When you hear the term borderline personality disorder, what comes to mind? For many, a split personality is envisioned, and for others, someone on the borderline of madness is. However, are either of these true?

Actually, in many ways, both of these hold true. However, and at the same time, neither are true. So what really defines BPD? Actually, there are a number of signs. Furthermore, according to the latest diagnostic manual for psychology, if you have five out of the nine, you qualify for diagnoses. But, please be advised that this guide is not for self-diagnosis. Rather, it’s a guideline to help others understand what makes the borderline personality.

1. Unstable Sense of Self Image

This could quite possibly be one of the hardest symptoms for me personally. Basically, what this means, is that I have a hard time identifying who I am. For many, it could seem as though I am a perpetual teen stuck in a variety of phases that I swap from on the daily. For me, it feels like I am a chameleon that’s colors constantly change depending on my mood/environment.

2. Self-Harming/Suicidal Behaviors

All of my life I have had problems with this. Even as a child, I would bite myself, or hit myself when I became angry. As an adult, I have cut myself, scratched myself, beaten myself and burned myself. Other times, I grow to be so overwhelmed with the pain of existence, that I sabotage myself or fantasize about suicide. I have tried to kill myself more times than I can count, and while I truly do want to die, most of the time, it was a cry for help.

3. Impulsive and Risky Behavior

I can be so impulsive sometimes. Well, honestly, most days I am impulsive. Even when I try to slow myself down, I can impulsively shop, drive erratically, drink, etc. In the past, I have done much harm to my life because of how reckless I can be. This is the reason many sufferers of BPD binge eat or eat very little, abuse drugs, engage in illegal activities and even put themselves in harm’s way.

4. Rollercoaster Like Emotions

I can be angry one moment, happy the next, anxious after that and then elated. This is a cycle that can continue throughout any given day. And at the drop of a dime, my mood changes.

5. Fear of Abandonment (Perceived or Real)

Those who suffer from BPD may experience a fear of being abandoned or being left alone. Even a small separation from a significant other, like a vacation or weekend away, can trigger the person with BPD to act irrationally to avoid being alone.

6. Unstable Interpersonal Relationships

People with BPD typically fall in love quickly, and quite hard. However, if they find out the other person isn’t as grandiose as they made them out to be, they become quickly disappointed. This can lead to a never-ending cycle of friends, family, and loved ones coming in and going out of your life.

7. Feelings of Emptiness

Sometimes, it feels as though there is a void inside of me that could never be filled. It is the loneliest feeling in the world, and nothing makes it go away.

8. Explosive Bursts of Anger

While I may be fine in one moment, in the next, the smallest thing can set me off into a fit of rage like no other. It’s terrifying to me and to others.

9. Mild Psychosis or Paranoia

For some, this symptom can play out as just being overly-paranoid about other people and their intentions. For others, it may play out as feeling out of touch with reality, which is what many refer to as disassociation. Oftentimes, I feel as though I am not real, and that I am in a simulated reality on auto-pilot. It may sound crazy, but it is honestly how I feel.