Diagnosing borderline personality disorder in adolescence – an evidence summary

Headspace National Youth Mental Health Foundation, Australia

This evidence summary details the current research literature on diagnosing Borderline Personality Disorder in adolescence.

‘Mental health professionals often believe that the current diagnostic systems in psychiatry (e.g. DSM-IV-TR; 5) do not allow them to diagnose personality disorders prior to age 18. This is incorrect. DSM-IV-TR (5) allows for the diagnosis of PDs in adolescence if the symptoms are severe enough to persistently interfere with the individual’s daily functioning for one year or longer.’

The evidence summary covers the following topics:

  • ‘What is a personality disorder?’
  • ‘Is it permissible to diagnose personality disorders in adolescents?’
  • ‘What is Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)?’
  • ‘How prevalent is it in adolescent populations?’
  • ‘Can BPD be distinguished from ‘normal’ adolescent behaviour?’
  • ‘Is it valid to diagnose BPD in adolescence?’
  • ‘Can a diagnosis of BPD in adolescence be harmful?
  • ‘What is the prognosis for adolescence with BPD?’
  • ‘What does this mean for mental health professionals who work with young people?’

headspace Evidence Summaries are prepared by the Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health. The series aims to highlight for service providers the research evidence and best practices for the care of young people with mental health and substance abuse problems. The content is based on the best available evidence and has been appraised for quality. The authors would like to thank members of the headspace Youth National Reference Group for their input on this Evidence Summary.

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