What is Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

Described as emotional dysregulation, BPD entails a long-term behavior pattern starting at adolescence or young adulthood. BPD is defined by the inability to regulate emotions that manifest in self-image, interpersonally in relationships, cognitively and behaviorally. Individuals with BPD can be deeply affected by relationships.

Separation, break-ups, and rejection can lead to self-destructive behaviors, self-harm and suicidal ideation or attempts.

While new relationships can create elation, awe, a deep desire to spend every moment together and share every aspect of themselves very quickly and early on, if this is not reciprocated there can be feelings of intense anger and hatred. This can lead to devaluing the partner, and then guilt, and shame for doing so. This cycle fuels a negative self-image of being “bad”.

Individuals with BPD are among high risk self-harm and suicide populations. Self-harm behaviors can be in response to rejection but may also happen to self-test their own capacity to feel.

BPD Traits
1. Avoid abandonment at any cost
2. Feelings of desperation
3. Pattern of unstable relationships with polar feelings of extreme admiration and hatred
4. Unstable self-image and self-worth
5. Impulsive behaviors in at least 2 potentially self-damaging areas (spending, sex, binge eating, substance abuse, reckless driving)
6. Self-harm, suicidal behavior and threats
7. Mood swings
8. Feelings of emptiness
9. Intense anger and difficulty managing anger
10. Stress related, temporary paranoid ideation or dissociation

How a breakup feels to someone struggling with Borderline Personality Disorder
For an individual struggling with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) or BPD traits, a relationship typically means immediate and intense attachment, strong feelings of love, filling up a gap of loneliness, deep fear that their new beloved will leave them, and they will be alone again.

Heartbreak from the ending of a relationship feels immensely traumatic and incredibly painful for an individual with BPD just like it might for anyone, only a hundred times more intense. It is typical for individuals with BPD to blame themselves for the breakup. Irrational thinking comes into play with ruminating thoughts of self-blame.

Individuals with BPD may obsess over what they did wrong, and what they could have done different to impact the outcome. Repeated thinking such as “I’m not good enough. I’m too moody. I’m not normal. I expected too much. I’m not fun or talkative or interesting or pretty…” is typical.

Obsessively reaching out to the ex-partner and asking for explanations, then crushingly realizing that perhaps there was never really love is typical. This feeds into the ‘what’s wrong with me? Something is wrong with me.’

cycle of negative thinking and self-blame. Finally comes the lashing out with threats to kill oneself, rants about suffering over social media, and expression of rage to friends and family. There is a lack of insight as to the effects of such behavior on other relationships.

The fear of pushing people away fuels the lashing out even more leading to a vicious self-destructive cycle. Individuals with BPD may feel immense amounts of shame and guilt, but they are engaged in a self-propelled barrage of emotional confession with the hope that the other party will feel empathy for them. Often individuals with BPD caught in such a cycle, are unable to think rationally.

This behavior often leads to losing face and social ostracization. The individuals with BPD may be shocked that instead of empathy and understanding they are met with hostility or cut off, that people believe they are capable of negative or ‘crazy’ behavior, and that their reputation is crumbling. They may begin to feel crazy, hopeless and worthless. Suicidal ideation and attempts at this low point may happen. They believe nobody cares for them.

Is Healing possible?

Healing is possible and it is important to keep hope alive. Seeking professional treatment is imperative to healing. Improvement is often seen within the first year of treatment. Treatment can include psychotherapy, therapy support groups, medication, and family support and understanding through psychoeducation.

Use of drugs or alcohol can worsen BPD symptoms. Learning and practicing self-care is a very important lifestyle change, and a part of the healing process. Self-care practices can include regular exercise, healthy eating, interesting hobbies etc.

It is invaluably helpful for those struggling with BPD to surround themselves with positive people who are committed to their recovery and healing, and to be in an environment that is nurturing and supportive.

It is tedious and requires time and commitment to challenge negative, self-deprecating and destructive thoughts, to build self-esteem and channel energy into positive output, day after day when it is not natural.

However, this is what is required for a full recovery. With the right environment, support and therapy, and given time these skills can be learned. Ultimately introspection leading to insight, and insight leading to change in thought and behavior are essential to healing.

Author's Bio: 

Founder of couple-care.com, specializing in Couples Retreats and Couples Therapy, Dr. Patel has a Doctorate in Marriage and Family Therapy, a Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy, and a second Masters in Human Development. With over 15 years of psychotherapy experience, and having researched Love in Contemporary Life, and Conflict Resolution in Relationships, she brings this research, insight and experience to her work with couples.

Checkout more about her Save Your Relationship and Relationship Conflict And Triangulation