Borderline Personality Disorder Lying and Stealing (A Complete Guide)

In this guide we’ll be covering Borderline Personality Disorder. Specifically, we will be looking at lying and stealing behaviours in this disorder. We will also look at why these behaviours occur in Borderline Personality Disorder. 

Borderline Personality Disorder Lying and Stealing:

Borderline Personality Disorder is characterised by emptiness and a difficulty dealing with emotions and stress. This often prompts risky and impulsive behaviours such as lying, stealing, substance abuse and unsafe intimacy. 

Borderline Personality Disorder is not a well-understood disorder. A lot of research is still needed to identify what causes it and what it’s symptoms are. Nevertheless, some people believe that lying and stealing are common components of the disorder. 

The widely used diagnostic system for mental illnesses, the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Illnesses), does not include lying or stealing as symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder. However, this does not mean that people with this disorder don’t lie or aren’t susceptible to lying and stealing. In fact, a major issue reported by those who are close to people with this disorder is their tendency to lie. 

Borderline Personality Disorder:

Personality Disorders are a category of mental disorders involving disturbed patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving. They are long term conditions, usually emerging in adolescence or early adulthood. These disorders cause a significant amount of personal distress. 

The behaviours of people with personality disorders are not in keeping with the standards in their social and cultural contexts, such as lying and stealing. Due to this, people with personality disorders have trouble functioning in occupational and social contexts. 

Yet, people with personality disorders are convinced that their behaviour is normal, and believe others are responsible for their problems. Their whole worldview is out of keeping with those of the majority. 

The DSM divides personality disorders into three clusters. Cluster A includes Paranoid, Schizoid and Schizotypal personality disorder. Cluster C includes Avoidant, Dependent and Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. Cluster B includes Antisocial, Histrionic, Narcissistic and Borderline Personality Disorder. Cluster B disorders have a common core of emotional instability and impulsivity, which is why they are grouped together. 

Borderline Personality Disorder is characterised by a feeling of emptiness and fear of abandonment. People with this disorder have a disturbed self-image and are emotionally unstable. 

The mood of people with this disorder tend to shift in a rapid and unpredictable manner. Additionally, they find it difficult to return to normal when they feel upset or angry. They channel these intense emotions into impulsive behaviours like lying, stealing, risky intimate behaviour and other behaviours, self-harm or substance use. 

These behaviours serve as a way of soothing their intense feelings. However, in the long run, they can be detrimental to the mental and physical wellbeing of the person. 

Another characteristic of Borderline Personality Disorder is their tendency to engage in all or nothing or dichotomous thinking. This refers to viewing themselves, others and the world as either ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Thus, their perceptions shift rapidly between these two extremes and they are unable to have a balanced view of their experiences. 

This dichotomous thinking contributes to a highly unstable sense of self. Their trouble with consistency leads to instability in all areas of their lives. For instance, people with this disorder have a tendency to frequently change careers, relationships, goals, residences, preferences. 

These individuals are particularly likely to have relationship problems and usually have a string of unsuccessful relationships in their past. 

Lying in Borderline Personality Disorder:

Lying is commonly noted in Borderline Personality Disorder. The reasons for lying may vary, but it has a highly deleterious effect on their relationships. Friends, families and other loved ones no longer trust the person and they can suffer severe social isolation. 

This can hamper the support system that could help people with this disorder improve. The lying, and stealing, is not done with the intention to hurt others, but rather to deal with distress. 

There are numerous reasons for why people with this disorder lie. It could stem from feelings of shame or worthlessness. Alternatively, the person could actually believe their lies, owing to the skewed worldview that they possess. 

People with borderline personality disorder experience intense emotions and view their world through an emotional lens. They tend to forego rational thinking, and process information so that it confirms what they are feeling. In this case, they are not consciously lying, but genuinely believe their lies and misconceptions. 

