What Is Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)?
If you have a borderline personality disorder (BPD), you may feel like you’re on a rollercoaster, not just because of your unpredictable emotions and relationships but also because of your shifting sense of self. Your self-image, ambitions, and even your likes and dislikes may fluctuate regularly in ways that are imprecise and perplexing.
People with BPD are typically highly sensitive. Some have compared it to having an exposed nerve ending. Small stimuli can provoke strong responses. And once angered, it is difficult to settle down. This emotional instability and incapacity to self-soothe might easily explain interpersonal strife and impulsive, even risky behavior.
When experiencing overpowering emotions, it is impossible to think clearly or remain grounded. You may say harmful things or behave in an unsafe or improper manner, resulting in feelings of guilt or shame. It is a terrible cycle from which it may seem hard to break. But it isn’t. Effective BPD therapies and coping strategies can help you feel better and regain control over your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.
BPD Is Treatable
In the past, many mental health experts considered borderline personality disorder (BPD) difficult to treat. Thus, they concluded that nothing could be done. We now know, however, that BPD is curable. In fact, the long-term outlook for BPD is more favorable than for depression and bipolar illness. However, a specific technique is required. The majority of individuals with BPD may and do recover, and they do so rather quickly with the correct therapies and support.
Breaking dysfunctional habits of thought, emotion, and behavior that are causing you discomfort is necessary for recovery. It is difficult to alter lifetime habits. Choosing to halt, ponder, and then act in novel ways will first seem strange and awkward. With time, though, you will develop new behaviors that assist you in maintaining emotional equilibrium and being in charge.
If you identify with many of the following statements, you may have a borderline personality disorder. BPD is often confused with other conditions. Thus, an official diagnosis must be made by a mental health expert. Even without a diagnosis, though, you may find the self-help advice in this article useful for soothing your inner emotional tempest and learning to regulate self-destructive tendencies.
Recognizing Borderline Personality Disorder
Do you identify with the following statements?
- I frequently feel “empty.”
- My emotions fluctuate rapidly, and I frequently suffer acute depression, rage, and worry.
- Constantly, I fear that the people I care about will leave or abandon me.
- The majority of my love relationships have been intense yet unstable.
- My feelings about the individuals in my life can fluctuate radically from one instant to the next, and I don’t always comprehend why.
- I frequently engage in harmful or unhealthy behaviors, such as reckless driving, unsafe sex, binge drinking, drug use, and spending sprees.
- I have tried self-harm, engaged in self-harming activities such as cutting and made suicide threats.
- When I feel uneasy in a relationship, I have a tendency to lash out or make hasty gestures in an attempt to keep the other person near.
Signs And Symptoms
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) presents in a variety of ways, but mental health practitioners classify the symptoms into nine basic categories for the sake of diagnosis. To be diagnosed with BPD, you must exhibit at least five of the following symptoms. In addition, the symptoms must be persistent (typically beginning in puberty) and have a broad influence on your life.
The 9 symptoms of BPD:
- The dread of abandonment People with BPD frequently fear abandonment or being left alone. Even trivial occurrences, such as a loved one returning home late from work or leaving for the weekend, might induce great terror. This might result in desperate attempts to keep the other person close. You can plead, cling, instigate conflicts, follow your loved one’s activities, and even physically prevent the other from leaving. Sadly, this conduct typically has the opposite impact, pushing people away.
- Unstable interpersonal interactions. People with BPD tend to have strong yet short-lived relationships. You may rapidly fall in love, assuming that each new person would make you feel whole, only to be swiftly disappointed. Your connections appear either ideal or awful, with no intermediate ground. Your partners, friends, or relatives may experience emotional whiplash as a result of your quick transitions from idealization to devaluation, wrath, and hatred.
- Uncertain or fluctuating self-image. Your sense of self is often unstable when you have BPD. Sometimes you may have a positive opinion of yourself, but at other times you may despise or even consider yourself wicked. You likely lack a firm understanding of who you are and what you want in life. Consequently, you may regularly change employment, acquaintances, loves, religion, beliefs, objectives, and even your sexual identity.
- Impulsive and damaging actions. You may engage in dangerous, sensation-seeking activities if you have BPD, particularly when you are distressed. You may spend money you cannot afford, overeat, drive dangerously, shoplift, engage in unsafe sexual behavior, or overindulge in drugs or alcohol. Momentarily, these dangerous habits may make you feel better, but in the long run, they harm you and the people around you.
