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Borderline Personality Disorder

Is There a Positive Side to Borderline Personality Disorder?

Here are some potential strengths and advantages of BPD.

Key points

  • Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is among the most stigmatized of mental illnesses.
  • There is a focus on the negative aspects of BPD, though many myths and stereotypes surround the condition.
  • There are, however, potential strengths and advantages to having BPD.

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), also known as emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD), is a serious condition. It is also a heavily stigmatized one. BPD is probably among the most stigmatized of mental illnesses, partly because of the myths and stereotypes surrounding it. Some people tend to demonize those with BPD, labeling sufferers as manipulative, unstable, and dangerous individuals with Jekyll and Hyde personas. Furthermore, much discussion about the disorder focuses on its negative aspects, including the signs and symptoms that can impede a person’s quality of life.

Fortunately, a modern-day diagnosis of BPD, while a serious personality disorder, does not mean an individual is unable to function in society. While BPD is a challenging condition that requires a long-term commitment to treatment, when the individual is in remission, there are potential interpersonal strengths and advantages to having BPD. When the condition is kept in check, the hallmark negative traits of the condition can come with positive ones, as well.

Positive traits of BPD

Those with BPD tend to be highly sensitive to their own emotions and feelings. They also have a tendency to be in tune with the emotions and feelings of others. For instance, several studies have found that people with BPD may be able to read facial expressions and emotions better than those without the condition. This can make them incredibly empathetic, because they can feel what someone else is going through. They can leverage these traits to be understanding and perceptive, and also sympathetic and compassionate people. Linked to having a deep emotional connection is that those with BPD often have a flair for creative endeavors. One way of dealing with their internal turmoil is to channel it into art, music, writing, or another form of creativity. As a low level of dissociation, they are prone to daydreaming and fantasizing, which can aid creative pursuits. People with BPD can be charismatic types, too. They are often described as charming, alluring, and interesting people who are approachable and fun to be around.

Even some characteristics that are traditionally perceived as negative can translate to something positive in certain contexts. A prominent feature of BPD is identity disturbance, in which individuals have an unstable sense of self. Their goals, beliefs, appearance, and actions are constantly changing because they might not know "who they really are." The flip side of such identity issues is that these people tend to be flexible, adaptable, and open-minded.

Some traits can further be exploited as useful occupational skills. A core sign of BPD is a fear of abandonment, which can take the form of people-pleasing. A desire to please isn’t always a good thing, however in the context of the workplace, this can be harnessed as having good interpersonal skills. Finally, impulsivity is a common characteristic of BPD. It can often be a reckless and destructive trait, but in the workplace, this can be reframed as being bold, confident, and a risk-taker.

Of course, we must remain aware that symptoms such as these can, under adverse conditions, cause harm to the sufferer and those around them. This is why treatment is critical.

Overcoming guilt and stigma

This isn’t an exhaustive list of potentially positive traits that can go along with the negative ones common to BPD. Others report that those with BPD can also be loyal, resilient, and passionate people.

This article doesn't intend to downplay the gravity of a diagnosis of BPD. This diagnosis can, however, come with a lot of negativity, so it’s vital to be able to see this condition in a more positive light. These good qualities can help counter some misconceptions and go a long way to alleviate the guilt and stigma surrounding BPD. Its potentially positive aspects can often be identified through Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), the gold standard of psychotherapy for people with BPD. DBT helps these people to learn skills to better understand themselves and their emotional triggers. BPD can be challenging for sufferers and their loved ones, although with appropriate therapy, people with this disorder can use their ‘powers’ for good. Knowing that there are potential positives to having BPD can also help them cope with their condition and find self-acceptance.

To find a therapist near you, visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.


Domes G, Czieschnek D, Weidler F, Berger C, Fast K, Herpertz SC. Recognition of facial affect in borderline personality disorder. Journal of Personality Disorders. 2008;22:135–147.

Fertuck EA, Jekal A, Song I, Wyman B, Morris MC, Wilson ST, Brodsky BS, Stanley B. Enhanced 'Reading the Mind in the Eyes' in borderline personality disorder compared to healthy controls. Psychol Med. 2009 Dec;39(12):1979-88. doi: 10.1017/S003329170900600X. Epub 2009 May 22. PMID: 19460187; PMCID: PMC3427787.

Lynch TR, Rosenthal MZ, Kosson DS, Cheavens JS, Lejuez CW, Blair RJR. Heightened sensitivity to facial expressions of emotion in borderline personality disorder. Emotion. 2006;6:647–655.

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