Sexuality and sexual health among female youth with borderline personality disorder pathology

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Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a severe mental disorder that is characterized by unstable relationships, impulsive behaviours and identity disturbance. BPD usually has its onset between puberty and young adulthood and presents disproportionately among females in clinical settings. Taken together, this makes young women with BPD a particularly vulnerable group with regard to healthy psychosexual development. It was hypothesized that female youth with BPD pathology would be more likely to score worse on measures of sexual health and safety, and to show greater uncertainty in sexual identity formation.


Fifty 15 to 24 yr-old females with 3 or more Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-IV) BPD criteria were compared with 204 females from a nationally representative sample. Both groups were interviewed using a comprehensive interview for sexual health and relationships. The patient group completed a structured diagnostic interview.


Young women with borderline personality pathology engaged in sexual relationships at a younger age, with more sexual partners in the previous year, in more casual relationships. They were more likely to practice unsafe sex for their first sexual experience, to be coerced into unwanted sexual activity, to be unclear about their sexual identity or their sexual attraction, and to report worse overall health status.


BPD pathology in youth is associated with poor sexual health and safety, and uncertainty in sexual identity formation. These findings support the need for assessment of the sexuality and sexual health of youth with BPD, along with the need for routine screening in sexual health services for BPD features among high-risk youth.

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