Gender Differences in Borderline Personality Disorder
Updated: May 2
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a mental illness characterized by ongoing patterns of mood instability, inability to control emotions and anger, difficulty developing and maintaining relationships, splitting people into either good or bad, a disturbed sense of self-image and identity and frequent engagement in impulsive and self-harming behaviours including suicide attempts and completion. BPD was predominantly diagnosed in females. Current research suggests BPD in men presents in different ways and that men go relatively undiagnosed.
BPD can exhibit itself differently in men than in women. Men may exhibit paranoid, narcissistic, and antisocial behaviours, be unable to accept boundaries placed on them by others, unable to self-regulate or else they demonstrate an explosive temperament and higher levels of novelty and risk seeking behaviour.
This may also be expressed through substance abuse or addiction to sex, gambling, and commitment issues. Men can be subconsciously inclined to compensate for the lack of mastery or control they feel, or that they experienced in childhood by trying to control all of their adult relationships, sometimes threatening a partner with an affair or actually acting out sexually with others to gain attention.
While both men and women with BPD experience relationship struggles, some males with BPD may date many women at the same time while being unable and unwilling to commit to any of their partners out of fear of abandonment or rejection. Others may frighten their potential partners away with aggressive behaviours, intense jealousy and explosive tempers.
Men who have BPD do not seek out pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy services compared with women who have the disorder. Men are more likely to display co-morbid paranoid, passive-aggressive, narcissistic, sadistic or be diagnosed with Antisocial or Psychopathic personality disorder. Men are more likely to end up in jail rather than in mental health facilities.
Men struggling with BPD can find help through proper treatment. Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) is the most common treatment of borderline personality disorder.