The concept of borderline personality disorder (BPD) seems to include, almost by definition, the idea that people described by the term are difficult to help. The broad picture portrayed by the diagnostic criteria (Box 1) is likely to be familiar to most clinicians and to cause the hearts of many to sink. A core issue for those with BPD is difficulty of relationship, and this will inevitably – even especially – include clinical and therapeutic relationship. It is all too common for distress to be met with much therapeutic effort but for little to change. Indeed, there is often a nagging sense that attempts at treatment may be making matters worse. The care of people with BPD presents an important challenge to mental health services. At the individual level, the patient continues to be at risk and to suffer and the clinician feels frustrated. At the service level, substantial resources may be expended to little apparent benefit.
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