Borderline Line Personality (BPD) is a serious mental health condition that affects around 1.6-3% of the general population. BPD is a mood disorder that takes its name from the way researchers first view the disorder when it was thought to be on the borderline of being a psychotic disorder such as schizophrenia or a mood disorder such as depression or bipolar. And since BPD is a mood disorder, it affects the way people see the world and themselves. It distorts their perception, leading that person to live a kind of fictionalised version of reality.
Here are 9 signs of Borderline Personality you should know:
1. Fear of Rejection (Abandonment)
This is one of the core narratives of the Borderline Personality Disorder sufferer. It often comes from having already experienced a sense of abandonment in early childhood, and so once they reach maturity that trauma is still there in their subconscious and can be re-triggered quite easily. And it really doesn’t take all that much. If you’ve ever been in a relationship with someone and found yourself fretting if they’re late worrying if they’re ever going to return – it could be a sign of that core wound at play. This panic may prompt you may question your partner when they get back home. You may become clingy and try and take extreme steps towards ever having to experience that feeling of abandonment again.
2. Low Self Esteem
Again, this often feeds back in the core wound of abandonment. If you’ve never truly been valued by anyone inc childhood, it’s almost impossible for you to value yourself. You have not precedent or reference point for how to do it if you have never been shown, true unconditional love.
And so, you might engage in things such as:
- Poor confidence in social situations
- Have problems asking for what you need
- Attempt to people-please
- Feel lack you lack control over your life
- Negative social comparisons
- Worry and self-doubt
- Have Trouble Accepting Praise
- Negative Self Talk
- Lack of Boundaries
- Fear of failure
Now, you won’t necessarily experience all of these if you have BPD. And the symptoms you do experience may not be as frequent or intense. This is just a guide to show what low self-esteem generally looks like.
3. Extreme Emotional Instability
Mood swings are pretty common in BPD. One minute you could be flying high without a care in the world and the next you could experiencing the worst, perhaps from a sense of abandonment, or being triggered in some other way. You could be sent into a complete tailspin over something that’s pretty trivial, but because you’re so sensitive, it hits a raw nerve.
And so, you may either become despondent and withdrawn in case of quiet BPD or maybe you might externalise those feelings and become more vocal about your displeasure in other forms of the condition. These mood swings can be quite intense, but they usually burn bright and fade quickly. They can last anywhere from a couple of minutes to a few hours.
4. Explosive Anger
This follows on from our last point. Although it doesn’t apply to all BPD sub-types, with the quiet type being an exception. You can separate BDP anger from a regular angry response with the following statement from the diagnostic and statistical manual for mental disorder version five. Or, the DSM-5 for short. Anger observed in those with BPD is describe as, “inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger.” The keyword is inappropriate. As the level of anger is often way more intense than is warranted by the situation or event that triggered it. Someone with BPD may react to a simple misunderstanding for example with:
- Physical Violence
- Yelling or Screaming
The main difference between regular anger and the borderline equivalent is that BPD sufferers tend not to have a stronger reaction, but it lasts for much longer. Further studies have shown that BPD triggers remuneration, which causes that person to keep replaying the event over and over in their head. This creates a repetitive emotional cycle that worsens the psychological state increasing the duration. And the knock-on effect of that is…
5. Unstable Relationships
Which is kind of a given if you’re continually overreacting to trivial scenarios. But there is more to art than that. People with BPD go through what are known as cycles of idealisation and devaluation, which plays out something like this:
The person with BPD will meet a new partner or love interest and throw themselves wholeheartedly into the relationship. But as soon as something negative arises, like criticism or maybe a misplaced comment that triggers any one of those things we’ve already covered such as:
- Emotional Instability
- Explosive and internalised Anger
Conflict then ensues, which shift the perception of this once idealised person. And so now, they’re devalued to the extent you think there is nothing good about this person you were idolising. You’re heightened sensitivity to rejection known as abandonment sensitivity is triggered, which can cause you to over-react with that explosive anger we just talked about. This may cause you to rage quit the relationship – breaking up – only to get back together later that day. This push and pull dynamic is a classic hallmark of BPD relationships.
6. Impulsive Decisions (And Self-Destructive Behaviours)
These can be pretty wide and varied. They’re a common symptom of BPD and can nuclide anything from:
- Self Harm
- Threats of Suicide
- Promiscuity and unprotected sex
- Substance abuse (including drugs and alcohol)
- Binge Eating and/or starvation
- Reckless driving
Again, as we touched on with self-esteem, you don’t need to present with all of these behaviours to qualify for a BPD diagnosis. However is worth noting that there is a sub-type of this condition that is literally called self-destructive BPD, which is characterised by many of these traits. And more besides. But that’s the exception rather than the rule.