Another characteristic of this disorder that leads to lying is impulsivity. Thus, lying may occur when a person says things without considering the consequences. Shame is also acute in Borderline Personality Disorder. Lying may be a defence against shame, which is intense in this disorder. Alternatively, people with this disorder fear rejection and may use lying as a way to hide their mistakes that may make others dislike them. 

Interestingly, Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) studies have shown that the prefrontal cortex is activated when people lie. The same area is responsible for social and emotional behaviour as well as personality. 

The lying that normal people do differs from the pathological lying seen in Borderline Personality Disorder. Pathological or compulsive lying is when lies are told without a clear objective and are usually indicative of an underlying mental disorder. People who engage in this form of lying are not usually aware of their lies or are capable of thinking rationally about them. 

In addition, to Borderline Personality Disorder, pathological lying is seen in other personality disorders too, such as Narcissistic and Antisocial Personality Disorder. People with Borderline Personality Disorder differ from those with other personality disorders to distort reality in a way that favours their feelings rather than factual evidence. They don’t lie for praise, personal gain or pleasure, as is the case with other personality disorders. 

In order to cope with pathological liars, it is important to remember that the person does not intend to cause any harm. Rather it is compulsive and something they lack control over. Pathological lying is usually a sign of an underlying mental illness, and requires treatment by a professional. 

If you’re facing this, it may be a good idea to seek the help of a therapist or other mental health professional. You can find a therapist at BetterHelp who can help you learn how to cope and address it.

Common lies people with Borderline Personality Disorder tell:

  • “I don’t need anyone” – Underlying feeling that others don’t care enough to be there for me. 
  • “I’m just tired” – Underlying anxiety and irritation.
  • “I don’t care” – Actually care too much and want to escape.
  • “I’m fine” – Based on a fear that others will leave or burdened if I tell them I’m not okay. 
  • “I just have a headache – Using a physical illness to mask feelings of anxiety, sadness or other overwhelming emotions. 
  • “I didn’t sleep well” – Due to intense mood shifts.
  • “I feel better now” – To avoid distressing loved ones. 
  • “Of Course that doesn’t bother me, why would it?”- It actually bothers me a lot.
  • “I trust you” – I want to trustyou, but I can’t. 
  • “It’s just hormones” – Instead of explaining mood shifts and anxiety. 
  • I’m okay” – Easier than explaining what is wrong with me. 

Stealing in Borderline Personality Disorder:

The impulsivity associated with this disorder is the basis of their tendency to steal. Studies have shown a correlation between Borderline Personality Disorder and shoplifting. A study by Sansone et al. (2011) found that there is an association between this disorder and shoplifting, but with a specific section of the population. 

Shoplifting, and other kinds of stealing, are all impulse control disorders and therefore consistent with the syndrome of Borderline Personality Disorder. 


In this guide we examined lying and stealing behaviours in Borderline Personality Disorder and why they occur. We also looked at the signs and symptoms of the disorder. 

FAQ on ‘Borderline Personality Disorder Lying and Stealing (A Complete Guide)’:

Is compulsive lying a symptom of Borderline Personality Disorder?

Pathological or compulsive lying is a symptom particularly common in certain personality disorders, including Borderline Personality Disorder. 

Which personality disorders are associated with pathological lying?

The personality disorders associated with pathological lying are those found in Cluster B, including Antisocial Personality Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder and Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Are people with Borderline Personality Disorder aware of their behaviour?

People with this disorder are aware of their behaviour, often more so than people without a mental illness. 

Do people with Borderline Personality Disorder lack empathy?

While people with this disorder lack cognitive empathy, they show an above average ability for emotional empathy. This is attributed to their heightened sensitivity to negative emotions. 

What causes Borderline Personality Disorder?

Borderline Personality Disorder is caused by a wide range of factors including genetics, neurological functioning as well as psychosocial and cultural factors. However, there is no single cause for the disorder.

What is the hardest personality disorder to treat?

The hardest personality disorders to treat are those in Cluster B, which includes Antisocial, Narcissistic, Histrionic and Borderline personality disorder. Of these Borderline Personality Disorder is the hardest to treat. 


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