Borderline Personality Disorder
Borderline Personality Disorder is widely misunderstood, misdiagnosed, and carries with it a level of stigma found only in the most severe psychiatric illnesses.
Psychiatrists are hesitant to even treat or diagnose, believing the illness itself is untreatable and the patients themselves are difficult. Misinformation is disseminated widely online and even in educational institutions, and we are seeing the effects. TEN PERCENT of people with BPD will successfully complete a suicide attempt. One out of every ten people with this illness won’t survive! At BPD Balance, we are committed to changing this and saving lives through education, advocacy, and personal development.
BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER CHARACTERISTICS:
FEARS OF ABANDONMENT
Fear of abandonment for people with Borderline goes much farther than just hoping your loved ones don’t leave you. They can experience obsessive and intrusive thoughts about the person they care for, leading to desperate attempts to keep this person close whether through phone calls, texts, social media, or through actions like pulling away and closing off emotionally, responding with anger or irritation to loved ones, or emotionally engaging the person by pleading, explaining, and offering solutions.
Despite their own attempts to detach from their emotions or behave “normally,” their desperate measures to keep people close often end up pushing these people away, thus an ongoing struggle with holding close, stable relationships. They experience immense sensitivity to rejection, viewing criticism or disagreement as a significant threat to a relationship, and feeling overwhelming shame and self-hatred for feelings and behaviors that feel uncontrollable.
STRUGGLING WITH RELATIONSHIPS
Simultaneously pushing loved ones away and being desperate for their support will take its toll on relationships. Problems often begin showing up at home with parents and guardians at a young age, usually around puberty. They will begin showing signs of anger and depression, unexplained moments of rage and conflict, followed by feelings of shame and embarrassment or heartfelt apologies. This is reflected in relationships with significant others, resulting in frequent break-ups after a quick and intense romance.
THINKING/FEELING IN EXTREMES
Another notable trait of BPD is known as black-and-white thinking or splitting. Borderline causes a person to think in all-encompassing terms. A person is either a great friend or an enemy. A job is either fantastic or the worst job they’ve ever had. It can be difficult to see things as a mixture of good and bad. It can be difficult to remember that good things have ever happened when they feel so badly inside.
UNSURE OF SELF-IDENTITY
Frequent mood and relationship changes make it difficult to identify a solid picture of a person’s personality, likes and dislikes, boundaries, goals, and values. Without a clear picture of who they are, people with BPD will look to others, matching their personalities, language, dress, and activities to reflect the people they feel represent who they want to be. As the inspiration changes, a person’s appearance and behavior can change, similar to how adolescents will imitate their role models as they develop individuality. For a person with Borderline, this search for self-identity can continue for a lifetime, especially because their emotional and behavioral reactions can be so out-of-line with the identity they want to have.
DAMAGING THE SELF TO FEEL BETTER
Impulsive spending, sex, drugs, and other behaviors that alleviate the negative emotions of BPD can cause problems just like any risky behavior. Self-injury, binge drinking, or spontaneous decision-making in major life areas can all be attempts to lessen the emotional pain of the illness, or distract from overwhelming demands combined with an inability to perform as expected.
ESCAPING PAINFUL EXPERIENCES
Dissociation and dysphoria serve as a protective defense from intense emotional and psychological pain. Especially in those who have been victims of abuse, shutting down emotionally and even physically is a response to an overload of sensation and/or information like loud noises, pain, anger, shame, and other overwhelming conditions. For a person with BPD, fighting or yelling, positive or negative sexual encounters, stress, trauma, large crowds, tense environments, and myriad other experiences can trigger psychosis-like reactions.
SUICIDE AND SELF-INJURY
Probably the most well-known indicators of a possible BPD diagnosis are self-injury and suicidal behavior. Pulling hair, cutting, scratching, burning, stabbing, and banging the head are all examples of self-injurious behavior. Like dissociation and impulsivity, self-injury is a way to alleviate intense psychological pain. It can work like a drug, producing a response in the body that increases pleasure and feelings of relief. Signs will often be hidden under long sleeves, long pants, or baggy clothes and most of the time will be done in private. These behaviors are not attempts at suicide, but attempts to simply feel better. However, many people with Borderline also have repeated instances of suicide attempts and hospitalizations; as mentioned earlier, ten percent of them will successfully commit suicide.
INTENSE MOOD SWINGS
Dysphoria, emotional instability, and feelings of anger and rage can rise quickly and take longer to subside. Moods tend to change rapidly, sometimes with occasion and sometimes with no seeming trigger. Depression, despair, anxiety, and anger can rush in unannounced and unprepared-for; the person experiencing this will understandably react. The person will experience extreme shame and guilt for these behaviors afterward; this is when the self-injury and suicidal behavior can present.
Difficult to describe, but experienced by many people with BPD, is the feeling of emptiness. A lack of motivation, purpose, and passion can follow emotional arousal and outbursts. It may also be related to feelings of shame, or overwhelming emotions.
Borderline Personality Disorder is tormenting to its victims and their families. Described by some as “walking on eggshells,” families exist at the whim of unpredictable outbursts and mental health crises as they attempt to keep their loved one alive and safe without losing the relationship. Meanwhile, the sick person is desperate for understanding and acceptance, and someone to show them how to do things differently. We teach families to know when they are seeing the signs of the illness, understand why they happen, and distinguish the illness from the person, so they can provide a supportive environment that encourages recovery for everyone involved.