Although BPD and ADHD are separate diagnoses, they share some overlapping symptoms, namely impulsiveness and difficulty regulating emotions.

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a mental health condition that causes intense and unstable emotions. People with BPD may have issues regulating emotions, leading to impulsive actions and chaotic relationships. Individuals with the condition may also have other mental health conditions, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Symptoms of ADHD often begin during childhood. They include problems with focus, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. People with ADHD may have difficulty paying attention, sitting still, or controlling their impulses.

This article explores the link between ADHD and BPD and the treatments available for these conditions.

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BPD and ADHD are two separate mental health diagnoses that may share some overlapping symptoms. Some people may also have both, which doctors refer to as comorbidity.

Doctors classify BPD as a personality disorder. It results in marked impulsivity and a pattern of instability in a person’s relationships and self-image.

Conversely, ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder, meaning it is due to issues in the brain. It begins during childhood and results in difficulties focusing and impulsive behavior.

Doctors are unsure of the exact cause of either BPD or ADHD, but it is likely due to a combination of factors. The causes of ADHD are likely genetics and changes in brain function and structure. The causes of BPD may include:

  • genetics
  • unbalanced brain chemicals
  • problems with brain development
  • environmental factors such as trauma or neglect

It seems there is a significant link between BPD diagnoses in adults and a history of childhood ADHD symptoms. This may suggest that ADHD is a developmental risk factor for BPD.

BPD and ADHD have several overlapping symptoms, which are often more severe in BPD. They include:

  • impulsivity
  • problems regulating emotions
  • difficulties with interpersonal interactions and relationships
  • low self-esteem

Emotional dysregulation is a primary symptom of BPD, and doctors now recognize this as an important syndrome in adult ADHD.

Although both BPD and ADHD may involve struggles with impulsivity, there are differences in how this presents. For example, individuals with BPD may have difficulties with appropriate responses when stressed and may direct this into self-harm. Conversely, people with ADHD may have issues with focusing and impatience, talking over people, and interrupting others.

Another difference between the conditions is that a lack of attention, or attention deficit, is a core symptom of ADHD but not BPD.

Yes, it is possible to have BPD and ADHD simultaneously. However, the prevalence of ADHD is around 5%, while for BPD, it is around 1–6%.

Experts estimate that around 14% of individuals with an ADHD diagnosis in childhood later receive a diagnosis of BPD. Also, prevalence rates suggest that 18–34% of adults with ADHD also have BPD.

Impulsivity is a feature of both BPD and ADHD, and impulsivity levels seem highest in people with both disorders. Therefore, experts believe that impulsivity is a characteristic of BPD independent of ADHD. Previously, doctors had assumed that it was a symptom of underlying ADHD.

Difficulties regulating emotions are symptoms of both disorders. However, people with ADHD have the least difficulty regulating emotions, followed by those with BPD, and lastly, individuals with both.

Overall, people with both conditions appear to have more intense symptoms, but more research is necessary to understand how BPD and ADHD interplay.

Medication and psychotherapy are treatment options for both conditions, although specific recommendations may differ between BPD and ADHD.


Doctors usually recommend psychotherapy as the first-line treatment for BPD. Experts developed dialectical behavioral therapy specifically for individuals with BPD. It uses mindfulness to help people become aware of their emotions, control them, and reduce self-destructive behaviors.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is another option for those with BPD and ADHD. It can help individuals identify and change their beliefs and behaviors. In addition, it may reduce mood swings and urges to self-harm.

If doctors diagnose a child with ADHD, they may recommend therapy geared toward the child’s parents or caregivers. These include family therapy and parent skill training. The child may also benefit from certain accommodations in school, such as additional time for exams and tailored support in classes.


Experts have not yet established the benefits of medication for BPD. However, a psychiatrist may recommend medications for specific symptoms such as mood swings or depression.

Doctors commonly use medications for ADHD to reduce hyperactivity and help people focus. However, they may need to prescribe several different medications or dosages before finding one that works for the individual.

ADHD medications are either stimulants or nonstimulants. Stimulants increase dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, which helps people with thought processes and attention span. Doctors may prescribe nonstimulant medications if an individual has issues with stimulant medications. They take longer to work but can also improve focus and attention.

If a person thinks that they or their child has BPD or ADHD, it is important to seek professional help. A psychiatrist can conduct various tests and assessments to confirm a diagnosis.

Studies have shown that the outcome of conditions, such as BPD, improves with an early diagnosis. Doctors can then consider the best interventions to improve the individual’s symptoms and quality of life.

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are both recognized mental health conditions. However, BPD is a personality disorder, while ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder. Although they are separate diagnoses, there are some overlapping symptoms, and an individual may have both conditions.

Impulsivity, difficulty regulating emotions, and relationship issues are characteristics of both conditions. However, they may materialize differently and are often more severe in BPD.

Although BPD and ADHD are potentially challenging conditions, numerous treatment options are available. Doctors may recommend a combination of psychotherapy and medications to ease symptoms and help people live a full life.