- Self-harm. Suicidal conduct and intentional self-harm are widespread among individuals with BPD. Suicidal conduct consists of contemplating suicide, making suicidal gestures or threats, and attempting suicide. Self-harm includes any other attempts to inflict pain on oneself without suicidal intent. Cutting and burning are two common types of self-harm.
- Extreme emotional fluctuations. With BPD, unstable emotions and moods are prevalent. One moment, you may feel content, and the next, you may feel depressed. Small things that others disregard might throw you into an emotional spiral. Unlike the emotional fluctuations of melancholy or bipolar illness, these mood swings tend to be very short-lived, typically lasting only a few minutes or hours.
- Persistent emotions of emptiness People with BPD frequently describe a sensation of emptiness or a void within them. In severe cases, you may feel like “nothing” or “nobody.” This feeling is unpleasant. Therefore, you may attempt to fill it with substances, food, or sexual activity. However, nothing is completely satisfactory.
- Extreme rage. You may battle with extreme anger and a short fuse if you have BPD. Once the fuse is ignited, you may have difficulty restraining yourself, shouting, throwing objects, or becoming fully overtaken by wrath. It is essential to realize that rage is not always focused outward. You may spend a considerable amount of time feeling upset with yourself.
- Feeling distrustful or detached from reality. People with BPD frequently battle with paranoia or suspicions about the motivations of others. Stress can cause you to lose contact with reality, a phenomenon known as dissociation. You may have feelings of haziness, disorientation, or being outside of your body.
Frequent Concurrent Disorders
Rarely is borderline personality disorder diagnosed on its own? Examples of common co-occurring disorders:
- depression or bipolar disorder
- substance abuse
- eating disorders
- anxiety disorders
When BPD is well treated, other disorders frequently improve as well. However, this is not always the case. For instance, it is possible to successfully treat depressive symptoms yet still battle with BPD.
Most practitioners in mental health think that borderline personality disorder (BPD) is caused by a mix of inherited or internal biological characteristics and external environmental influences, such as traumatic childhood events.
Numerous complicated processes occur in the brain of a person with BPD, and experts are still attempting to decipher their significance. However, if you have BPD, your brain is essentially on high alert. You perceive situations as more frightening and stressful than others. Your fight-or-flight switch is readily activated, and once activated, it hijacks your reasoning brain, prompting primordial survival impulses that aren’t necessarily suitable for the current scenario.
This may give the impression that there is nothing you can do. In any case, what can you do if your brain is unique? However, the reality is that you can alter your brain. When you exercise a new coping reaction or method of self-soothing, you create new brain connections. Some therapies, such as mindfulness meditation, can even stimulate the growth of new brain cells. And the more you train, the more robust and automatic these neural circuits will become. So do not surrender! You may alter your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors with time and effort.
Personality Disorders And Stigma
When psychologists speak to “personality,” they mean the distinctive patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving that distinguish each individual. No one behaves identically at all times, yet we interact and connect with the environment in rather constant ways. This is why people are frequently classified as “shy,” “extroverted,” “detailed,” “fun-loving,” etc. These are personality traits.
Because personality is so intertwined with identification, the phrase “personality disorder” may leave you with the impression that there is something fundamentally wrong with your identity. However, a personality illness is not a judgment of character. In clinical parlance, “personality disorder” refers to a style of connecting to the environment that is considered atypical. (In other words, you do not behave as most people would anticipate.) This creates recurring difficulties in many aspects of your life, including your relationships, career, and attitudes about yourself and others. Importantly, though, these patterns may be altered!
Self-help tip 1: Calm The Emotional Storm
As someone with BPD, you’ve likely spent a great deal of time-fighting your instincts and feelings, making acceptance difficult to comprehend. However, acknowledging your feelings does not imply you endorse them or consign yourself to misery. It simply means that you cease fighting, avoiding, suppressing, or denying your emotions. Giving oneself permission to experience these emotions can significantly reduce their potency.
Try to experience your emotions without judging or criticizing them. Release the past and the future and concentrate solely on the present. In this aspect, mindfulness practices can be quite useful.
- Begin by monitoring your feelings from a distance.
- Observe their coming and going (it may help to think of them as waves).
- Concentrate on the bodily sensations associated with your emotions.
