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Recognizing Borderline Personality Disorder in Your Teen: When to Get Help

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When you’re a teenager, acting moody, distant, and dramatic comes with the territory. If your child has hit the teenage stage, you’ve undoubtedly been watching your teen go through all of the emotions and changes adolescence brings.

So how do you know if your child is just being a teenager or is exhibiting signs of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)? Chances are, your teenager is just going through the normal stages of adolescence. It’s not always easy to handle, but you will eventually get through it.

If your teen is experiencing many of the following behaviors, you may want to have him or her screened for BPD. Though this is not a complete list of behaviors found in teens with BPD, those listed are some of the more common BPD signs and symptoms.


Teenagers like to test the waters. But there’s a fine line between trying new things and acting recklessly. Teenagers who have BPD often engage in substance abuse, binge eating, and gambling. They are also prone to running away from home and may be more sexually active than other children their age.

Chronic Boredom

Teens and boredom often go hand in hand, but it’s usually just when they are being forced to do something they’d rather not do. If your teen has BPD, he or she might not take an interest in anything, even if it’s something they previously enjoyed.

Mood Swings

It is normal for teens to be moody, to slam doors, and to retreat to their bedrooms when they don’t want to talk. Teens with BPD, however, experience more severe mood swings that have them acting calm and rational one minute and explosively angry the next.


It is not unusual for teens to engage in attention-seeking behavior. However, teens who have BPD may engage in self-injurious behaviors such as cutting, burning, biting, and excessive body piercing. They may also make suicide attempts.

Treatment for Adolescent BPD

If you notice any of the signs of BPD in your teen, you should seek professional help to see if your teen has actually developed the disorder. Once a diagnosis is made, you should seek treatment through a therapist, outpatient program, or residential treatment center that specializes in personality disorders.

Adolescent BPD can be treated through Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), which can help teens learn to better control their emotions and behaviors. When appropriate, medications may be prescribed to control symptoms of instability, impulsivity, and self-destructive behavior.

A residential treatment center that specializes in BPD can also treat any co-occurring disorders that your teen may have developed, such as depression, substance abuse, anxiety disorders, or eating disorders.

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