Despite increasing knowledge of the prevalence of borderline personality disorder (BPD) in the general population, and rising awareness of mental disorders both as a categorical and a dimensional construct, research is still lacking on the prevalence of the number of BPD symptoms and their associated consequences, such as comorbidity, disability, and the use of mental health services) in the general population.
Data were obtained from the second wave of the Netherlands Mental Health Survey and Incidence Study-2 (N = 5303), a nationally representative face-to-face survey of the general population. BPD symptoms were measured by means of questions from the International Personality Disorder Examination. Comorbidity of common mental disorders was assessed with the Composite International Diagnostic Interview version 3.0.
Of the total population studied, 69.9 % reported no BPD symptoms, while 25.2 % had 1-2 symptoms, 3.8 % had 3-4 symptoms, and 1.1 % had ≥ 5 BPD symptoms. The number of BPD symptoms reported was found to be positively associated with not living with a partner, having no paid job, and/or having a comorbid mood, anxiety or substance use disorder. Even after adjustment for sociodemographic characteristics and comorbidity, the number of BPD symptoms turned out to be uniquely associated with disability. It also showed a positive relationship with using services for dealing with mental health problems, although this relationship was strongly affected by the presence of comorbid disorders.
Because even a relatively low number of BPD symptoms appears to be associated with psychiatric comorbidity and functional disability, not only full-blown BPD but also subthreshold levels of BPD symptoms need to be identified in clinical practice and research.