Do you find yourself constantly fearing abandonment and rejection, to the point that an appointment being delayed can throw you into a spin?
Do you find yourself carrying out risky behaviours on a regular basis such as reckless driving, gambling, or even self-harming? Or perhaps you find it difficult to maintain stable relationships – one minute you really love and care for someone and suddenly you feel an intense hatred towards them?
These behaviours are just some of the symptoms of borderline personality disorder (BPD), a personality disorder characterised by distortions in mood, self-perception, and how you interact with others. In a previous blog post, we looked at how to recognise borderline personality disorder in others and how to support them with it. This blog post will look at how we might recognise borderline personality disorder in ourselves.
Identity and Impulsivity
Someone with borderline personality disorder will often find it difficult to pin down their own identity, and have unstable goals and aspirations in life and in their career. Couple this with the fact that people with borderline personality disorder are often impulsive and what you might end up with is someone who is constantly changing their identity.
It might be that they are constantly dyeing their hair colour. We aren’t talking here about changing our hair from light in the summer to darker in the winter, we are talking going from pink to green to blue to purple in the span of 1-2 months. Instead of hair colour it might be fashion sense, piercings, tattoos, career plans, jobs, universities, and so on.
Splitting is a common thought pattern among people with borderline personality disorder. This is when we view one person as angelic and benevolent, and another as bad and mean. For example two teachers, or two colleagues, or two parents. This is pretty common among children – one parent is the nice, fun parent and the other is the mean parent who makes us eat our vegetables.
Splitting can also happen with only one person. Have you ever found that you are so in love with one of your friends, you want to spend all of your time with them, text them all the time, and then maybe they don’t text you back for a few hours and you find yourself hating them and even holding a grudge against them?
Fear of abandonment can be pervasive for someone with borderline personality disorder. There might be no signs that someone is going to leave you – the relationship might be in a really good place – but you will still believe and will still look for signs that they are going to leave you. You might feel as if you are ‘clinging’ to the other person as a way to keep them close, or alternatively, you may find yourself pushing them away – forcing the abandonment so that at least you have a semblance of control over it.
Do you suffer from whirlwind romances? The types of relationships that are so intense so quickly and then they crash and burn? You fall in love quickly, you love intensely and deeply, until suddenly you don’t. Partners might experience the intensity of your love as overwhelming to them, or it may feel all too much for them. Couple this with a fear of abandonment and a propensity for splitting and you have a recipe for a line of unstable relationships.
Everyone has mood swings every now and then, but someone with borderline personality disorder has extreme and very intense moods and emotions. These intense emotions can last for a few hours or even a few days and can change for seemingly no reason. Someone with BPD anonymously told healthline.com that “it feels like going through life with third-degree emotional burns; everything is hot and painful to touch”.
Someone else might be upset or annoyed if a friend didn’t text them back, but someone with borderline personality disorder might feel outraged for hours or even days, holding a grudge for a seemingly disproportionate amount of time.
This also means that the positive emotions are felt more intensely. You might feel elated for hours by finding a parking space on your street, while others might just feel the absence of frustration. Every feeling is heightened.
Along with other risky behaviours, self-harm is quite common in those with borderline personality disorder. According to a report by the San Diego Outpatient Psychiatric Services, around 80% of people with BPD display self-harming behaviours. It is thought that those with borderline personality disorder are at a higher risk for self-harming behaviours due to the combination of impulsivity and the intensely felt emotions.
The term “borderline” refers to the fact that people with borderline personality disorder tend to border on being diagnosed with other mental health disorders or psychiatric labels, and many people with BPD do have multiple diagnoses. The most common comorbidities are; misusing drugs or alcohol, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, depression, eating disorders, or other personality disorders.
What to do next
Many people experience one or more of these at one time or another, but if you are suffering from borderline personality disorder, you will likely be experiencing a large proportion of the symptoms pretty consistently. If you think that you might be suffering from borderline personality disorder, then support us available through the GP and a community mental health team.
Borderline personality disorder is not treated directly through medication. Some symptoms may be treated with medications, but the main treatment for borderline personality disorder is psychotherapy.
If you or someone you know is worried about their mental health then get in touch with us at The Awareness Centre. We have a team of counsellors, psychotherapists and psychologists offering sessions seven days a week from our centres in Clapham and Tooting. Email us on [email protected] or call 020 8673 4545.