Borderline Personality Disorder: Misdiagnosed

Borderline Personality Disorder: Misdiagnosed

By Zoe Alekel

When struggling with your mental health, the last thing you want to hear from a doctor or therapist is that they don’t think anything is wrong. It can leave you confused, lost, hopeless, and alone. Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) often goes undiagnosed or misdiagnosed because of the disorder’s symptoms and stigma. According to the Mayo Clinic symptoms of borderline personality disorder include:

  • Intense fear of abandonment—including real or imagined separation/ rejection
  • Feelings of depression, anxiety, and hopelessness
  • Unstable relationships—idealizing someone one moment, then suddenly believing they don’t care or that they are cruel
  • Distorted view of self and self-image—including dissociation (feeling as if you don’t exist at all or if the moment in time isn’t real)
  • Impulsive and risky behavior—including rebellion, drug abuse, reckless driving, sudden decision making, unsafe sex and promiscuity, and sabotaging success or personal relationships
  • Suicidal thoughts, threats, or behavior or self-injury, often in response to fear of separation or rejection
  • Mood swings lasting from a few hours to a few days— including intense happiness, irritability, shame or anxiety
  • Inappropriate, intense anger—losing temper easily, acting out, intense irritability

The symptoms for BPD often look like other mental health conditions—contributing to misdiagnosis or lack of diagnosis. Sometimes BPD has similar patterns and symptoms as bipolar disorder, which can also include severe mood swings. One study shows that 40% of people, who only met the criteria for BPD, were still misdiagnosed with Bipolar Type 2; which is likely due to the overlapping and similar symptoms of each disorder.

Another reason why BPD can go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed is because of the myth that teens can’t have BPD. Many of the symptoms of BPD can be seen as “typical teenage behavior” as this is a crucial time in an adolescent’s life when they are developing personality and identity. Diagnosing younger adolescents with BPD is often avoided because of the stigma attached to the diagnosis. Some clinicians may fear that the client’s symptoms may only worsen with a BPD diagnosis. This can be very dangerous and harmful to the client who is not accurately being diagnosed, especially because it limits the resources they can receive for help.

BPD does not only appear in a specific age group or gender, and sometime can mirror other diagnoses or the experience of a typical adolescent. Health professionals and advocates must continue to educate and understand the reality of BPD, and know when to properly diagnose so their client can receive the help they need.

If you or someone you know is struggling with borderline personality disorder, please contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, please visit


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4 thoughts on “Borderline Personality Disorder: Misdiagnosed

  1. Great write on an important topic! It makes me so upset when professionals disregard abnormal behavior for typical teenage angst. In my opinion, the difference is quite obvious the moment it begins to impede on one’s quality of life. Both my mother and my ex girlfriend have BPD, and it is one of the most difficult things to navigate. I live with Mixed Bipolar Disorder myself, so while you may see mood swings in both BPD and Bipolar Disorder, BPD tends to be much more intense and circumstantial in my experience. Likewise, the course of treatment is considerably different. Thank you for bringing awareness to this subject!


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