Can Teens Be Diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder?


In our years of practice, the question has come up often from parents and teens, can a teen have borderline personality disorder (BPD)?   In my experience I have had several teens who have looked up the criteria for BPD and self-diagnosed.  I always take them seriously and go through what they found out with them to see if this diagnosis fits, knowing that a teen has to be 18 years old to receive a diagnosis of BPD.  This leaves to question, can the symptoms start prior to the age of 18?  Is there a way to prevent BPD from forming?

As these questions were formulating in my head, I found out that one of my friends and colleagues, Jennifer Costanza, had just written a book on BPD!  So we sat down together to discuss her recently published book titled “Finding Solid Ground.” The conversation delves into the essence of the book, its target audience, the common misconceptions surrounding BPD, and the importance of compassion and empathy in understanding and treating this complex disorder.  I thought this resource could be helpful to the families we treat at Campbell Teen & Family Therapy, Inc.  who maybe be wondering if their teen has the disorder, or affected by a family member who has the diagnosis.

Following is a summary of our interview and you can watch the YouTube video to see the entire interview.  My goal is to help parents and teens understand what it means to be BPD and to have some resources from a trusted source!

Overview of “Finding Solid Ground”

Jennifer explains that the book is tailored for both individuals with BPD and their loved ones. Costanza describes BPD as an aspect of a person’s personality, often misunderstood due to the surrounding stigma. BPD entails emotional dysregulation, making relationships challenging, with a prevalent fear of abandonment or rejection. The book aims to enhance understanding of the disorder, offering practical tools and guidance for seeking treatment, support, and encouragement amidst the challenges associated with BPD.

Can Teens be Diagnosed with BPD?

Costanza addresses the possibility of diagnosing BPD in teens, suggesting that a formal diagnosis typically occurs after the age of 18. However, she acknowledges that teenagers may still grapple with symptoms, emphasizing the importance of distinguishing between normal teenage mood swings and a formal personality disorder diagnosis.

Common Misconceptions about BPD

The interview touches on the misconceptions surrounding BPD, one being the belief that it is untreatable. Costanza counters this notion, highlighting therapeutic modalities such as Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) as effective approaches to managing BPD.

The Inspiration Behind the Book

Costanza shares her motivation for writing the book, expressing a desire to debunk the stigma associated with BPD. She emphasizes the importance of approaching the topic with compassion and empathy, recognizing the deep emotional struggles that individuals with BPD often face, rooted in trauma.

Future Projects

Looking ahead, Costanza discusses her upcoming book on the fear of failure, acknowledging the pervasive pressure, especially among teenagers in high-stakes environments. She hopes that this new project will resonate with those grappling with the fear of failure and inspire them to overcome it.

“Finding Solid Ground” emerges as a resourceful guide not only for those directly affected by BPD but also for their parents, children, partners, co-workers, and anyone seeking to better understand and support individuals navigating this complex disorder.