Borderline Personality Disorder

I’m collecting my thoughts about threads from several separate conversations with different people and putting some information here in hopes that it might help someone. I realize that there are some people on my friends list who have mentioned having BPD or having had a close family member with it. I’m not directing this at you—you’re still on my friends list, and I could have done some sort of custom filter on this post but felt like it would be dishonest. Drop me if you’re offended.

There are Drama Queens, and then there are people who have a serious psychiatric problem called Borderline Personality Disorder. Yes, they can look a lot alike, and people with BPD generally are DQs—but they go much, much further.

The following text is taken from

DSM-IV criteria

The DSM-IV gives these nine criteria; a diagnosis requires that the subject present with at least five of these. In I Hate You—Don’t Leave Me! Jerold Kriesman and Hal Straus refer to BPD as “emotional hemophilia; [a borderline] lacks the clotting mechanism needed to moderate his spurts of feeling. Stimulate a passion, and the borderline emotionally bleeds to death.”

Traits involving emotions:

Quite frequently people with BPD have a very hard time controlling their emotions. They may feel ruled by them. One researcher (Marsha Linehan) said, “People with BPD are like people with third degree burns over 90% of their bodies. Lacking emotional skin, they feel agony at the slightest touch or movement.”

1. Shifts in mood lasting only a few hours.

2. Anger that is inappropriate, intense or uncontrollable.

Traits involving behavior:

3. Self-destructive acts, such as self-mutilation or suicidal threats and gestures that happen more than once.

4. Two potentially self-damaging impulsive behaviors. These could include alcohol and other drug abuse, compulsive spending, gambling, eating disorders, shoplifting, reckless driving, compulsive sexual behavior.

Traits involving identity

5. Marked, persistent identity disturbance shown by uncertainty in at least two areas. These areas can include self-image, sexual orientation, career choice or other long-term goals, friendships, values. People with BPD may not feel like they know who they are, or what they think, or what their opinions are, or what religion they should be. Instead, they may try to be what they think other people want them to be. Someone with BPD said, “I have a hard time figuring out my personality. I tend to be whomever I’m with.”

6. Chronic feelings of emptiness or boredom. Someone with BPD said, “I remember describing the feeling of having a deep hole in my stomach. An emptiness that I didn’t know how to fill. My therapist told me that was from almost a ‘lack of a life.’ The more things you get into your life, the more relationships you get involved in, all of that fills that hole. As a borderline, I had no life. There were times when I couldn’t stay in the same room with other people. It almost felt like what I think a panic attack would feel like.” \

Traits involving relationships

7. Unstable, chaotic intense relationships characterized by splitting (see below).

8. Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment

  • Splitting: the self and others are viewed as “all good” or “all bad.” Someone with BPD said, “One day I would think my doctor was the best and I loved her, but if she challenged me in any way I hated her. There was no middle ground as in like. In my world, people were either the best or the worst. I couldn’t understand the concept of middle ground.”
  • Alternating clinging and distancing behaviors (I Hate You, Don’t Leave Me). Sometimes you want to be close to someone. But when you get close it feels TOO close and you feel like you have to get some space. This happens often.
  • Great difficulty trusting people and themselves. Early trust may have been shattered by people who were close to you.
  • Sensitivity to criticism or rejection.
  • Feeling of “needing” someone else to survive.
  • Heavy need for affection and reassurance.
  • Some people with BPD may have an unusually high degree of interpersonal sensitivity, insight and empathy.

9. Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms;
This means feeling “out of it,” or not being able to remember what you said or did. This mostly happens in times of severe stress.

I’m not a therapist of any kind. I only know about BPD because I was married to someone who was diagnosed with it. Life with that person was a series of constant crises. He would redefine himself every time I turned around—religious beliefs, interests, priorities (including parenting), career plans, lovers, everything. He got into BDSM to an obsessive extent. Many people with BPD will experiment with gender identity and sexual preferences a lot.

Most people haven’t heard of BPD unless they have an immediate family member or SO who suffers from it. And frequently, the person with BPD adamantly refuses to seek treatment or admit that there’s anything wrong at all—everything is always someone else’s fault. After I loaned a book about BPD to one person, he said, “When did these people live with my ex-wife?”

One thing I have noticed about people with BPD is that because they don’t have a firm grip on reality, they are very convincing liars. It honestly seems that when they’re telling their whoppers, they absolutely believe that whatever they’re saying is true. It doesn’t matter that whatever they’re saying is unrecognizable to everybody else who was present at the same event—they’ve edited and revised and now it’s their truth.

I figure it must be horrible to have BPD, but I can’t speak first-hand, and I’m afraid I’ve never encountered anyone with BPD in my real life who was willing to make any effort at all to heal. Because of that, I tend to completely dissociate from anybody who acts like a BPD sufferer in my real life and don’t have much patience with them online, either. Yes, I’m probably missing out on friendships with some good people who are working through their issues, but for now—well, I’m wholly burned out on dealing with it. I can’t justify exposing my child to any more of it. So I won’t. I’m not demonizing people with BPD, I simply choose not to have them in my personal life.

Families and partners of people with BPD suffer terribly. From the BPD Sanctuary:

Families bear the brunt of their loved one’s erratic behavior, usually without support or information to help them. They struggle to deal with moods that swing from one extreme to another without any apparent provoking event, with what appear to be overreactions to incidents that seem minor, or with impulsive behavior that may be dangerous. Families feel a sense of failure when efforts to improve or control situations in their homes go from increasingly more difficult to virtually impossible to manage. They live in a psychic war zone, paying a high price mentally and physically. The frustration of living with someone with BPD has a ripple effect-from stress-related disorders to lost days of work to marriages that don’t survive. When accusations of abuse occur, family members can be ostracized by others. Once the charge of abuse is made, it is hard to undo the damage, even if the person with BPD rescinds the allegation.

Across all disciplines, families are frequently vilified and blamed. No family should be expected to cope alone, yet very few support groups are available. Although TARA offers them through its chapters, many more are urgently needed.

There are many websites and online support groups (web and email-based) about BPD. Since a quick search will find many, I won’t list them here. But there are also several books that are very good. If what I’ve described sounds like someone in your life, please be careful.

Edit: Wow. 18 months later, some people still come across this entry and believe it to be all about them! Believe me, if it were about you, your name would be in it. If, however, you have a tendency to think that other people’s journal entries ARE about you when those people insist otherwise, perhaps you should seek therapy.

Current Mood: determined
Cyn is Rick's wife, Katie's Mom, and Esther & Oliver's Mémé. She's also a professional geek, avid reader, fledgling coder, enthusiastic gamer (TTRPGs), occasional singer, and devoted stitcher.
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