It is difficult to accurately diagnose borderline disorder in children because similar symptoms can develop into one of several diseases that the child develops. However, the disorder can be diagnosed in adolescence or early adulthood, although there are indications of significant behavioural problems before the full form of the disorder becomes evident.
Some children seem to have symptoms that are very similar to borderline teens and adults. Parents of some border patients report that they detected the problems as early as the first year of life. Affected babies appear to have more “colic”, cry more, have a reduced ability to experience pleasure, sleep less peacefully, are more easily upset by changes in routine, and are more difficult to calm down when nervous.
In early childhood, children who are later diagnosed with BPD are often described as being more demanding and requiring more attention than their brothers and sisters. Some seem to worry more, have more episodes of sadness, are more sensitive to criticism, continue to be more easily disturbed by changes in routine or plans, and are more easily irritated. They are more easily frustrated and when this happens they can have severe tantrums. Some have great difficulty leaving home to attend school, and under stress, they may show physical symptoms such as pulling small strands of their hair, frequent stomach pains, headaches, eating problems, and an abnormal sleep pattern.
Despite these reports from parents, the fact is that we really don’t know much about what people with borderline disorder were like as children. There are relatively few articles in the medical literature on the characteristics of BPD in children, and there is a lack of clear consensus on the presence and diagnostic criteria of the disease during childhood.
A number of different behavioural descriptions have been developed to diagnose children with BPD. However, they seem to more accurately define children who later in life will develop a range of different mental disorders, including borderline and other personality disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and substance use disorders.
In general, these are the groups of symptoms in children that suggest a significant problem may be present and require an evaluation and, eventually, treatment:
- Hyper-reactive emotions with severe outbursts of temper
- Poor impulse control, especially acts against oneself or others
- Difficulty rationalizing and limited thinking
- Personal relationships marked by disturbances
It is advisable to see a specialist therapist when these symptoms are present and do be aware that there are countless other things that may result in the same symptoms showing.