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Borderline personality disorder


It is estimated that, in Quebec, 2% the population is affected by borderline personality disorder.

In our service sector, this amounts to around 4,000 people.


Borderline personality disorder is characterized by intense emotions, impulsive behaviour and instability in one’s identity and relationships.


In general, a person with borderline personality disorder has notable impulsive tendencies, unstable personal relationships and a distorted view of themselves. Such symptoms, which vary greatly and can even include psychosis, generally appear in adulthood and in different contexts. Women are more commonly affected by this disorder.

Borderline personality disorder shows up in four areas:

Interpersonal relationships

Interpersonal relationships tend to be instable and intense, and they can often be punctuated by excessively idealistic expectations and bitter disappointments. Individuals with borderline personality disorder find it hard to be alone, and try at all costs to avoid abandonment, whether real or imagined.


Emotional instability is a common condition of borderline personality disorder. It can present itself through noticeable changes in the individual’s mood (mood swings), which cause the individual to go from a relatively stable emotional state to feeling depressed, irritable or anxious in a matter of a few hours or a few days (this is contrary to what one experiences with bipolar disorder).


Noticeable and persistent changes in how the individual sees themselves is an ongoing characteristic of the disorder. Often ambiguous, the individual’s self-identity is marked by their questioning of fundamental matters such as self-image, sexual orientation, long-term goals, career choices, friends and a value system.


People with borderline personality disorder tend to be impulsive, especially when it comes to activities putting their own safety at risk. This can include anything from impulse shopping to drug or alcohol abuse or even dangerous driving.

In more severe manifestations of this disorder, threats or acts of self-harm or suicide are common. Such behaviour can occur following an episode of rage or a period of apathy.


Biological vulnerability (causing the individual to have an overactive emotional system) mixed with a fragile environment or one or more trigger events are the primary causes of borderline personality disorder. Biological factors are more prominent in some people, while external factors are the dominant cause for others.

People living with the disorder tend to require hospitalization due to the recurrent nature of their self-destructive behaviour. This behaviour, however, does gradually become less frequent over time.


Certain medication can be effective in reducing anxiety and controlling impulsiveness and psychotic episodes; behavioural psychotherapy can be very beneficial as well; and a mix of these two treatments is definitely a good way to set the individual up for success.

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