Borderline Personality Disorder
In a Nutshell
People often ask me, “What is borderline personality disorder?” I respond by asking them how much time they have. But I’m being serious. It’s an extremely complex pattern of behaviors. A personality disorder is a description of someone who has a personality that is fragmented. The name ‘borderline’ originated when the symptoms resembled those with multiple personality disorder and schizophrenia.
Many people have heard of BPD by now though they don’t truly understand it and almost always underestimate the severity of the dysfunction. Many people have to interact with a borderline for an extended period of time to really understand how difficult they can be. They are addicted to drama and chaos and even though they tell people that they hate them, they cannot let go of the dysfunctional relationships that they have with others. Here is a quick and dirty guide to help you understand and work with them. Most importantly, don’t underestimate the severity of the dysfunction. A borderlines ability to create chaos and drama in relationships is astounding. It is important to understand that BPD is a mental illness. Just like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, it is a mental illness.
• Borderlines and their chaotic behaviors are driven by an intense fear of abandonment
• Though they wouldn’t admit it, they are plagued with a deep self-hatred and loathing
• For a borderline, chaos and drama is their “normal,” if something isn’t going wrong or bad, they will find or create something wrong
• They cannot stand being alone, they desire company even though they drive people away
• Borderlines do not believe that people can or will like them for who they are so they use manipulation to keep others in their lives
• They feel empty
• They feel paranoid
• Borderlines usually have a complete lack of emotional maturity and usually have the emotional insight and maturity of a child.
• They are usually very chaotic and unpredictable
• They are notorious of pendulum swinging between loving and hating their mate, they will tell you that you are the worse person in the world and then beg you not to leave them
• They often have a pervasive and ongoing pattern of unstable relationships, and are usually unable to maintain stable relationships
• They are highly impulsive showing behaviors, such as: reckless driving, impulsive spending, sexually promiscuous, drug use, etc.
• They of show extreme mood swings and emotional outbursts. People with BPD are notorious for being highly volatile and extreme with their anger. They are also notorious for doing extreme things when angry, such as: hitting, breaking things, slashing tires, etc.
• Borderlines often exhibit a complete lack of boundaries. They seem to completely lack a sense of limitations, they don’t seem to know how far is too far or how much is too much; they usually lack a sense of knowing what is a good idea or a bad idea
• BPD occurs most commonly in women; about 9 out of 10 borderlines are women. It does occur in men but the behavior patterns are a bit different
• Borderlines are often cutters or self-mutilators; it may come in a more subtle form like picking at scabs or pimples
• Borderlines also often have job instability, they can go through 5 or 6 jobs in a year
• Borderlines often get placed in psychiatric units for suicide attempts. Most of these attempts are usually not serious, sometimes they do this to manipulate others. Sometimes they attempt suicide because they are on an emotional roller coaster and they do it on impulse. Their suicide attempts are rarely premeditated or planned out.
• Borderlines usually have had many short, unsustainable relationships with men
• Borderlines are notoriously unfaithful, because she believes her man is going to leave her sooner or later anyway, she wants to find someone new so she doesn’t have to be alone. Some have referred to this as “monkey barring,” they transfer from one relationship to another like monkey bars. You don’t let go until you’ve grabbed hold of another and if you’re only holding onto one then you’re looking to grab the next. This is often how a borderline approaches relationships.
Relationships and BPD
• Borderlines can initially be extremely charming and flirtatious, she initially comes off as really fun and cool
• She often has a sad story to tell you so that you feel bad for her, she will seem like she needs to be “rescued” but what she didn’t tell you is that many of her sad stories are a result of her own choices or may even be fabricated
• Every time something goes wrong in her life, she blames other people. Borderlines will almost never take accountability, they always blame other people even when something is clearly their fault
• When you argue or fight with her, you feel like you’re going crazy because you’re confused. She will blatantly contradict herself while making you feel like the crazy one
• Any and all of your relationship issues will be placed on you, she will make you feel like you are the problem and will almost never take accountability for herself or anything that she has done, for example, even if she has cheated on you, she will get mad at you for holding it against her
• She is an exaggerator/minimizer, in other words, she expects you to overlook some of the major things she has done while holding small things against you, refusing to let them go
• You feel emotionally exhausted after talking, interacting, arguing or just being around her.
Here’s the bad news, the therapy world is remarkably poor at effectively treating BPD; more so than any other mental illness. For those who are entrenched in the chaos of BPD, the prognosis is dismally poor. If you are in a relationship with someone with BPD, you cannot “fix” or “cure” them. Even the most advanced and effective therapists in the world have a poor track record of helping them recover.
The most effective therapy approach for BPD is called Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), and is virtually the only method with a success rate. It’s a big commitment for someone with BPD and they have to desire change before committing to it. It requires group and individual therapy at least three times per week and it usually takes about a year before any progress is made. People who are in relationships with people with BPD often get them to attend weekly therapy, usually couples counseling. This is well intended but it’s like shooting an elephant with a BB gun.
Myths and Truths about BPD
This a list of common myths or erroneous beliefs and assumptions that people, especially their partners, make about BPD
• Myth: They are rational adults that have a method to their madness Truth: They act on emotional impulse in the moment and rarely use clear reason or logic
• Myth: If you are perfect enough, she will calm down and be happy. Truth: She always seeks fault and imperfection. This dips into the realm of co-dependency and care taking.
• Myth: She has a desire for things to be calm, stable and happy. Truth: she truly does not feel comfortable unless there is chaos and therefore she constantly creates and perpetuates it
• Myth: She uses logic and sense to make her decisions. Truth: There is no evidence to support this. She may say that she uses logic and truth but when you observe her behavior, this is obviously not true
• Myth: Loving her enough will compel her to seek help and change. Truth: Many men have learned the hard way that they cannot compel a borderline to change this way, as a result their lives are sometimes ruined and men often spend countless time and money trying to recover the pieces of their lives
It’s time to work on YOU
If you are in a relationship with someone that fits this profile then there is only one thing to do, improve yourself. It’s not your job to fix her, it’s her job to fix her. Men often get tangled up in this relationships and stay in them long term because of their own co-dependency issues. Co-dependency is quite complex in itself but much easier to work on and treat. You must improve your own self-image and work out your inner desire to fix or rescue broken women. Doing this is crucial and without making these steps, you are likely to get back into another relationship with someone else who has BPD.
You must break the cycle! Not only for you, but for the people around you, If you have children, you must help break it for them too because they are likely to learn from you and repeat the same patterns when they grow into adulthood. This is the best way to help her as well. When you make positive changes, it invites people to make positive changes too. However, if she does not make the needed changes, you may need to consider permanently ending the relationship.