following names were nominated by clinicians and patients as possible substitutes for Borderline Personality Disorder:

  • Emotional Regulation Disorder
  • Emotional Dysregulation Disorder
  • Emotional Intensity Disorder
  • Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder
  • Impulsive Personality Disorder
  • Impulsive-Emotional Dysregulation Disorder

Patients preferred Emotional Intensity Disorder while clinicians primarily opted for Emotional Regulation Disorder. However, the working group of the revision to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) proposed the name Borderline Type.

Emotional Regulation Disorder and Emotional Intensity Disorder are more accurate terms because they reflect the real symptoms associated with the disorder: emotional dysregulation, impulsive behavior, and cognitive dysregulation.

“The name Emotional Intensity Disorder is fine. It seems to be a more accurate description of the disorder,” Instone says. “The key is the emotional instability that is often extreme, or intense.”

The Treatment and Research Advancements Association for Personality Disorders (TARA) is spearheading the movement to bring about the name change. It is also backed by Thomas Insel, MD, director of the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health.

What’s your preference on a new name for BPD?


  1. Simon Hubbard

    According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the name of this disorder is – Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder, Borderline Type. I would suggest that this IS descriptive of the illness. The experience of transient psychosis that some of us experience demonstrates that we are, indeed, right on the ‘borderline’. If people do not understand the word ‘borderline’, all they have to do is ask their doctor or just look it up! After all, the nature of most illnesses, mental and physical, is not obvious just from the name. The people that complain about the word ‘borderline’ are likely in denial about having the illness at all. Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder, Borderline Type is a diagnosis I’m comfortable with (as are many of my peers). So, please stop this silly debate and redirect your time and your energy into helping us come to terms with the huge impact we are faced with day-in, day-out. Thanks – Simon.

  2. Shane Jopling

    Right, well I personally do not have this condition, I am in a relationship with someone who does, and find that the “Personality Disorder” part of the diagnosis very misleading. Well she does experience extreme emotional reactions, both positive and negative, her personality its self is, when all said and done, not part of the condition at all. Her mood and emotions can swing rapidly, but her likes, dislikes, points of view and other things that make up someone’s personality are no more unstable then my own or that of anyone else I know. The name well misleading, if someone doesn’t know the condition or bother trying to find out, is really only a minor point, I think the somewhat larger issue really is that barely anyone (at least unless they know someone that has it or have it them selves) actually knows what it is, if it, and its effects were more widely known then the name its self would be unimportant.

    And by the way, calling it “emotional intensity disorder” or something like that isn’t going to reduce the confusion any, people will just think its a fancy term for emo, or something else, because when it comes down to it, a lot of people choose to believe that which takes the least effort to make sense of, so rather then argue over the name, how about just teach people what it means.

    Thanks for your time.


  3. I have this disorder, and I personally do prefer Emotional Intensity Disorder. I have over the years changed my views and that as any other person does as they age. It is simply my emotions that make life difficult, and dealing with those emotions with the particular views and morals that I have. Thank you for this opportunity to voice my opinion.

  4. Jade Cayley

    Personally, i don’t condone the name change proposition. I am diagnosed with BPD and I accept this, regardless of the choice syllables which are strung together to describe the illness in shorthand. (ˈbôrdərˌlīn/ˌpərsəˈnalədē/,disˈôrdər/)

    In fact, I don’t believe any possible string of syllables could accurately describe this disorder in shorthand.

    There are 256 different “combinations” of BPD. To which combination are we suppose to prefer and cater to in the naming process? The majority? That is what a voting system does, but perhaps that isn’t just in this context.
    How should we expect to accurately and inclusively “label” such a complex and multidimensional concept? It seems quite naive to me. But that’s just my perspective – and that’s the crux of it. Perspective.

    The stigma surrounding BPD cannot be quenched by changing its name. The stigma in which BPD is engulfed can only be subdued by education, by informing perspectives. The current stigmas will only eventually resurface around the new name if current perspectives don’t change.

    Besides, what message are we sending if we change the disorder’s name because of the stigma surrounding it? It sends a shrill of shame and submission through me, personally.

    (On an anecdotal note: my diagnosis of bpd has been the only part of my identity which isn’t labile, it feels concrete. Changing the name would truly be disruptive to my sense of self. What can i say… It’s the small things i guess;).

    Thanks – Jade, 17, diagnosed for 4 years

  5. Bob McDonald

    I have hated the BPD sticker from the first time I heard it.

    I’m not particularly happy when I feel that I am put into anyone else’s preferred cubbyhole for me, especially with my disorder.

    We all agree that we prefer a descriptor that does not stigmatize.

    Boy, I’ll have a double scoop of that! :-)

    I don’t think of myself as being a special snowflake, yet I find these suggested names to be defining the ‘hurt’ that we feel.

    I’m not keen on being my diseases’ name.

    Many of the considered titles come off as genteelisms for “broken” to me.
    Forgive me if this is hard-edged; it’s never my intention to be hurtful if some might take it that way.

