Can borderline personality and college mix? People with borderline personality disorder (BPD) are uniquely vulnerable to stressful situations, so the transition into college can be particularly challenging for young adults with BPD. But, is it possible for someone with BPD to be successful in college?
The short answer is, "yes." Young adults with BPD can successfully complete a college degree. Studies do suggest that a small percentage of college students have BPD (more research is needed to determine the exact figure), and there is anecdotal evidence that many go on to graduate and have successful careers. There are, of course, some sources of stress in college that can impact people with BPD, so there are a few caveats to keep in mind.
First, the transition into college (even if you are attending from home) can be very difficult for anyone, let alone someone with BPD. College coursework is far more challenging than high school coursework, and there is less supervision to keep you on track. As a result, people with BPD can be affected by the stress more than other people might.
College usually happens at a time that is already difficult for someone with BPD. Often, people attend college in their late teens and early twenties, when they are forming their identity and seeking out more intimate relationships. These are two phases of life that can trigger problems if you have BPD and struggle with identity issues and chaotic relationships.
Finally, there is often a culture of alcohol and drug use on college campuses. You may struggle with impulse control, which may make you more susceptible to substance abuse in this environment. In addition to this, substances can further disinhibit your behavior, leading to risky situations.
Because college is such a potentially difficult time, your best bet is to be be in a good treatment program before and during your transition into college. Therapy can help you negotiate the stress, manage your relationships, explore identity issues, and control impulsive behavior. A therapist can also help guide you in your decision to attend college, and whether the timing is right for you.
Draper MR, Faulkner GE. "Counseling a Student Presenting Borderline Personality Disorder in the Small College Context: Case Study and Implications." Journal of College Counseling, 12:85-96, 2009.
Song D, Fu W, Kong M, Sun X. "The Prevalence of Borderline Personality Disorder in College Students." Chinese Journal of Clinical Psychology, 17(3):342-344, 2009.