Some concept of self has been used by many, although not all, researchers and clinicians as an ‘organising construct' for borderline personality disorder (BPD). There is considerable variation in this usage and how clearly researchers have defined the self. Given this diversity, and that ‘self' is often used interchangeably with parallel concepts (e.g. psyche, brain-mind, ‘person') or with features of self (e.g. self-awareness, identity), unqualified use of the term is problematic. This is further complicated by the heterogeneity and ‘comorbidity' of BPD and the limitations of syndromally based psychiatric nosology. Still, BPD remains in current classification systems and can be reliably diagnosed. A considerable body of research on self and BPD has accrued, including a recent profusion and confluence of neuroscientific and sociopsychological findings. These have generated supporting evidence for a supra-ordinate, functionally constituted entity of the self ranging over multiple, interacting levels from an unconscious, ‘core' self, through to a reflective, phenotypic, ‘idiographic' and relational self constituted by interpersonal and sociocultural experience. Important insights have been generated regarding emotional and social-cognitive dysregulation, disorder of self-awareness, relationality, identity, and coherence and continuity of the self. Many of these are shared by various trauma-related, dissociative disorders. A construct of the self could be useful as an explanatory principle in BPD, which could be construed as a ‘self-state' (and relational) disorder, as opposed to a less severe disorder of aspects of the self (e.g. mood or memory). We offer a tentative description of ‘Self' in this context, noting that any such construct will require a clear definition and to be evaluable.

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