Emotional Intensity Disorder: The New Name for Borderline Personality Disorder?

There has been talk for quite some time about changing the name of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Experts believe it is an inaccurate term for the disorder, and sufferers complain of being stigmatized because of it.

When BPD was first being diagnosed, it was thought to be a borderline condition between neurosis and psychosis, which is how the name came to be. Psychologists later realized that wasn’t the case, but the name stayed.

The “borderline” label can be stigmatizing for people suffering from the psychiatric disorder because people make different assumptions about the term. It also suggests that the person’s personality is flawed, which can be upsetting to people with an already unstable sense of self.

“I think a lot of people don’t understand what BPD is, and the word ‘borderline’ isn’t clear to most,” says Nikki Instone, PhD. “If changing the name to something that more people can relate to helps them understand the nature of the disorder, then I’m all for it.”

Emotional Intensity Disorder a Popular Choice among Patients

In a survey, the following names were nominated by clinicians and patients as possible substitutes for Borderline Personality Disorder:

  • Emotional Regulation Disorder
  • Emotional Dysregulation Disorder
  • Emotional Intensity Disorder
  • Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder
  • Impulsive Personality Disorder
  • Impulsive-Emotional Dysregulation Disorder

Patients preferred Emotional Intensity Disorder while clinicians primarily opted for Emotional Regulation Disorder. However, the working group of the revision to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) proposed the name Borderline Type.

Emotional Regulation Disorder and Emotional Intensity Disorder are more accurate terms because they reflect the real symptoms associated with the disorder: emotional dysregulation, impulsive behavior, and cognitive dysregulation.

“The name Emotional Intensity Disorder is fine. It seems to be a more accurate description of the disorder,” Instone says. “The key is the emotional instability that is often extreme, or intense.”

The Treatment and Research Advancements Association for Personality Disorders (TARA) is spearheading the movement to bring about the name change. It is also backed by Thomas Insel, MD, director of the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health.

What’s your preference on a new name for BPD?

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3 Responses to “Emotional Intensity Disorder: The New Name for Borderline Personality Disorder?”

  1. Simon Hubbard 11. Apr, 2012 at 3:59 pm #

    According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the name of this disorder is – Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder, Borderline Type. I would suggest that this IS descriptive of the illness. The experience of transient psychosis that some of us experience demonstrates that we are, indeed, right on the ‘borderline’. If people do not understand the word ‘borderline’, all they have to do is ask their doctor or just look it up! After all, the nature of most illnesses, mental and physical, is not obvious just from the name. The people that complain about the word ‘borderline’ are likely in denial about having the illness at all. Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder, Borderline Type is a diagnosis I’m comfortable with (as are many of my peers). So, please stop this silly debate and redirect your time and your energy into helping us come to terms with the huge impact we are faced with day-in, day-out. Thanks – Simon.

  2. Shane Jopling 20. Nov, 2014 at 8:41 pm #

    Right, well I personally do not have this condition, I am in a relationship with someone who does, and find that the “Personality Disorder” part of the diagnosis very misleading. Well she does experience extreme emotional reactions, both positive and negative, her personality its self is, when all said and done, not part of the condition at all. Her mood and emotions can swing rapidly, but her likes, dislikes, points of view and other things that make up someone’s personality are no more unstable then my own or that of anyone else I know. The name well misleading, if someone doesn’t know the condition or bother trying to find out, is really only a minor point, I think the somewhat larger issue really is that barely anyone (at least unless they know someone that has it or have it them selves) actually knows what it is, if it, and its effects were more widely known then the name its self would be unimportant.

    And by the way, calling it “emotional intensity disorder” or something like that isn’t going to reduce the confusion any, people will just think its a fancy term for emo, or something else, because when it comes down to it, a lot of people choose to believe that which takes the least effort to make sense of, so rather then argue over the name, how about just teach people what it means.

    Thanks for your time.


  3. Kristin 08. Feb, 2016 at 3:05 pm #

    I have this disorder, and I personally do prefer Emotional Intensity Disorder. I have over the years changed my views and that as any other person does as they age. It is simply my emotions that make life difficult, and dealing with those emotions with the particular views and morals that I have. Thank you for this opportunity to voice my opinion.

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