Understanding Borderline Personality Disorder in Teens

Personality disorders come in all shapes and sizes. They affect how we interact with people every day and our entire lives as a result. About 1.6% of adults in the U.S. suffer from borderline personality disorder. As much as they can take a toll on adults, they can affect teens as well. 

Although it can be common for teens to feel moody, have angry outbursts, and withdraw from social activities, persistent happenings could mean that your child has borderline personality disorder. Sana Lake Recovery Center clinicians can help you treat this mental health disorder and help both teens and adults manage their symptoms. 

What is Borderline Personality Disorder?

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) affects the way you feel and think about yourself and others. This can negatively impact how you function every day. People with BPD often have trouble maintaining relationships and have a poor self-image. 

This mental disorder can have a significant effect on many areas of your life, not just relationships. If you have BPD, you’ll most likely have difficulty holding down a job or completing school. You’re also likely to easily get into fights or have sudden surges of anger, and you might even have psychotic episodes in which you hear voices. 

Borderline Personality Disorder in Teens 

If a teen has borderline personality disorder, it can affect their relationships, emotion regulation, and identity. This can lead them to suffer in school and their social lives. It’s already tough being a teenager in today’s society. Having a mental health disorder on top of that would be even more difficult to deal with. This is why treatment for borderline personality disorder in teens is crucial.

Studies show that rates of borderline personality disorder in teens are higher than in adults. This could be because of the fact that teens can display signs of BPD when they’re stressed. However, they usually recover from these situations.

A BPD diagnosis can happen in early adulthood when it will be at its worst. Fortunately, it can improve as you get older. Knowing the signs and symptoms of borderline personality disorder and detecting them early can help your condition. People who receive treatment early enough can eventually lead satisfying and fulfilling lives. 

Signs and Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder

The symptoms and signs of borderline personality disorder can vary in teens and adults. The four main signs of any personality disorder in teens are as follows:

  • Problematic emotional responses
  • Difficulty interacting socially in relationships
  • Trouble controlling impulses
  • Distorted perception and thinking

Signs of borderline personality disorder include:

  • Extreme mood swings
  • Feelings of emptiness
  • Intense and inappropriate feelings of anger (having physical fights, losing your temper)
  • Rapid changes in self-image (shifting values and goals)

Symptoms of borderline personality disorder include:

  • Impulsive behavior
  • Trouble maintaining relationships
  • Believing that change means failure
  • Suicidal thoughts and tendencies
  • Fear of being alone
  • Unstable sense of self

Borderline Personality Disorders and Addiction in Teens

Having borderline personality disorder as a teenager is bad enough. Combine that with substances like drugs and alcohol, and you could have a more serious situation on your hands. Teens with BPD who are feeling upset or the urge to isolate themselves might turn to substances for comfort. Although this can provide temporary relief, it won’t make your symptoms go away for good.

Co-occurring disorders, or dual diagnosis, requires a specific type of treatment in which both disorders are managed at the same time. Sana Lake offers dual diagnosis treatment for our members with an addiction and a mental health disorder. 

Risk Factors of Borderline Personality Disorder in Teens

Although it’s unclear what exactly causes borderline personality disorder in teens and adults, it can develop due to a few risk factors. Be on the lookout for any of these in your teens so that you can get them help as soon as possible. 

  • Family history. If one of your parents or siblings has BPD, you’re at risk for developing it as well.
  • Childhood trauma. People with BPD say they were physically or sexually abused as children, or they had parents who weren’t around physically or mentally. They tend to have unstable family relationships as well. 
  • Abnormalities in the brain. Those with aggression and impulsivity can have abnormalities in their brains that cause BPD to develop. Other chemicals like serotonin, which helps regulate mood, might not work properly in the brains of people with BPD. 
  • Genetics. Studies have shown that people with borderline personality disorder have family members with other types of mental health disorders.  

Can Personality Disorders Be Diagnosed Before Age 18?

Experts have debated this question for many years. The general consensus is that these disorders shouldn’t be diagnosed in teens before they’re 18 because their personalities aren’t fully formed yet. However, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders states that they can be diagnosed before 18, provided that teens meet certain criteria.

Symptoms of personality disorder must be present for more than a year, and they must be “pervasive, persistent and unlikely to be limited to a particular developmental stage.” The frontal lobe becomes fully mature at age 25, so some doctors feel that signs of BPD will disappear at that point. 

Treatment for Personality Disorders in Teens

There are several beneficial treatments for borderline personality disorder in teens at Sana Lake. Our trained and licensed therapists can give your child comfort and teach them new skills for improving their relationships. 

Below are just a few treatments available for our members with borderline personality disorder. Talk to our licensed professionals to see which one is best for your child.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Dr. Marsha M. Linehan developed dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) specifically to treat borderline personality disorder. DBT is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy that focuses on improving your relationships, as this is a common deficiency of BPD. When you enroll in DBT, you learn how to communicate better and control your emotions by using these four techniques:

  • Emotional regulation: Learning to regulate, change, and identify your feelings
  • Core mindfulness: Accepting your life as it is right now, and learning how to live in the moment
  • Interpersonal effectiveness: Helping you become more assertive in your relationships
  • Distress tolerance: Trusting your current situation and learning how to healthily handle stressful situations

DBT consists of individual and group sessions as well as phone coaching, and it can also treat many other personality disorders and even addiction. After completing DBT, you will be better able to accept and change behaviors. 

Dialectical behavior therapy is one of the most effective treatments for borderline personality disorder, and it’s used at many rehab centers. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

This method of talk therapy is popular for treating mental disorders, including BPD. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) focuses on negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that could have contributed to your borderline personality disorder. 

CBT therapists believe that your actions can be attributed to the thoughts and feelings that you have in the moment. Through skill-building exercises and role-playing, you’ll learn more positive behaviors that you can use to control your borderline personality disorder.

Family Therapy

When your teen is diagnosed with BPD, it might be difficult and frustrating to understand it. Attending family therapy will provide you with a better comprehension of this disorder, and it will help your child learn how to effectively communicate with you. 

Mentalization-Based Therapy

This type of therapy emphasizes the belief that you should think before you react. helps you identify your feelings and thoughts at any moment, and it will also help you create a different perspective on your current situation. 

Transference-Focused Psychotherapy (TFP)

TFP, also known as psychodynamic psychotherapy helps you understand interpersonal difficulties as well as your emotions. Once you’ve learned how to do this with your therapist, you can apply this to your current situations.


There aren’t any medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration that treat borderline personality disorder, but there are other depression medications you can take. Other medications can help with aggression, anxiety, and anxiety. 

No matter what treatment you pursue for borderline personality disorder in teens, any one of these will help you on your road to recovery. Learning how to manage your behaviors and accept change will take time and work. You’ll likely encounter some obstacles along the way, but with time, your life will improve drastically. 

For more severe cases of borderline personality disorder in teens, we offer different levels of treatment at our Behavioral Wellness Center: 

We also offer young adult rehab for our teens with borderline personality disorder.

Get Help for Borderline Personality Disorder Today

Our staff at Sana Lake Recovery Center is experienced in treating borderline personality disorder in teens. We can provide your child with the tools and skills they need to overcome this mental disorder and start living the life they deserve. 

If you or someone you know has borderline personality disorder, contact us today to see what we can do for you and your family. You have the power to overcome your mental illness. Reach out today and get started!