- Tell yourself that you accept your current emotions.
- Remind yourself that just because you are experiencing something does not indicate that it is true.
Do Something That Stimulates One Or More Of Your Senses
Engaging your senses is one of the quickest and simplest methods for self-soothing. You will need to conduct experiments to determine which sensory stimulation is most effective for you. You will also require different tactics for certain emotions. What may be helpful when you are furious or irritated differs greatly from what may be helpful when you are numb or sad. Here are some starting points:
Touch. Try pouring cold or heated (but not scorching hot) water over your hands, holding a chunk of ice, or holding an item or the edge of a piece of furniture as firmly as you can. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and need to relax, consider having a hot bath or shower, snuggling under the covers, or petting a pet.
Taste. If you are feeling empty and numb, try sucking on strong-flavored mints or candies or slowly eating anything with an extreme flavor, such as chips with salt and vinegar. If you want to relax, consider a relaxing beverage such as hot tea or soup.
Smell. Light a candle, smell the flowers, engage in aromatherapy, spray your favorite perfume, or cook something aromatic. You may notice that citrus, spices, and incense elicit the strongest response from you.
Sight. Concentrate on an image that catches your eye. This can be anything in your immediate area (such as a gorgeous vista, flower arrangement, picture, or photograph) or something you envision in your mind.
Sound. When you need a shock, try listening to loud music, striking a bell, or blowing a whistle. To relax, listen to peaceful music or the sounds of nature, such as the wind, birds, or the ocean. A sound machine is effective if you cannot hear the actual sound.
Reduce Your Emotional Vulnerability
When exhausted and under stress, you are more prone to experience unpleasant emotions. Therefore, it is essential to maintain your physical and mental health.
Taking care of oneself entails:
- Avoid mood-altering drugs
- Eating a balanced, nutritious diet
- Getting plenty of quality sleep
- Exercising regularly
- Minimizing stress
- Practicing relaxation techniques
Tip 2: Learn To Control Impulsivity And Tolerate Distress
The aforementioned approaches can help you relax when you begin to feel overwhelmed by stress. But what can you do when you feel overwhelmed by negative emotions? Here comes the impulsivity associated with borderline personality disorder (BPD). You are so desperate for relief in the heat of the moment that you will do anything, including things you know you shouldn’t, such as cutting, reckless sex, risky driving, and binge drinking. It may even feel as though you have no option.
Moving from being out of control of your behavior to being in control
It is essential to acknowledge that these impulsive activities serve a function. These are coping methods for managing anxiety. They make you feel better, even if only temporarily. However, the long-term expenditures are astronomical.
The first step in regaining behavioral control is learning to endure discomfort. It is the key to altering BPD’s damaging habits. The capacity to withstand distress will enable you to resist the temptation to act out when it arises. Instead of responding to challenging emotions with self-destructive habits, you will learn to ride them out while remaining in charge of the experience.
In case of an emergency, distract yourself
Distracting yourself may assist if your attempts to calm down are failing and you’re beginning to feel overwhelmed by destructive desires. You only need something to hold your attention long enough for the negative inclination to pass. Any activity that captures your attention might serve as a distraction, but calming activities are most helpful. In addition to the sensory-based tactics already described, you might also attempt the following:
Watch television. Choose the opposite of how you’re feeling, such as a comedy if you’re depressed or something soothing if you’re furious or upset.
Engage in an enjoyable activity that keeps you active. This may be gardening, painting, playing an instrument, crocheting, reading a book, playing a video game, or doing a Sudoku or word puzzle.
Immerse yourself in your task. You may also divert yourself with tasks and errands, such as cleaning the house, mowing the lawn, shopping for groceries, grooming your pet, and doing the laundry.
Get moving. Vigorous exercise is a good approach to stimulate adrenaline and release tension. If you are feeling anxious, you may choose to engage in more soothing activities such as yoga or a neighborhood stroll.
Phone a buddy. Talking to a trusted someone is a rapid and very efficient technique to divert your attention, feel better, and get perspective.
Tip 3: Improve Your Interpersonal Skills
Maintaining stable, happy relationships with lovers, coworkers, and friends has often been difficult for those with a borderline personality disorder. You have difficulty stepping back and viewing things from the perspective of others. You tend to misinterpret the thoughts and emotions of others, misunderstand how others see you and ignore how your behavior affects others. It’s not that you don’t care, but you have a large blind spot when it comes to other people. The first step is recognizing your interpersonal blind spot. When you stop placing blame on others, you may begin to enhance your relationships and social abilities.
