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Borderline Schizophrenia 101 – Definition, Symptoms, Diagnosis

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There is a spectrum of psychotic disorders which involves schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, schizotypal personality disorder, psychosis due to drug abuse, and brief psychotic experiences.

Borderline schizophrenia
does not refer to an established or formal diagnosis of any documented type of this mental illness. Instead, it may refer to individuals who might be formally diagnosed with residual or undifferentiated type symptoms. There may also be parallels between schizophrenia and borderline personality disorder. If you hear a doctor or friend use this term, it might be important if you can clearly find out exactly what it means.

Borderline Personality Disorder Compared To Schizophrenia

According to a government publication published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information, some individuals may be diagnosed with both borderline personality disorder (BPD) and schizophrenia. Others may have only one diagnosis but could share symptoms.

A study was conducted to compare differences and similarities in symptoms and prior experiences. That study was documented in the government report. This information might be used to develop better treatment programs for people on both ends of the spectrum.

  • 111 Patients participated in this study.
  • 59 of them met the criteria for schizophrenia, 33 for BPD, and 19 for both schizophrenia and borderline personality disorder.
  • The groups did share some symptoms of their perception of audio hallucinations but differed in the frequency of these symptoms.
  • Those with a BPD diagnosis reported more cases of childhood abuse and trauma than the group with only a schizophrenia diagnosis.

Borderline Personality Disorder is a very different illness than schizophrenia, though some individuals may be diagnosed with both. Typically, individuals with BPD are very unstable in their relationships, emotions, and perception of themselves and others. Their mood swings often shift between anxiety and anger or anxiety and depression.

Some patients may experience brief psychotic episodes, but that is not a major indicator for diagnosis as it is in many subtypes of schizophrenia. Because of this, many people who are now diagnosed with this malady were originally diagnosed with other mental illnesses. Like schizophrenia, BPD might stem from a combination of genetic, traumatic, brain development, and environmental factors. It is generally treated with psychotherapy and medications for specific symptoms.

As an interesting aside, some psychiatrists argue that the Star Wars character of Anakin Skywalker (Darth Vader) may provide a model to explain symptoms of BPD. This character displays abandonment issues, uncertainty over his real identity, and disassociated episodes. One other popular movie character that has been described as having BPD is The Cable Guy.

Bottom line is, it is essential to recognize the similarities and differences between these two conditions, regardless if the person is diagnosed with only one or both so that proper treatment can be provided.

Borderline Schizophrenia Symptoms

Since borderline schizophrenia is not a formal diagnosis, it would certainly be difficult to define the exact symptoms of afflicted people without getting more clarity on what this means in a particular context. Without that information, it is helpful to consider the symptoms of the formal schizophrenia types that this term might refer to.

Two of the five formal subtypes, according to the DSM-IV-TR are:

  • Undifferentiated Type: In this case, psychotic symptoms are present. But symptoms are milder so patients do not meet the criteria for one of the other more severe types of this disease. In this case, symptoms may fluctuate, so it is difficult to place them in one of the other categories.
  • Residual Type: Symptoms are present, but at a low level. To be diagnosed with the residual subtype of schizophrenia, patients must have had a psychotic episode in the past. This may be a period when these patients are fully or partially recovering, or it may last a long time on its own.

In addition, the ICD-10 also includes another possible type that might be informally referred to as borderline schizophrenia:

  • Simple Schizophrenia: The classification of simple schizophrenia is not used in the U.S. system, though it has been recommended for reconsideration. An individual with this diagnosis exhibits many behavior traits of schizophrenic people, such as listlessness, self-absorption, and a withdrawal into fantasy. But these patients do not exhibit hallucinations or other psychotic symptoms. In the U.S., these individuals may have another formal diagnosis.

Borderline Schizophrenia Diagnosis

Right now, there is no formal diagnosis of borderline schizophrenia in the U.S. This informal phrase may be a more colloquial term that refers to patients who are afflicted with some symptoms, but not so severely that they lose total their ability to function. It might also refer to individuals who do display symptoms, but to a lesser degree than those who can be easily placed into a more formal category. It might also refer to individuals who have been diagnosed with two mental illnesses, like borderline personality disorder and schizophrenia. These individuals are on the “borderline” between two illnesses.

Did Somebody Tell You They Were Borderline Schizophrenic?

In case you know of someone close that has borderline schizophrenia, your best bet is to have them deliberate on their symptoms. While taking care not to be offensive or inconsiderate to their feelings, ask that they describe their symptoms closely.

Secondly, ask how you would best support them. If their answer is vague or if they do not know do some research. Typically, in most cases of mental disorders, the best approach is to pay as much attention to the person as possible without making them uncomfortable or intruding on their personal time/space.

Lastly, advise that they should seek the help of a professional. Make sure they trust you and assure them that there’s no shame in seeking actual help.

Final Thoughts on Borderline Schizophrenia

BPD is a very different diagnosis than schizophrenia, though the two can co-exist. While BPD is characterized by a pattern of uncertainty in interpersonal relationships, schizophrenia is characterized by a variety of cognitive, behavioral, and emotional dysfunctions.

If this article has helped you better understand schizophrenia and its related symptoms, make a point to show it to people whom it might actually help. Remember that our guide is offered as-is and we do not take responsibility for those who follow what we said here. Professional medical help must always come first. Don’t hesitate to drop us a word or two – maybe it’ll make someone else reading this feel less alone.

If you, or someone you know, are characterized as having “borderline schizophrenia,” it could lead towards mild symptoms, unclear signs, or a combination of symptoms. The best thing you can do is to ask clarification from a licensed professional for a proper assessment of your mental health.



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