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What is a Borderline Personality Disorder Test?

By Greer Hed
Updated May 17, 2024
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A borderline personality disorder test is an evaluation used to diagnose borderline personality disorder. This personality disorder is classified as a dramatic personality disorder, along with antisocial, histrionic, and narcissistic personality types. The borderline personality disorder test is based on criteria found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), published by the American Psychiatric Association, and is usually administered by a mental health professional. Each test usually consists of a series of questions with "yes" or "no" answers, or a series of statements with which the patient can either agree or disagree. If the patient's answers indicate five or more symptoms of borderline personality, then he may be diagnosed accordingly.

Borderline personality disorder receives its name because it was once believed that people suffering from the disorder were on the "borderline" of psychosis. Actually, the disorder is much more similar to bipolar disorder, as it is typified by drastic mood swings and behavioral extremes. Some typical symptoms that medical health professionals look for when diagnosing the disorder include moodiness, brief but extreme episodes of depression or anxiety, risk-taking and impulsiveness, inappropriate emotional reactions or difficulty controlling emotional responses, and a profound, often irrational, fear of being alone.

The most commonly administered borderline personality disorder test is called the Diagnostic Interview for Borderline Patients (DIB-R). DIB-R testing focuses on four categories: affect, cognition, impulse action patterns, and interpersonal relationships. The affect portion of the test assesses emotional well being, with a focus on depression, anxiety, and the feelings of self-loathing that are typical of the disorder. Questions in the cognition section are used to determine whether the patient has problems with perception, while the questions found in the impulse action pattern section assess the patient's willingness to take unnecessary risks and act impulsively. Interpersonal relationships are assessed, as well, to determine whether the patient's personal life is in constant upheaval.

In 1997, another test called the Structured Clinical Interview (SCID-II) came into usage. While the DIB-R must be administered by a mental health professional, a patient can self-administer the SCID-II. Another general personality disorder test, called the Personality Disorder Beliefs Questionnaire (PDBQ), is a self-diagnostic tool only. It is the shortest and least formal test, with some versions available online.

Unfortunately, borderline personality is one of the most difficult personality disorders to diagnose, and the results of a borderline personality disorder test may be unclear. This is because the disorder is often vaguely defined, and shares many symptoms with other disorders found in the dramatic personality cluster. Additionally, some of the symptoms of the disorder, such as a poorly defined self-image, are often common among children and adolescents, so a borderline personality disorder test administered before adulthood will probably be inconclusive.

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