    So, back to hating on BPD.
    I think I changed my mind: BPD is nicely vague, so I can share or not share what I’d like.

    As a gay man, shunning is not new.

    I am bitter that mental disease is the gay of the 21st century.

    I make a point of putting a face on mental illness.
    I want folks to meet us.

  6. Hi there, This name change has been a long time coming but none of the titles make sense to me. Borderline means between psychosis and neurosis., your personality is affected by this. There are the daily ups and downs, depression, impulsiveness and fear of abandonment as well our feelings are hurt by what someone says to you . Then there’s the heavy feeling you get when someone is disappointed or disapproves your idea, what you cooked or baked or said among many other ways our personality brings attention, good or not .
    I am a 58 yr old F. Being diagnosed in 1992, and being told I’ve had BPD since I was around 12 yrs old.
    I am married 20 yrs to a very good man, gift from God. Yes I had many incidents rants and waves but he hung on he says because he loves me and he knows I love him. So it is possible for us to have a meaningful relationship but you have to work harder at it then others who don’t have this disorder which he has no mental illness.

    For me the name BPD is confusing with BiPolar disorder which is also BPD. So for that reason I would want BPD title changed to something more definitive to the disorder and what it entails. That’s my story and I’m sticken to it! Thanks for reading.

  7. I have BPD (and a degree in psychology) and I CAN’T believe other BPDs would be ok with “Emotional Dysregulation” and “Emotionally Unstable” names?!?!?! They want to drop the “Borderline” name because it’s a misunderstood term and a stigmatized, so they’re considering changing it to something as harmful and mean as “Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder”?!?!!?!!!! That makes me pissed!!!!! It should be Emotional Intensity Disorder because that’s what it is and it isn’t INSULTING. If you want another stigmatized name, go with the others. But if we’re trying to prevent that, then hopefully the DSM pioneers use their brains on this one.

  8. As long as the name does not include “personality” this to me is very demeaning, as it can be misleading. I hate the name because of the way it sounds. Nobody knows my situation, because I will not say BPD. I don’t want others to feel threatened!
    I would like to offer a name.
    “Hyper-reactive emotional response disorder”.

  9. I have this quite severe, not bothered about the name or anyone else I meet knowing anything about it as they always use it against me, got to the stage I don’t go anywhere I’m a recluse and currently on curfew from recent attempts at integrating with society

  10. Speaking as a sufferer and a trainee psychotherapist I’d rather it was called Emotional Intensity Disorder, because to include the word Personality in the name implies there’s something totally flawed with your character or personality, when in fact the disorder is all about lack of emotional regulation and intense feelings. I have suffered for as long as I can remember, but am only just being diagnosed with it at the age of 47, after many traumatic years of being labelled as too sensitive, too dramatic, too intense and emotionally manipulative and experiencing many rocky relationships and friendships that have all ended in cruel rejection or abandonment. I do have some good friends, but have realised during my studies that the ones that remain are those with secure attachment patterns themselves, so they are better equipped to deal with my constantly changing moods, intense emotions and challenging behaviours in the first place. Those friends who are more on the avoidant, ambivalent or disorganised scales of attachment (esp avoidant and disorganised) cannot cope with me and often end up either walking away or cruelly rejecting me and criticising me. So the names people use and the beliefs and stigmas they invoke are often very dependent on the perspective each person is coming from and those who are unstable in some way themselves will often see the worst in others because they are so different to themselves and they cannot tolerate that. This would happen whatever the disorder was called, but it is great to finally have a “name” for what’s different about me, because it means I can explain it to people more easily in the future. Thankfully, I am also now aware that it is a disorder that can be helped by talking therapies and small group work, by learning strategies and skills of how to cope with it and change your behaviours and so hopefully making your life easier.

  11. Jennifer

    Emotional Intensity Disorder is for me the most accurately descriptive and least insulting

  12. I wholeheartedly wish that they remove the word ‘personality’ from the diagnosis. To tell someone that their ‘personality’ i.e. your very self is a ‘disorder’ is damaging and cruel. Most people with BPD have extremely low self-esteem and giving them this label is untherapeutic in every way. Please campaign to rename BPD (EUPD) to what it actuallyi is i.e. Emotional Intensity Disorder or Emotional Dysregulation Disorder. I thought the Hypocratic Oath was to ‘do no harm’ but for me, having the label of being a disordered pesonality, has nearly destroyed me.

  13. I have a loved one with BPD.
    I don’t think Emotional Intensity Disorder is an accurate name. It doesn’t speak to identity disturbance, impulsivity or to the dissociative aspects or paranoia of the disorder. It makes the disorder sound like the person who suffers from it just “feels too much” and while that is an aspect of the disorder, it’s not the whole story and it doesn’t differentiate it from other disorders where people feel too much ( e.g., chronic depression, anxiety disorders. Bi-polar, etc.).
    BPD is a terrible name and there is a great stigma to the name and with it, misunderstandings of the people who suffer from it. The name needs to reflect the entirety of the symptoms.

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