Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) can be a very difficult diagnosis that affects a person’s own life and relationships with others. Someone diagnosed with this disorder can be difficult to maintain a healthy and stable relationship with. Described in this blog is how Borderline Personality Disorder manifests in a person’s relationships, what causes Borderline Personality Disorder and a few helpful tips to help those in relationship with someone diagnosed with this disorder.
How does BPD manifest in a person’s relationships? The essential features of Borderline personality disorder are a pattern of marked impulsivity, reactivity of mood, conflicted relationships and instability of self-image. The primary relational manifestation of BPD is a high sensitivity to rejection and fear of abandonment. If you are in a relationship with this person, you might feel intensively loved one minute and completely devalued the next. A person with BPD expresses intense emotions that change much more rapidly than the average person. These extreme mood swings occur often as a result of perceived emotional neglect or abandonment, and can elicit intense sadness, rage and behavioral acting out that may push others away. Thus eliciting a self-fulfilling prophecy of rejection and abandonment. Other symptoms of BPD are feeling unsure of one’s personal identity and values and having mildly paranoid thoughts and difficulties distinguishing feelings from reality. (The term Borderline was originally coined to describe a disturbance bordering between neurosis and psychosis). People with BPD can be so happy and caring, however if they feel emotionally threatened, the negative emotions and impulsive and manipulative behaviors can be more than most people can handle. It is important not to be drawn into drama that causes you to give into their acting out behaviors in order to meet their emotional needs. Though very difficult, it is generally essential to be emotionally non-reactive to desperate and manipulative behaviors. Impulsive behaviors common to people with this disorder, can include substance use, sexual addictions, compulsive spending and eating disorders. In extreme cases, a person with BPD can also engage in self-injurious behaviors, suicidal ideations and attempts which may even include threats and plans to harm others. IMPORTANT: Threats of harm to self or others should always be taken seriously, even if they are believed to be manipulative People with BPD can disassociate. Disassociation is when they are staring up into space and you don’t really feel that they are with you any longer. They might do this if they are triggered by something in their environment and they subconsciously disassociate to not feel the feelings that triggered them. BPD can be co-morbid with other disorders such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or Dissociative Identity Disorder previously known as Multiple Personality Disorder. Co-morbid means the presence of more than one disorder. These disorders caused by traumatic events in your childhood may have disassociation as a symptom of the disorder. Thus it is not always clear if the disassociation in the person is a symptom of one disorder or another.
What causes Borderline Personality Disorder? Many in the field of psychology believe that personality disorders in general, are caused by disruptions in healthy attachment. According to Attachment Theory, it is necessary to develop an attachment with at least one primary caregiver prior to age three or four in order to develop normal social and emotional development. An attachment is a trusting and affectionate bond, or tie, between an individual and an attachment figure, usually a parent or caregiver. There are many types of attachment, these include secure, avoidant, ambivalent/resistant and disorganized. A caregiver in a secure attachment responds appropriately to a child’s needs. A caregiver in an avoidant attachment may have little to no response to a distressed child. A caregiver in an ambivalent/resistant attachment will have inconsistent responses between appropriate and neglectful. Finally in a disorganized attachment, the caregiver may exhibit frightening behaviors, intrusiveness and maltreatment. Good Attunement: Baby Cries: Mom, picks her up and speaks soothingly and goes through a checklist of possible needs: diapering, feeding, holding, etc. Bad Attunement: Baby cries: mom becomes upset emotionally and shouts at the child, and/or leaves the child in distress. Without a secure attachment a CAN develop a personality disorder.
Why do some people development a personality disorder and others don’t? It’s hard to say. I would say all children have different experiences in their childhood. Another reason could be the resiliency of the child. Resiliency is a tendency to cope with stress and adversity. In other words, some children are more impacted with negative effects than others that experience the same trauma. The lessons to learn from this, our children need to be nurtured by a primary caregiver. It’s important to prepare before having children, including limiting financial and emotional stressors. If you know someone with this disorder, the best advice is to not take what he or she says personally. Realize what you are dealing with and have clear personal boundaries. It is helpful to show compassion to this person, as they may have experienced neglect and/or lack of positive attachment in their childhood.
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