Soldiers and Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline personality disorder is a mental health illness characterized by unstable moods, behavior and relationships. Signs and symptoms of the disorder include the following examples:

  • Extreme mood swings or reactions to threats, both real and perceived. Extreme responses may include panic, rage or fear.
  • Recurring patterns of unstable and intense relationships with family, friends and loved ones.  Relationships may be loving and immediately switch to hateful.
  • Distorted and unstable self-images. This affects people’s perspectives, attitudes and future plans.
  • Impulsive and reckless behavior
  • Recurring suicidal, self-destructive or self-harming behaviors
  • Long-term feelings of emptiness or despair
  • Difficulty controlling anger and inappropriate behavior
  • Having stress-related paranoia
  • Symptoms of dissociation, feeling cut off from oneself, losing touch with reality, or referring to one’s self in the third person

These symptoms are apparent in soldier’s unstable relationships, irregular moods, erratic thoughts and reckless behaviors. Borderline personality disorder frequently co-occurs with other issues, such as depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, sex addictions, substance abuse and suicidal and self-harming behaviors.

According to a survey conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health, over 85 percent of individuals with borderline personality disorder also meet the criteria for another mental health illness.

Because this disorder often coexists with another illness, it can be extremely difficult to diagnose, especially because the symptoms of one illness may mask or exacerbate the symptoms of another. This is especially true for soldiers, because they are more susceptible to a range of mental health conditions due to the stress they endure.

Risk of Borderline Personality Disorder for Soldiers

Borderline personality disorder is the effect of genetic, social and psychological factors. One major risk for borderline personality disorder is childhood trauma, physical or sexual abuse and neglect.

Trauma and stress at any point in life can cause the disorder, but soldiers are under a heightened level of stress, which can influence or worsen the disorder. Some soldiers enter the military without knowing of their condition, but the military may quickly exacerbate symptoms.

Borderline personality disorder is a major concern among soldiers. The symptoms of the disorder are so severe that they will raise red flags and indicate the need for clinical testing. If the disorder goes undetected, soldiers can put their own lives, and the lives of others, in grave danger. Furthermore, loneliness, homesickness, stress, sadness, trauma and other issues from the military can influence suicidal and self-harming thoughts, which will significantly increase the risk for suicide or substance abuse.