“I’m so good at beginnings, but in the end, I always seem to destroy everything, including myself.”
Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a serious emotional condition with the following characteristics¹:
- Out-of-control emotions
- Unstable interpersonal relationships
- Fear of abandonment
- Self-damaging behaviour
- Often accompanied by depression, anxiety & anger
Individuals with borderline personality disorder grow up being emotionally unstable, hostile and impulsive. It is only diagnosed in early adulthood. The behaviours occur at home, at work and in the community. The actions significantly disrupt normal functioning socially and occupational.
Symptoms of BPD
- Impaired Emotional Control: excessive, poorly regulated emotional responses, especially anger, that change rapidly.
- Harmful Impulsivity: impulsive behaviours that are harmful to you or others, such as spending sprees, drug & alcohol abuse, self-harm, physically aggressive acts and sexual indiscretions;
- Impaired Perceptions and Reasoning: suspiciousness, misperceptions, an unstable self-image, a poor sense of your identity, and difficulty in reasoning under stress; and
- Disrupted Relationships: tumultuous relationships with a person close to you that vary from extreme fear of abandonment to episodes of excessive anger and the desire to get away from that person.
An individual diagnosed with borderline personality disorder needs to show at least 5 of the following criteria ²:
- Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment.
- A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships
- Low self-esteem
- Impulsivity in at least two potentially self-damaging areas (e.g., spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating).
- Suicidal threats or self-harm
- Affective instability: irritability or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days.
- Chronic feelings of emptiness.
- Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger.
- Blurred sense of identity, memory loss, feeling of being detached from oneself
What do people think/feel who suffer from BPD?
- They feel misunderstood and mistreated.
- They blame others for their shortcomings.
- They are often involved in power struggle battles.
- They fail to perceive the good and evil in another person – they will see just one side.
- They need the help of another person to soothe themselves.
- They hold grudges for a long time.
- They use immature forms of coping with distress like throwing tantrums – explosive moods.
- They are irrational and ‘catastrophise’ anything that happens to them – they create chaos.
- They have little psychological insight into their behaviour or motives – they blame someone else.
What is the difference between Bipolar and Borderline Disorders?
BPD is quite different from Bipolar I Disorder. The mood swings in BPD seldom last more than one day, even hours. Mood swings in Bipolar I Disorder last much longer. BPD doesn’t exhibit the prolonged episodes of decreased need for sleep, hyperactivity, pressured speech, reckless over-involvement, and grandiosity that are characteristic of Bipolar I Disorder.
BPD is part of a cluster of personality disorders, namely:
anti-social, narcissistic, borderline and histrionic personality disorders.
Antagonism (dislike/ bitterness/ hatred) is a common feature in all the personality disorders.
The KEY FEATURES of persons with antagonistic behaviour are that they are manipulative, callous (cold-hearted), deceitful, hostile, attention-seeking and grandiose.
How is a personality disorder diagnosed?
Personality disorders such as borderline personality disorder are typically diagnosed by a trained mental health professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist. Family physicians and general practitioners are generally not trained or well-equipped to make this type of psychological diagnosis. So while you can initially consult a family physician about this problem, they should refer you to a mental health professional for diagnosis and treatment. There are no laboratory, blood or genetic tests that are used to diagnose a borderline personality disorder.
- Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, Abnormal Psychology. 2014. New York. McGraw-Hill Education
- Borderline Personality Disorder
Borderline Personality Disorder: Treatment and Management. NICE Clinical Guidelines, No. 78.National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health (UK).Leicester (UK): British Psychological Society; 2009.