Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

May is Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness Month.

1. What is borderline personality disorder?


"It is pretty much the most painful and lonely existence imaginable."

A young woman describes what it feels like to have borderline personality disorder.*

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a serious mental illness with a high prevalence in the U.S. population. Symptoms are severe and disruptive, and include emotional dysregulation, unstable interpersonal relationships, identity disturbance and marked impulsivity.

Emotional dysregulation - Volatile emotions, difficulty controlling anger, short and intense episodes of anxiety, irritability, despair and depression, as well as chronic feelings of emptiness

Unstable interpersonal relationships - Stormy interpersonal relationships, frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment, extremes of idealizing and devaluating significant others, and hypersensitivity to rejection

Identity disturbance - A distorted or unstable sense of self, adopting values and habits of whomever one is with, and transient dissociative symptoms under severe stress (i.e., feelings of being disconnected from reality)

Marked impulsivity - Potentially self-damaging impulsivity such as substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating, promiscuity, in addition to self-mutilating and suicidal behavior

2.  Young Investigator Grantees in Borderline Personality Disorder Research

Since 2011, The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation has awarded Young Investigator Grants to seven researchers in BPD. This prestigious award provides a grant of up to $70,000 to each researcher. Five of these awards were made possible by funding from Families for Borderline Personality Disorder Research.

Young Investigator Grants greatly enhance a researcher’s career path and access to additional funding -- studies have shown it can lead up to subsequent funding at approximately 20 times the original amount of the grant.

Brad Reich, M.D.

Brad Reich, M.D. (2012 - 2014 Young investigator Grantee)
McLean Hospital and Harvard University

Dr. Reich's research project investigates neurobiological differences between borderline personality disorder and bipolar disorder.
- Read a short summary of his project
- Listen to Dr. Reich talk about his research



Edward Selby, Ph.D.

Ed Selby, Ph.D. (2012 - 2014 Young investigator Grantee)
Rutgers University

Dr. Selby is researching emotional dysregulation and ensuing impulsive behavior in BPD relative to an eating disorder.
- Read a short summary of his project
- Listen to Dr. Selby talk about his research



Kate Saunders

Kate Saunders, B.M. (2013 - 2015 Young investigator Grantee)
University of Oxford

Dr. Saunders is conducting a research project to determine if successful treatment of those with BPD is associated with an improvement in social cooperation.
- Read a short summary of her project


Anthony Ruocco

Anthony Ruocco, Ph.D. (2014 - 2016 Young investigator Grantee)
University of Toronto

Dr. Ruocco is investigating the effect of magnetic seizure therapy (MST) on the region of the brain responsible for managing emotions and controlling impulsive behavior.
- Read a short summary of his project
- Listen to Dr. Ruocco speak about his research.  


Sarah K. Fineberg, M.D., Ph.D.

Sarah K. Fineberg, M.D., Ph.D. (2014 - 2016 Young investigator Grantee)
Yale University

Dr. Fineberg investigates social learning in BPD using a computer game.
- Read a short summary of her project
- View her poster presentation at NASSPD Annual Conference, March 2015  


Emily Ansel

Emily Ansell, Ph.D. (2015 - 2017 Young investigator Grantee)
Yale University

Dr. Ansell is investigating pharmacotherapy to reduce impulsivity and suicidal behavior.
- Read a short summary of her project


Vanessa Nieratschker

Vanessa Nieratschker, Ph.D. (2015 - 2016 Young investigator Grantee)
University of Tubingen

Dr. Nieratschker is investigating DBT treatment and epigenetic effects.
- Read a short summary of her project



3.  Families for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) Research

Families for BPD Research is a grassroots group with children and relatives with borderline personality disorder. Over the past few years, we have met and talked with professionals in the mental health field and have discovered that research is precisely where answers will be found to help our family members and so many others cope with and recover from this devastating disorder. We are grateful to have connected with the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation and formed a research partnership to support promising young investigators in BPD research.

Funding new investigators is vital to furthering research breakthroughs in areas which include underlying biological and environmental causes of BPD, earlier and better diagnoses, treatments tailored to individuals, improved quality of life, and recovery. Especially, with senior investigators in BPD research starting to retire, supporting young investigators now will provide them with valuable opportunity for guidance from these experienced researchers. Such collaboration will offer greater expansion of research initiatives, continue to broaden our common knowledge of BPD and give us increasing focus on and vision of recovery. 


4. How does research help individuals with BPD?

Research studies have shown that this diagnosis is not a life sentence and that remission of symptoms is possible. Past research has also led to the development of effective evidence-based treatments, such as Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), specifically developed for those with BPD. Investigations into the neurobiology of BPD have identified brain circuits that add to understanding this illness.

"There's this overactive emotionality and no capacity to put the brakes on."

Dr. John Oldham, former President of the American Psychiatric Association, explains BPD-related brain function.*


"Just as... with cancer or heart disease, we have to figure out how
to get much better at detecting this early in its course..."

Dr. Thomas Insel, former Director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), discusses key areas for future BPD research.*

5.  Please donate now:

Help launch the career of a new BPD researcher by helping to support a Young Investigator Grantee. Your donation will make possible research advances and breakthroughs. 100% of donor contributions for research are invested in our grants leading to advances and breakthroughs in brain and behavior research. This is made possible by the generous support of two family foundations which cover the Foundation’s operating expenses.


*Video segments from the Congressional Briefing on Borderline Personality Disorder in 2010 sponsored by the National Education Alliance for Borderline Personality Disorder and the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

- Families for BPD Research homepage
Learn more about the Young Investigator Grant
- The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
- The National Education Alliance for Borderline Personality Disorder (NEA-BPD)