Objectives: Patients with a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder were studied to learn how they experienced the disorder and its treatment. Methods: Life history narratives were obtained from ten patients with borderline personality disorder in a series of 90-minute interviews held over the course of a year. The interviews had minimal structure; patients were simply asked to talk about themselves. Results: The narratives revealed striking similarities in the patients' experience with borderline personality disorder. Reports of their experience differed markedly from clinical descriptions of the disorder. Common themes of estrangement, inadequacy, and despair were identified, as well as common coping strategies, primarily dissociation and avoidance of self-disclosure. Conclusions: Patients' experiences with borderline personality disorder were highly consistent but differed markedly from clinical descriptions. The patient narratives provided information that could lead to more effective treatment of the disorder.