Why Do BPD Symptoms Decline With Age?

Age Seems to Impact the Severity of BPD Symptoms

Older man reading book on dock at lake. Tom Merton

If someone you know has borderline personality disorder (BPD), you may have noticed that as that person grows older, his or her symptoms seem to decline in frequency and severity. This a common phenomenon among those with BPD and has become a major subject of research among healthcare professionals and psychiatrists. 

To date, researchers are not exactly sure why BPD symptoms decline with age, but some experts have suggested that there could be a few set reasons for why this happens, including burn out, learning and avoidance of relationships.

These can be linked to both biological and environmental factors. 

Burn Out

Some experts have speculated that BPD symptoms decline because the symptoms naturally “burn out” or that people simply grow out of the symptoms as they mature. In particular, research has shown that the impulsivity symptoms of BPD are the most likely to decline over time. This is consistent with the observation that, in general, older people engage in less impulsive behavior, even if they do not have BPD. It may be that as we age and mature, the urge to engage in impulsive behaviors slowly goes away, allowing us to make more measured and rational decisions. Just as partying all night loses it's appeal for many in their forties and fifties, impulsive or reckless BOD behaviors may also seem less natural. 


Other experts think that BPD symptoms may decline because as you age, you learn how to better manage your symptoms.

For some people, this learning may come as the result of intensive treatment, but for others this may be the result of the natural learning that comes from negotiating life’s challenges. Through experience and trying different treatment options and coping skills, you may be able to decrease the severity of symptoms or handle them before they start.

This is similar to learning any skill; with practice over time, it becomes easier to accomplish. 

Avoidance of Intimate Relationships

Finally, experts have speculated that BPD symptoms decline because, over time, you may learn to avoid situations that trigger symptoms. For example, for many people with BPD, problems in interpersonal relationships trigger the most intense reactions and symptoms. As a result, people with BPD may start to avoid interpersonal relationships altogether in order to reduce their distress. This has been referred to as being "comfortably alone". While some people have reported success with this approach, it is hardly considered a solid treatment option. Avoidance and living a solitary life are not considered healthy approaches to BPD, but does play a role in decreasing symptom frequency. 

While there is a definite link between age and decreased symptoms, research has yet to identify the exact cause. Whether it is a result of natural maturation or a change in brain chemistry over time, scientists continue to look for the association as it may have significant impact on diagnosing and treating people with BPD in the future.

If there is in fact a change in the brain chemistry, it could mean that potential medications could mimic this affect and help lessen symptoms. 


Oldham JM. Guideline Watch for the Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients with Borderline Personality Disorder. American Psychiatric Association, 2005.

Paris J. “Implications of Long-Term Outcome Research for the Management of Patients with Borderline Personality Disorder.” Harvard Review of Psychiatry. 10(6):315-323, 2002.

Stevenson J, Meares R, Comerford A. “Diminished impulsivity in older patients with borderline personality disorder.” American Journal of Psychiatry. 160(1):165-166, 2003.

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