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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