Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is one of the nine personality disorders listed on the official DSM-5. It is part of Cluster B, meaning it is part of the ‘dramatic’ disorders. It can also be called Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (EUPD).
It’s easier to use THIS article from the NHS website to describe the basic symptoms, then I’ll explain them in more depth.
The four areas are:
- emotional instability – the psychological term for this is “affective dysregulation”
- disturbed patterns of thinking or perception – “cognitive distortions” or “perceptual distortions”
- impulsive behaviour
- intense but unstable relationships with others
Each of these areas is described in more detail below.
If you have BPD, you may experience a range of often intense negative emotions, such as:
- long-term feelings of emptiness and loneliness
You may have severe mood swings over a short space of time.
Borderline personality disorder is considered serious and severe, and even in some places a full disability. It is one of the most underestimated, misunderstood, stigmatised mental illnesses. This makes it difficult for people dealing with it (me!) to talk about it and be accepted with it.
BPD is different for everyone, it causes different things for everyone that suffers with it, therefore I couldn’t possibly tell you every last thing that ‘might’ happen when you suffer with it. I’ll just go through my personal experiences, since I think that’s a lot easier than speaking for everyone. Keep in mind that BPD affects relationships and mood the most.
- Black and White thinking.
I find it incredibly difficult to see the ‘grey areas’ of life. I can’t just ‘like’ a tree, or a view, or a piece of food – it’s either amazing or it’s horrible. This also largely affects areas around relationships/friendships, I can’t just ‘be friends’ with someone, I have to be their best friend. Equally for relationships, I either don’t like someone or I love them completely. This is one of the most difficult aspects for me, as it ruins the way that I view everything in the world.
- Manipulative tendencies.
This point actually links in to number 8 but I think it deserves its own point. Online, I have seen many instances where people have called someone with BPD manipulative, or called them a bad person for the way they handle their emotions. In some rare cases, someone with BPD can easily become abusive or manipulative. However this is rare, just like in a neurotypical person, and most people with BPD are quiet about their urges to try and control people and their lives. It doesn’t come from a place of negativity or hatred, either, it’s just the way our brains are wired and it is easily controllable with therapy.
You simply can’t fully understand personality disorders unless you have one. I’m not even expecting you to be able to understand, I’m happy that you don’t have to. Living with a personality disorder is exhausting and overwhelming, so in that sense I wouldn’t want anyone close to me to fully understand it. There are ways to cope with it, to help someone with it, to reassure them too…just don’t expect to ever fully understand their way of thinking.
- Random impulses.
For me, the random impulse part of BPD has affected my life a lot. My impulses are never ‘I want to do this’, they’re always ‘I need to do this right now!’. After I get an idea in my brain it’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, for me to get it out or to stop myself from doing it. That’s why problems with spending money, reckless sex or taking drugs/alcohol are one of the main symptoms from BPD. I have found that my parents or my boyfriend are the people who are most likely to talk me down from something, which is good and bad in its own way.
The term ‘splitting’ is used among the BPD community to describe the quick change in feeling or emotions towards a certain person, thing, or place. Usually with people, it happens at the click of a finger. One minute I’ll love someone and want to spend all of my time with them, and then my brain will turn against them for little to no reason. It links heavily back to the black and white thinking, but is put into practice in my day-to-day life more often. It can happen with anyone, or anything, and at any time. This makes it scary to deal with, hard to reverse, and puts me constantly on edge when trying to make friends or meet new people.
- Favourite People.
Personally, having a favourite person hasn’t caused too many ‘problems’ for me, but it’s still upsetting for people around me when it gets bad. It basically means the person (or people, sometimes) that I have the most emotional dependency on, or who I rely on the most. This can cause loads of stress for the person who is the FP, since my brain thinks like this:
Favourite person: Speaks to me all night.
Me: I’m so loved, I’m happy and overwhelmingly positive.
Favourite Person: Doesn’t speak to me in the morning straight away.
Me: I’m unloved, depressed, suicidal.So you can kind of see how tiring that would be, for both parties involved. When it does happen, it is difficult to make it work, however it can be done.
- Fear of abandonment.
The fear of abandonment when you have BPD isn’t like a neurotypical REALLY not wanting their boyfriend to leave them. It’s debilitating, and I would do absolutely anything to avoid being abandoned. I’ve told people in the past that I was going to kill myself if they left me, which is going over the line of manipulative. I don’t usually notice when I’m doing it, only afterwards when the person has realised what is going on and has told me I’m crazy or obsessed. My brain struggles to see that people come and go, and I always take it personally if someone doesn’t want to speak to me anymore or acts slightly off with me.
Reassurance is a tricky thing, if a person gives me too much it easily becomes a cycle where it gets to a tipping point – then nothing they say is enough to reassure me. If someone doesn’t give me enough reassurance, I think they hate me and don’t want to speak to me. There’s definitely a healthy balance which can be achieved via using logical explanations. For example, if I asked my mum for reassurance that someone didn’t hate me, she would have to go through the situation logically for me to be able to be reassured but at the same time, I’m not going to slip into the cycle of wanting more. It’s important to not keep feeding people with BPD reassurance just because they ask for it, everything in moderation!
My anger is frustratingly hard to control. Anything can make me angry, sometimes I just wake up and I’m angry for no reason. Sometimes a small situation that would make the neurotypical ‘slightly annoyed’, will push me into a full blown rage. I don’t really know why this happens, but I have always put it down to just so many things going on in my head that the smallest ‘drop of a pin’ type thing, can set me off.
In the past I have struggled with some stress related dissociation and psychosis. Thankfully the dissociation symptom has only mildly affected my to day to day life, however there have been a few big instances where it has caused problems. It’s usually when my emotions have been building up for a long time, and I haven’t had anywhere to put them. The psychosis is mainly delusions… e.g, thinking the world is going to end, thinking aliens are invading earth, thinking someone is following me or listening to my conversations in public. However, I do see and hear things when I get extremely upset or stressed.
There is only one available therapy specifically made for BPD, which is called dialetical behaviour therapy (DBT). Personally, my experience with it hasn’t been as good as I hoped. It’s incredibly difficult to get in, and when I did get in, I only got accepted into the group therapy side of things. It didn’t help me, so I left. It doesn’t mean I don’t want therapy, or help for my illness, but that therapy in particular just didn’t help me – that happens. There are currently no medications available for BPD, however you can go on mood stabilisers, anti-depressants, and anxiety medication to help manage separate symptoms.
The most important thing to remember about Borderline Personality Disorder is that people with this disorder aren’t dangerous, we can change, and we’re not all the same. I’ll be writing other blog posts about how it affects my relationship with boyfriends in particular, how it affects friendships, family member relationships, etc.
Neurotypical – Someone who is mentally well/stable.
Psychosis – Emotions which create a loss of touch with external reality.
Dissociation – The action of disconnecting entirely from reality/not believing you or anything else is real.
DSM-5 – Official list of mental health symptoms, etc.
If you think you have a personality disorder, or any mental illness, please talk a mental health professional or your GP. I am not a professional, do not take these symptom descriptions as a diagnosis or confirmation.