Co-Occurring Disorders


A Foundation for Understanding


Understanding the scope and scale of Borderline Disorder - what it is and what it may mean for people around someone suffering from the Disorder - is a significant undertaking. This is made more challenging by the potential for co-occurring disorders, emphasizing the importance of working with a well-versed mental health professional through your and your loved one’s journey. Truly understanding how Borderline Disorder may be impacting someone’s life will require patience, listening and a degree of doggedness. 

Mental health professionals use the term co-occurring to describe when two or more mental health or substance abuse disorders occur at the same time. This potential for co-occurrence is part of what can make Borderline Disorder so difficult to diagnose. 

In some cases, the presence of two or more co-occurring disorders may mimic Borderline Disorder. In other cases, the existence of co-occurring disorders may distract from the presence of Borderline Disorder. Either of these could result in an initial misdiagnosis, impacting the success of a person’s treatment. This also emphasizes the guidance mental health professionals receive in the American Psychiatric Association’s Fifth Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to document “that the pattern of behavior [related to Borderline Disorder] had an early onset and long-standing course.”

None of this is meant to be discouraging. On the contrary, personal understanding is a process, and taking the time to learn about the full extent of the disorders that may be affecting a person’s life will help them be better prepared to live with those complexities. Living with Borderline Disorder is less a rush for answers than having the right level of understanding required to make decisions that achieve the optimal results. Knowing which co-occurring disorders might be present, and how they might interact with each other in different ways, will help you and your loved one on your journey.

 Some disorders that commonly co-occur with Borderline Disorder include:

  • Depressive Disorder
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder
  • Alcohol and Substance-Related Disorders
  • Panic and Anxiety Disorders
  • Eating Disorders
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Though not an all-inclusive list, the above can give you a sense of how difficult it can be to define the presence and impacts of Borderline Disorder against the static and noise of other disorders. Knowing the specific disorders most likely to occur with Borderline Disorder may help people learn and understand more about themselves and about how they perceive and respond to things in their life. Asking questions and being prepared to discuss the existence of potential co-occurring disorders positions an individual to both advocate for themselves and take greater responsibility for their care. 

The presence of co-occurring disorders emphasizes the shared need for perseverance - for families, for professionals, and for people suffering from Borderline Disorder. It will likely take time, working with a skilled professional, to determine the full nature of an individual's unique condition. This work may help clinical professionals better define how the disorders impact a person as a whole, setting up a better structured treatment path for their future.

Understanding yourself is complicated. So is the nature of Borderline Disorder, especially when combined with the presence of co-occurring disorders. With support and compassion for yourself and people with the Disorder, you can look at co-occurring disorders not as seperate parts of a condition but as a better understanding of the whole person.


Sources Cited:

  • Friedel, Robert O. “Borderline Personality Disorder Demystified |.” Borderline Personality Disorder Demystified, 10 Feb. 2018,
  • American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-5. American Psychiatric Publishing, 2014.
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Report to Congress on Borderline Personality Disorder. May 2011.