Borderline personality disorder (BPD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are both considered neurocognitive conditions.
You can have BPD and ADHD at the same time, and both conditions share impulsive behavior as a symptom. Some research suggests that these conditions share certain risk factors as well.
Both conditions can be managed with effective treatment strategies. But, if you have both ADHD and BPD, you may need to adapt your treatment so that you can address all of your symptoms.
Let’s take a look at what we know about the connection between ADHD and BPD.
According to some studies,
People who have both conditions also have difficulty regulating their emotions, according to the review.
- ADHD symptoms only
- BPD symptoms and ADHD symptoms of hyperactivity
- BPD symptoms and ADHD symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity
- BPD symptoms and ADHD symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity
The study identified “high novelty seeking” as a personality trait all these groups have in common. This personality trait can also be described as “thrill-seeking”. But essentially it means a tendency to pursue lots of new experiences that have a high risk or reward and provoke a lot of emotion.
Women in the study who had both BPD and ADHD scored high in harm avoidance and low on cooperativeness and self-directedness (or executive functioning).
The two conditions appear to share some genetic components. Also, the environmental trigger for BPD is often trauma or negative childhood experiences, which can be linked to ADHD. There’s also a possibility of misdiagnosis since symptoms of BPD during childhood may resemble ADHD.
Can ADHD meds make BPD worse?
There’s some concern that commonly prescribed medications for ADHD, particularly stimulants, can worsen BPD symptoms.
A symptom of BPD is emotional dysregulation, and stimulants may make it even harder to regulate your emotions. However, there isn’t a lot of research to address this conclusively.
Since some people with ADHD have BPD, more studies are needed to understand how ADHD treatment can affect BPD symptoms.
If you have been prescribed medication for ADHD, make sure your doctor is fully aware of your health history, including BPD or other mental health conditions.
You should speak with your healthcare professional if you feel the medication you’re taking is increasing your BPD symptoms.
ADHD and BPD can have a serious impact on your life. Anyone who has ADHD, BPD, or both can benefit from treatment strategies. But it’s important to note that these conditions have important differences.
BPD can be characterized by patterns of emotional intensity. Some common signs and symptoms of BPD include:
- fear of abandonment
- avoidance of pain
- intense and unstable relationships
- shifting moods
For many people, untreated BPD can be a condition that makes daily tasks difficult and healthy relationships hard to maintain.
ADHD can impact your ability to organize your life and complete tasks.
ADHD can have an effect on your relationships, your academic career, your workplace success, and your self-esteem.
But at its core, ADHD is more than how you see yourself, it’s a neurodevelopmental condition that affects how the brain manages emotions, motor movements, and attention.
If your ADHD symptoms are not severe, you may be able to manage them without medication or medical treatment. This is not necessarily the case with BPD. Both of these conditions can be diagnosed by a mental health professional.
Sometimes there can be a stigma around BPD, ADHD, and some of the medications treating them. But you should never feel ashamed to get the care you need. Mental health conditions need treatment just like physical conditions.
You should talk with your doctor or a therapist if you experience:
- regular difficulty focusing on day-to-day tasks
- difficulty regulating your attention or intense emotions
- fear of abandonment that impacts your relationships
Treatments for BPD and ADHD may include:
When to seek emergency care
You should seek treatment right away if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- desire for or completed acts of self-harm
- suicidal thoughts
Remember that you can call the number 988 in the United States (or chat with someone online) at any time to connect with a crisis counselor for free. They’ll be able to listen and help you find other resources in your area to support you.
You’re not alone.
Other toll-free lifelines that may be useful are:
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255
- Trans Lifeline: 877-565-8860. You can also visit Trans Lifeline’s website.
- The Trevor Project: 866-488-7386. You can also visit The Trevor Project’s website.
- Call Blackline: 800-604-5841. You can also visit Call Blackline’s website.
- Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741-741
ADHD and BPD have overlapping symptoms. Some people have both conditions.
Researchers think that having ADHD as a child can be an indicator that you’ll develop BPD as an adult.
But having ADHD doesn’t automatically mean you have BPD. More research is needed on the connection between these two conditions.
If you do have both conditions, make sure your doctor and mental health team know about your overlapping symptoms. Treatments are available for BPD and ADHD to help you live a full and healthy life.