There is no single test to diagnose borderline personality disorder (BPD).
A diagnosis may take an extended period of weeks or months, to give time for a health professional to get to know you properly.
A health professional will need to do a complete mental health assessment, with questions about the current symptoms, past history such as suicide attempts, medical history, relationships and family background such as childhood trauma.
Clinicians often use an internationally recognised checklist such as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders version 5 (DSM-5).
According to the DSM-5 there are 9 criteria for BPD. An individual needs to meet at least 5 criteria to be diagnosed.
The criteria for a borderline personality disorder diagnosis includes:
- Frantic efforts to avoid real or imaginary abandonment.
- Consistently intense and unstable interpersonal relationships which alternate between idealisation and devaluation.
- Persistently distorted self-image or sense of self.
- At least 2 impulsive behaviours that are potentially self-damaging.
- Ongoing self-harming behaviour, suicidal behaviour or threats.
- Intense feelings lasting hours to days.
- Long-term, chronic feelings of loneliness and emptiness.
- Difficulty controlling intense and inappropriate anger.
- Disassociate feelings or paranoid thoughts.
Teenagers may start showing the symptoms of BPD, but there is debate in the medical field about whether they should be diagnosed at this age. DSM-5 allows for the diagnosis of personality disorders in adolescence if the symptoms are severe enough to persistently interfere with daily functioning for 1 year or longer. A teenager with BPD symptoms has much more severe and pervasive symptoms than a typical moody teen.
For any person with the symptoms of BPD, whether an adult or teenager, the first step to receiving a borderline personality disorder diagnosis is to see a doctor or mental health professional.
Last reviewed: December 2016