Check Your Assumptions
It’s easy to misinterpret the intentions of others when you’re distracted by stress and negativity, as BPD sufferers frequently are. If you are aware of this propensity, you should examine your assumptions. Remember that you cannot read minds! Consider alternate reasons before leaping to (typically unfavorable) judgments. As an illustration, suppose your spouse was abrupt with you over the phone, causing you to feel uneasy and fear that they have lost interest in you. Before acting on these emotions:
Pause to evaluate the many alternatives. Perhaps your partner is under stress at work. Perhaps he’s having a difficult day. Perhaps he has not yet had his coffee. There are several possible causes for his actions.
Request clarification about their intentions. One of the simplest methods to test your assumptions is to inquire about the other person’s thoughts and emotions. Verify what they intended by their words or behavior. Try a milder approach: “I might be incorrect, but it seems like…” or “I may be overreacting, but I get the impression that…”
Put a Stop to the Projection
Do you have a propensity to transfer your unpleasant emotions onto other people? When you’re feeling horrible about yourself, do you strike out at others? Does feedback or constructive criticism feel like an attack on your person? If so, you may have a projection problem.
To combat projection, you must learn to apply the brakes, just as you did when you learned to control your impulsive actions. Attend to your emotions and the bodily sensations you experience. Take notice of indicators of stress, such as a quick heartbeat, tense muscles, perspiration, nausea, and dizziness. When you feel this way, you are likely to take the offensive and say something you may later regret. Pause and take several long, steady breaths. Then, consider the following three queries:
- Am I disappointed in myself?
- Am I experiencing embarrassment or fear?
- Am I concerned about abandonment?
If the response is affirmative, pause the conversation. Inform the other person that you are feeling emotional and need time to think before continuing the discussion.
Take Responsibility For Your Role
Finally, it is essential to accept responsibility for your position in your relationships. Consider how your behaviors may contribute to issues. How do your words and actions affect the emotions of your loved ones? Are you slipping into the trap of viewing the other person as either completely positive or completely negative? You will begin to notice a change in the quality of your relationships when you make an effort to put yourself in the shoes of others, give them the benefit of the doubt, and minimize your defensiveness.
Diagnosis And Treatment
It is essential to realize that you cannot independently diagnose borderline personality disorder. Therefore, if you or a loved one may be suffering from BPD, you should get professional assistance. BPD is frequently mistaken with or overlaps with other diseases; thus, you must be evaluated and diagnosed by a mental health expert. Find a professional who has expertise in diagnosing and treating BPD.
The Significance of Selecting The Proper Therapist
The assistance and direction of a trained therapist can make a significant difference in BPD therapy and recovery. You may be able to begin working through your relationship and trust difficulties and “test on” new coping strategies in therapy.
A seasoned expert is conversant with BPD treatments such as dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and schema-focused therapy. While these therapies have been shown to be effective, it is not always required to adhere to a particular treatment plan. Numerous specialists feel that weekly treatment consisting of information about the condition, family support, and training in social and emotional skills may effectively treat the majority of BPD cases.
It is crucial to take the time to select a therapist with whom you feel comfortable—someone who makes you feel welcomed and understood. Take your time in locating the ideal individual. But once you do, you should commit to counseling. You may first believe that your therapist would be your savior, only to become disillusioned and conclude that they have nothing to give. Keep in mind that these idealization and demonization swings are characteristic of BPD. Try to persevere with your therapist and permit the relationship to develop. And remember that by its very nature, change is unsettling. If you never experience discomfort in treatment, you are generally not making progress.
Do not rely on drugs as a cure.
Despite the fact that many patients with BPD use medication, very little evidence suggests that it is effective. In addition, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not authorized any drugs for the treatment of BPD in the United States. This does not imply that medicine is never useful, especially if you also suffer from depression or anxiety, but it is not a solution for borderline personality disorder.
Regarding BPD, counseling is significantly more beneficial. You must simply be patient. However, your physician may recommend medicine if:
- You have both BPD and depression or bipolar illness as a diagnosis.
- You have panic episodes or extreme anxiety.
- You start hallucinating and getting odd, paranoid ideas.
- You are suicidal or in danger of causing harm to yourself or others.