Prevalence of Borderline Personality Disorder

General Population

Estimates regarding the prevalence of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) in the general population have suggested a 1 – 3% rate of lifetime occurrence. Large scale community studies have found BPD to be prevalent in the general community; a recent longitudinal study suggested that 2.7% of adults in the United States would meet diagnostic criteria for BPD.

The disorder has also been thought of as being more common among women than men. A variety of explanations have been proposed to account for this disparity. For example, it has been suggested that the prevalence difference is due to differences in the presentation of symptoms among men and women. Research found that women diagnosed with BPD tend to exhibit the more dramatic aspects of BPD symptoms such as intense and unstable emotionality and self-harm behaviours, while men present more subtle antisocial and impulsive behaviours. The prevalence difference may also reflect biases held by mental health providers when diagnosing BPD. The general belief that BPD is more prevalent in women than in men may create a bias toward identifying the disorder in women while exploring other disorders for men. Recent studies from Norway, the United States, and Great Britain have challenged the notion of a sex disparity, finding little or no difference in the prevalence of BPD among men and women.

Clinical Population

Patients with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) are well-represented within clinical populations. Studies using semi-structured interviews have delivered a more reliable estimate of clinical prevalence than previous studies which used self-report or unstructured interviews. Studies using such methods have found prevalence rates of 49% among adolescent inpatients, 43% among adult inpatients, and 43% among high users of inpatient services. BPD has been confirmed in 22.6% of general psychiatric outpatients in a study employing a two-phase self-report and interview assessment procedure. Patients with BPD have also been found to have a higher use of mental health care resources––across a range of treatment types––compared to patients with depression, as well as being highly prevalent in primary care settings.