“People with BPD are like third degree burns over 90% of their bodies. Lacking emotional skin, they feel agony at the slightest touch or movement.” – Marsha M. Linehan
Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a personality disorder diagnosed in around 2% of adults – making up 20% of those using mental health services. BPD is diagnosed by noticable symptoms. Symptoms are, as listed by MayoClinic;
- An intense fear of abandonment, even going to extreme measures to avoid real or imagined separation or rejection
- A pattern of unstable intense relationships, such as idealizing someone one moment and then suddenly believing the person doesn’t care enough or is cruel
- Rapid changes in self-identity and self-image that include shifting goals and values, and seeing yourself as bad or as if you don’t exist at all
- Periods of stress-related paranoia and loss of contact with reality, lasting from a few minutes to a few hours
- Impulsive and risky behavior, such as gambling, reckless driving, unsafe sex, spending sprees, binge eating or drug abuse, or sabotaging success by suddenly quitting a good job or ending a positive relationship
- Suicidal threats or behavior or self-injury, often in response to fear of separation or rejection
- Wide mood swings lasting from a few hours to a few days, which can include intense happiness, irritability, shame or anxiety
- Ongoing feelings of emptiness
- Inappropriate, intense anger, such as frequently losing your temper, being sarcastic or bitter, or having physical fights
Abandonment. Don’t we all fear that though? Yes. But not as drastically as those with BPD. People with BPD will go to extremes to ensure they are not abandoned or feeling abandoned, even if the threat is non-existent to others. This results in behaviours that are less than ideal. Suicide attempts are often a means of this fear and an attempt to keep the person around. Fighting can be a result of this fear too. A negative reaction is still a reaction and at times people with BPD will start fights to ensure they still are in the persons attention.
No sense of self image or identity. There is no real understanding of what they enjoy and what they dislike. People with BPD tend to not be able to list favourite things or list too many. Sometimes they look to those around them for an identity ie: “I like Italian food.” “Oh me too!” – even if they may not have ever had it. It may sound fine and harmless, but it can lead to a very destructive behaviours to fill the void. Things such as drug use, continuously quitting jobs, putting themselves in harms way. Many people with BPD are diagnosed with an eating disorder as they have taken the label to gain some form of identity. This is not to say an eating disorder is a compulsory symptom of BPD.
The biggest part of BPD, for me, is the emotional roller coaster it creates for you. You aren’t just upset, you are devastated. You aren’t just happy, you are elated. But isn’t that like normal human emotions? It may sound like it, but the reality is there is no words to explain just HOW intense the emotions are. The best way is to use images.
First we look at the “average” human emotion. While it can spread away from neutral, the span is very small. You can experience a jump in the emotions from neutral to sadness etc, but the span is, say, 2 metres.
Then we look at borderline personality disorder. This is intense. The whole span is, say, 10 metres. The whole span of the average human emotion fits within the BPD span, with plenty of room to spare. It is severely intense.
So isn’t it just like Bipolar? No. Bipolar is from manic to depressed (in it’s most basic sense). Some say that those with BPD experience the same emotional length when at those stages, i.e; when someone with BPD is sad, they are at the same level of someone diagnosed with depression, and when someone with BPD is happy/excited, they can become manic at the level of someone with bipolar. But this is simply a way for people to understand the severity of the emotions of those with BPD and is not a clinical diagnosis.
There is no real knowledge about what causes BPD but it is thought to be environmental – childhood abuse/neglect, genetics, and/or brain abnormalities. There are beleived to be risk factors that can include hereditary predisposition, a stressful childhood – this doesn’t necessarily stem down to childhood abuse/neglect but any kind of stress including the loss of a parent(s), or hostility such as family fighting.
BPD is an annoying son of a bitch and it sucks. There are good things about it, like if you love someone you love them with everything you have (because you only know go big or go home), people with BPD are passionate. About loving, about art, about anything. Although frequently called manipulative and harmful, people with BPD are actually very sensitive. They know how hard it is to feel sad, because to them sadness is not just being sad, and they want to prevent other people from feeling that way or to give them answers to help.
If someone comes to you and tells you they have borderline personality disorder, do not run to google the ins and outs – because all you will find is negativity. Ask the person themselves; ask them what you can do to help – maybe sending them a text every so often to remind them you have forgotten about them, ask them what it feels like for them – every person with BPD experiences it differently. Lastly, do not treat them as the monster under your bed, they are human and they have feelings. They don’t mean to be manipulative or impulsive or irrational, it’s a fight or flight mechanism. Work with them to create a way to ensure you are going to be able to give them the best chance at your relationship.
“She feels more than you, you have to understand that about her. She feels the edge end the details of things and when she gets close to someone, she feels their happiness and pain.” – Jim Storm
“She is strong but not in the way people think. She loves more than she will ever get back & she knows it… Yet she loves anyway”
“I feel everything, all the time. It’s exhausting. But it also makes me passionate, which is beautiful.” – Alicia Sarah Raimundo
“Sensitive people suffer more but they love more and dream more.” Augusto Cury
“I don’t know what living a balanced life feels like. When I am sad I don’t cry, I pour. When I am happy I don’t smile, I glow. When I am angry I don’t yell, I burn. The good thing about feeling in extremes is when I love I give them wings but perhaps that isn’t such a good thing, cause they always tend to leave and you should see me when my heart is broken I don’t grieve, I shatter.” – Rupi Kaur
“You are so good. So good, you’re always feeling so much. And sometimes it feels like you’re gonna bust wide open from all the feeling, doesn’t it? People like you are the best in the world, but you sure do suffer for it.” – Silas House
“My skin is so thin that the innocent words of others burn holes right through me.” – BPD Pieces of Me Community