Is There a Link Between Borderline Personality and Violence?

What to Expect From A Loved One With Borderline Personality Disorder

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Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a complex mental illness that affects both men and women. Along with intense emotions and feelings, people with BPD can also experience intense anger, known as borderline rage. If you have a family member or loved one who has BPD, it's important to understand how violence relates to BPD and how it can be handled.

Prevalence of Violence in People with BPD

There is research demonstrating that both men and women who have committed violent acts have elevated rates of borderline personality disorder compared to the general population.

However, this does not necessarily mean that a diagnosis is associated with an increased risk of violence. Impulsive behavior, which includes physical aggression, is one of the diagnostic criteria for BPD, even though someone can meet criteria for the disorder without demonstrating this symptom.

There are several reasons why people with BPD are more likely to be violent in their relationships. First, people with BPD are often victims of violence themselves, such as through child abuse. While it's not true for all people, many people with BPD may have learned to use aggression to deal with strong emotions because adults modeled that behavior for them when they were young.

In addition, people with BPD often experience an unstable sense of self and difficulty trusting others in interpersonal relationships. They may experience very strong emotions if they believe they are being rejected or abandoned; this is known as rejection sensitivity.

These intense feelings of rejection can sometimes lead to aggressive behaviors.

Finally, people with BPD often have difficulties with impulsive behaviors. When they are experiencing the strong emotions that are typical of the disorder, they may do things without thinking about the consequences. If they engage in violence, it is usually not planned.

It is an impulsive act done in the heat of the moment.

Will My Loved One Be Violent?

The information above only provides general information about the link between borderline personality disorder and violence; it is not possible to predict whether one particular individual with BPD will be violent. If your loved one has not shown any violent tendencies or aggression, it is quite possible that she won't be violent. Many BPD patients never do aggressive acts during their lives.

On the other hand, if you are feeling threatened, even if no violence has occurred in your relationship, you should take that seriously. If you already feel unsafe, it is very possible the situation could escalate to the point of violence. You should consider getting yourself to a safe place away from that loved one, whether that means getting a hotel or staying with friends. It's important that you are safe before trying to help your friend or family member get help.

Once you are secure, your best bet is for both of you to seek professional help through therapy with a therapist specializing in BPD.

This may help you figure out whether the relationship can be improved and may prevent violence from happening in the future. Therapy can also help you decide whether this is a relationship worth working on.The therapist can also recommend a course of treatment to help your loved one get on the path to recovery. 


Stuart GL, Moore TM, Gordon KC, Ramsey SE, Kahler CW. “Psychopathology in Women Arrested for Domestic Violence.” Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 21: 376-389, 2006.

Holtzworth-Munroe A, Stuart GL. “Typologies of Male Batterers: Three Subtypes and the Differences Among Them.” Psychological Bulletin, 116: 476-497, 1994.

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