Borderline Personality Disorder in Teens – Signs, Causes, and Treatment

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Teenager borderline personality disorder symptoms can be confusing, frustrating, and hard for both teens and their loved ones to understand. Because a teen’s personality is still developing at their age, BPD can be difficult to diagnose and can be disruptive to an adolescent’s life. In addition, it can disrupt family dynamics as well, which is why family-based approaches are often used in the treatment of the signs of BPD in teens.

With the right treatment approach and environment, teens with borderline personality disorder can successfully learn to regulate their overwhelming emotions, control self-destructive behavior, and lead a healthy life.

What is Borderline Personality Disorder in Teens?

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) connotes the lack of a stable sense of self. Hence, without a firm identity, people with borderline personality disorder have extreme emotional instability.  As a result, borderline personality disorder is like many other personality disorders. Moreover, it often first appears in teenagers and young adults, but can take some time to be diagnosed.

Due to the immense overload of emotions that they are dealing with, borderline personality disorder in adolescence can cause teens to find it difficult to connect with others. This can lead them to become isolated and more prone to self-destructive behavior like self-harm or suicide ideation. Lacking a clear sense of self, they feel chaotic and stressed. Therefore, encounters and scenarios that should be relatively easy to manage become difficult.

In most teens, BPD can be caught early and successfully treated. Also, in most cases, early treatment of teenage borderline personality disorder is recommended and leads to a better long-term outcome. Effective teen personality disorder treatment combines clinical approaches and holistic strategies. In addition, such treatment can help to stabilize BPD behaviors and reduce daily emotional challenges.

Signs of BPD in Teens

Borderline personality disorder affects how a teen feels about themselves, how they relate to others and how they behave. Teenage borderline personality disorder signs can include the following:

  1. Extreme emotional reactions; inappropriate and disproportional
  2. Distorted or dysfunctional self-image; a damaged identity
  3. Inability to connect or feel empathy for others, intense narcissism
  4. A persistent fear of abandonment and rejection
  5. Volatile mood changes without clear cause that are lasting
  6. Substance use disorder as a coping mechanism
  7. Overwhelming anxiety and worry beyond any actual risk
  8. Impulsive and risky behaviors; self-destructive patterns
  9. Self-harm and suicidal behavior; suicide attempts.

The Link Between Borderline Personality Disorder and Suicide

When it comes to the signs of BPD in teens, there is a prominent threat of self-harm and suicide. In fact, borderline personality disorder includes suicidal or self-injurious behavior among its diagnostic criteria. Furthermore, it is the only personality disorder type that includes such criteria. This is per the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). The DSM-5 is published by the American Psychiatric Association.

About 75 percent of people with borderline personality disorder will make at least one suicide attempt. Even worse, close to 10 percent of people with BPD will commit suicide. Consequently, this rate of death by suicide is 50 times the rate of suicide in the general population. Therefore, it’s critical to ensure the safety of the environment for teens suffering from BPD.

Questions to Help Identify Borderline Personality Disorder in Teens

Are you a parent who suspects that your teen might be suffering from teenage borderline personality disorder? There are questions to consider that may help illuminate the situation.

  1. Does your teen see things as black and white to the extreme? Do they define people as all good or all bad?
  2. Is your teen dangerously impulsive? Do they take senseless risks on a regular basis?
  3. Does your teen lack a firm sense of identity? Do they change all the time, almost cycling through personality types?
  4. Does your teen seem incapable of reading emotions?
  5. Does your teen feel crushed when a person leaves? Is their fear of abandonment not reflective of the emotional reality of a situation?
  6. Does the mood of your teen change for no apparent reason? Do these mood shifts seem extreme?
  7. Does your teen exhaust and lose relationships? Are their connections to other people more volatile than expected?
  8. Are your teen’s angry outbursts out of proportion to external circumstances? Is it hard to talk them down?


Many teens without borderline personality disorder can fit these descriptions. This is important to recognize. Yet, answering yes to most these questions is a red flag. Such answers indicate that proactive steps should be taken toward a professional assessment.

If a teen is struggling with a borderline personality disorder, they are not alone. Borderline personality disorder affects close to 14 million Americans.

Understanding the Causes of Borderline Personality Disorder

As with some other mental health disorders, the causes of borderline personality disorder are not fully understood. Without a doubt, there is a definite mix of environmental and genetic factors. Potential BPD causes include the following:

BPD Genetic Factors:

No specific BPD gene has yet to be identified. Still, studies in twins reveal a strong hereditary link. Thus, scientists conclude that genetics play a role in borderline personality disorder.

BPD genetic studies are gaining momentum. However, these preliminary findings await replication. Larger sample sizes and more precise methodologies are needed. Still, per recent scientific models, borderline traits concentrate in families. Such a concentration implies a genetic predisposition for the disorder. Indeed, borderline personality disorder is five times more common with a previous BPD diagnosis in the family.

BPD Neurological Factors:

BPD patients lack the neural capacity needed to inhibit negative emotions. Thus, the part of the brain that regulates emotions and controls impulses is often damaged. Hence, such damage leads to the behavioral problems and personality issues.

Studies show the danger of abnormalities in the structure of the brain. 60 percent of the borderline personality disorder risk stems from this problem. Moreover, the neurobiological response to chronic stress is a possible cause. Chronic stress exposure potentially can change brain metabolism and structure. Such changes might limit the brain’s abilities. It might limit the processing and integration of emotion and thought. This discovery underscores the importance of early intervention. Such early intervention minimizes neurological damage and improves recovery outcomes.