6. Self Harm
Although we just mentioned self-harm within self-destructive behaviour, it’s worth giving it a bit more focused attention, as unfortunately, it can be a fairly common symptom within BPD.
It can also be referred to as self-mutilation and can include:
- Sticking yourself with needles
- And severe scratching
This is known as non-suicidal self-injury or NSSI in shorthand.
It’s also worth noting that reckless behaviour and the willingness to put yourself in a dangerous situation where you know injury might be a possibility can feed into this pattern of behaviour.
As for how else it can manifest, some other common reasons that lead people to self-harm nclude:
- Attachment issues (insecure attachment)
- Childhood separation
- Emotional Neglect
- Sexual Abuse
And dissociation also absolutely needs to be given focused attention, as well. It’s actually one of the most common symptoms of BPD. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, you can think of it as being zoned-out. You’re physically present but you feel strangely disconnected from reality, almost like an out of body experience.
It tends to present most often as a by-product of stress with around 75-80% of people diagnosed with BPD reporting it as a symptom, and it is also associated with acute stress disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which both been known to co-occur with BPD.
As for dissociation looks like, it can manifest in the following ways:
- Identity Confusion
- Identity Alteration
Depersonalisation is the feeling of being separated from your body, like you’re observing it from outside or in a dream.
Derealisation is similar but is more concerned with feeling detached for the outside world. Things that should be familiar can seem strange and almost surreal.
With amnesia, some people report losing time, which could anything from minutes to hours to days in some extreme cases. This is sometimes referred to as dissociative fugue.
Identity confusion is like a sense of identity crisis where there is an intense internal struggle to find out who you really are.
Identity alteration occurs when you feel like you’re acting like different person. You might perform a skill you don’t remember learning or see objects at hoe you don’t remember buying.
Again, bear in mind, although dissociation is common not everything with BPD will experience it.
8. Chronic Feelings of Emptiness
This is another classic hallmark of BPD.
And the way that this emptiness is interpreted will be different for every individual. You might feel as:
And it’s this sense of emptiness that can often feed into suicidal thoughts and tendencies, destructive behaviour, and self-harm, which can be used equally as a coping mechanism and as a means to feel something other than nothing.
Feelings of emptiness can often come about through:
- Having few or no meaningful relationships
- Being constantly misunderstood or invalidated
- Don’t have a solid version of their identity
- Feel unworthy or undeserving (Basically experiencing low self-esteem as we talked about earlier)
- Lack any real sense of direction or goals in life
- Don’t believe they’re all that important
9. Identity Disturbance
This feeds into the idea of identity confusion we touched on in point seven. However, this is slightly different in that here, there’s more of a conscious aspect involved. This term is used to describe someone who’s inconsistent or incoherent in their identity, meaning their goals, beliefs, actions and the way they present themselves is constantly changing. It could also be that they take in the characteristics of others, as a way of grounding themselves and being accepted as they have no set sense of who they are themselves.
The DSM-5 describes identity disturbance as a “markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self” and cites it as being one of the key symptoms of BPD. Now, of course, people without BPD can also struggle with identity. But in BPD it’s much more pronounced.
To be clear on what identity is, it relates to:
- Your beliefs and attitudes
- The perception of your abilities, intelligence and self-worth
- Your mannerisms and the way you behave
- Your personality and temperament
- Your opinions
- The role you play in social groups
People with BPD can often report that they feel like a chameleon, as they will often change who they are depending on their current circumstances and what they think other want from them.
Feeding back in the ice of people-pleasing.
About the author:
Dr Becky Spelman is a leading UK Psychologist who’s had great success helping her clients manage and overcome a multitude of mental illnesses.
***If you’re struggling from borderline personality disorder and think you might benefit from speaking to someone, we offer a FREE 15-MINUTE CONSULTATION with one of our specialists to help you find the best way to move forward. You can book yours here
Very Well Mind (26th Oct 2020) Borderline Personality Disorder. Retrieved on 26th July 2021 from, https://www.verywellmind.com/borderline-personality-disorder-4157266
Recovery Ranch (17th Feb 2016) Uncommon Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder. Retrieved on 26th July 2021 from, https://www.recoveryranch.com/addiction-blog/uncommon-symptoms-of-borderline-personality-disorder/
Psychology Today (26th Jun 2021) 6 Ways Distress Affects People with Borderline Personality. Retrieved on 26th July 2021 from, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fulfillment-any-age/202106/6-ways-distress-affects-people-borderline-personality