BPD and Traumatic History:

BPD patients often have a history of childhood trauma. Often, this trauma includes physical abuse, extreme stress, and/or abandonment. However, the abuse trauma tends to be outside the family unit. Many people with borderline personality disorder report such traumatic life events. Indeed, most happen during childhood. Early exposure to unstable relationships and hostile conflicts also are potential factors.

Some people with borderline personality disorder do not have a history of trauma. Moreover, most people with a history of traumatic life events do not have borderline personality disorder. Hence, such a distinction is important to make.

Borderline Personality Disorder Statistics

The additional facts listed below are important for parents to know when it comes to borderline personality disorder in teens:

  1. BPD affects nearly as many people as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder combined.
  2. Women account for 75 percent of diagnosed BPD cases.
  3. BPD symptoms are most extreme in teens and young adults and can often improve as you get older.
  4. Up to 70 percent of BPD patients report having been sexually abused. Such abuse is usually by non-caregivers outside the family unit.
  5. BPD patients make up 20 percent of psychiatric hospitalizations.
  6. Only 42 percent of BPD patients receive treatment for the condition.

Given the statistics, the need for action is clear. Research studies show long-lasting periods of BPD symptom remission are possible with treatment.

Therapeutic Treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder in Teens

Borderline personality disorder in adolescence can be successfully treated. This outcome is particularly true when it comes to teens, as early intervention can increase success levels. Every teen’s treatment needs are assessed individually, but teen borderline personality disorder treatment may include:

  1. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy – DBT provides specific skills like mindfulness and emotional regulation. These skills can be used right away and become stronger with practice. As noted above, they work particularly well for teens with BPD.
  2. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – CBT brings clarity and valuable insight to a teen in crisis. CBT identifies the emotions that often result in a sense of isolation. It helps with the self-defeating thoughts and assumptions that make life more difficult.
  3. Mentalization Based Treatment – It shows them how to recognize and understand their own emotions and those of others. BPD teens did not fully learn these skills in childhood. Thus, such therapy focuses on identifying emotions and learning appropriate responses.
  4. Experiential Therapies – They are particularly powerful borderline personality disorder in teens. These include art therapy, music therapy, Adventure Therapy, and Equine-Assisted Therapy. Such experience-based modalities help teens build self-esteem.
  5. Mindfulness and Yoga – Research shows that mindfulness meditation and yoga practice help. They decrease BPD-related insecurities and increase coping skills.

Family-Based Approaches to Teen Personality Disorder Treatment

Recent research has shown a positive effect when families are included. Families can aid the treatment of teenage borderline personality disorder. From the beginning, Newport Academy has emphasized family participation. This is a key part of the teen treatment process.

Moreover, the families of teens with borderline personality disorder may also benefit from treatment. Dealing day in and day out with a loved one with BPD can be very stressful. Hence, family participation can lead to greater healing. Also, family members can help a teen with borderline personality disorder. Moreover, participation is a demonstration of love and support. With borderline personality disorder, such a demonstration can truly help. Consequently, it addresses the abandonment and insecurity issues.

The Newport Academy BPD Treatment Program Can Help

Newport Academy provides superior borderline personality disorder treatment for teens. Our Treatment Team creates a personalized treatment plan for each teen. Furthermore, this plan includes a variety of modalities. Moreover, we focus on resolving challenging BPD behaviors and thinking patterns.

Teenage borderline personality disorder treatment can work. Newport Academy has a track record of helping teens and families recover.


“At Newport Academy, we can use unique and cutting-edge treatment approaches that would take the state years to employ…. we have the ability and flexibility to tailor programs that best suit the needs of our residents.”

Helene D’Jay,
LPC, Newport Academy Clinical Director


The Calm Sanctuary of Residential Treatment

Newport Academy provides the highest-quality care using evidence-based methods. Indeed, our staff and clinicians are among the elite in their respective fields. Thus, we understand the challenges of borderline personality disorder.

First, we help teens break the cycle of BPD negative behaviors. Then, we treat the underlying causes of teenage borderline personality disorder. Residential treatment allows teens to heal, free from distraction. Therefore, they discover a nourishing, empathic environment. Thus, our approach fosters true long-term recovery from borderline personality disorder.

What Makes Our Residential Treatment Program Different?

1) Personalized Treatment

Our priority is to offer the most effective personalized treatment available. We incorporate evidence-based clinical and experiential therapeutic modalities. In addition, we tailor an integrated and comprehensive care plan. Thus the goal of the plan is to meet each teen’s needs, strengths, and challenges.

Upon admission, residents are assigned a treatment team. This team develops a customized program to promote growth and sustainable healing.

2) Our Philosophy Is Love

We help teens by providing a safe, accepting, and nurturing environment. We pride ourselves on providing unconditional love and support every adolescent who comes through our doors. Thus, teens feel safe enough to explore and resolve underlying issues.

The Newport Academy staff’s clinical expertise is matched only by their compassion. Hence, we provide the care that supports each teen’s self-worth and self-acceptance.


“It is our mission to provide the most comprehensive, impactful treatment for teens to sustain long-term recovery. We enable young people to move out of the darkness and into the light, into happy, fulfilling lives.”

Jamison Monroe Jr.,
Newport Academy Founder and CEO


3) We Achieve Results

We have achieved an unparalleled success rate since our founding and aim to treat every teen that enters our facilities with the best care possible. We are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, contact us today to find out how we can help your teen. If Newport Academy is not the right fit, then we will help you find a solution that works for you.