When someone you love has Borderline Personality Disorder it can affect everyone: children, spouses, extended family, friends and coworkers.
What is Borderline Personality Disorder?
We’ve all heard of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)-but what exactly is it? It’s a tricky condition that can make life a rollercoaster ride for those who have it. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-5 (DSM5), Borderline Personality Disorder is characterized by unstable relationships, self-image, and emotions, as well as impulsive behavior that starts in early adulthood and persists across different situations. This means that people with Borderline Personality Disorder often have tumultuous lives, marked by risky and sometimes dangerous behavior.
Unfortunately, it is more common than you might think. Recent research suggests that over 4 million people in the United States, or 1.6% of the population, are affected by Borderline Personality Disorder. Interestingly, women are diagnosed with it three times more often than men, although the reasons for this are still unclear.
But here’s the really scary part: people with Borderline Personality Disorder are at a much higher risk of suicide than the general population. In fact, at least 70% of those diagnosed with the condition will attempt suicide at some point in their lives. And of those attempts, a shocking 10% will be successful. This means that the rate of completed suicides among people with Borderline Personality Disorder is more than 50 times higher than that of the general population.
So if you suspect that someone you love might be struggling with Borderline Personality Disorder, it’s important to seek help right away. With the right treatment and support, people with BPD can learn to manage their symptoms and live fulfilling lives.
What are the signs of Borderline Personality Disorder?
According to the DSM5, if someone consistently shows five or more of the following symptoms across different environments, they may be diagnosed with this condition:
1. Distressed efforts to keep away from true or imagined abandonment
Individuals with BPD have an intense fear of being left on their own and will do anything to avoid it. Even the smallest mistake or misunderstanding can trigger feelings of abandonment, causing them to become frantic and irrational. They need constant reassurance from others and may struggle with trust in romantic or close relationships, often becoming jealous over the slightest perceived slight. This can lead to them becoming extremely clingy to their partners. It’s important to understand and support those who are dealing with Borderline Personality Disorder.
2. A form of unstable and extreme interpersonal relations described as alternating between extremes of devaluation and idealization
Have you ever met someone who seems to be head over heels in love with you one day, and then the next day they act like you don’t even exist? Well, that could be a sign that they have Borderline Personality Disorder. People with this condition often struggle to maintain healthy relationships and can be incredibly unstable. They might idealize you one minute, telling you that you’re the best thing that ever happened to them and that they can’t live without you. But then, just as quickly, they might turn around and devalue you, acting like they want nothing to do with you. It can be a rollercoaster ride of emotions with these folks! They also tend to form intense attachments to new people very quickly and may not have the best personal boundaries. So, if you’re in a relationship with someone who seems to be all over the place, it might be worth considering whether they could be struggling with Borderline Personality Disorder.
3. Identity disturbance: significantly and relentlessly unstable self-image
Imagine feeling like you’re on top of the world one moment, and then crashing down to the depths of despair the next. People with Borderline Personality Disorder experience these extreme highs and lows, which can make them feel invincible and capable of achieving the impossible. However, this can quickly turn into manic behavior, followed by a period of intense self-loathing. It’s a rollercoaster ride that can be both exhilarating and exhausting.
4. Impulsive behavioral patterns in at least two aspects that are possibly self-damaging (e.g., substance abuse, sex, spending, binge eating, or reckless driving)
People with Borderline Personality Disorder often struggle to align their emotions with their physical experiences, leading them to engage in risky and dangerous behaviors. These can range from shoplifting and gambling to thrill-seeking activities, reckless spending, self-harm, bingeing on food or alcohol, and engaging in promiscuous sexual behavior. These behaviors provide a temporary boost of dopamine in the brain, which creates a sense of pleasure and happiness, while also helping to alleviate feelings of emptiness. However, these behaviors can also be incredibly harmful and can lead to serious consequences.
5.Recurring suicidal patterns, threats, gestures, or self-harming behavior
It’s a tough reality, but some people may feel so overwhelmed that they resort to threatening or even attempting suicide. When they’re upset, they might turn to self-harm behaviors like cutting, branding, or burning. And to hide the evidence, they might wear clothes that don’t match the season. It’s crucial to take any talk of suicide seriously and get professional help ASAP. Don’t wait.
6. Affective instability because of a significant reactivity of mood (e.g., irritability, anxiety, or intense episodic dysphoria that typically lasts a few hours, rarely more than days)
Individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder may experience intense mood swings, from euphoric highs to crushing lows, which can wreak havoc on their personal and professional relationships. People with BPD often find themselves in tumultuous and unstable relationships, and may struggle to hold down a job. It’s a tough road, but with the right support and treatment, those with Borderline Personality Disorder can learn to manage their symptoms and lead fulfilling lives.
7. Chronic empty feelings
Sometimes, people feel like they have nothing to contribute to the world and this can put them at a higher risk of sinking into a dark and gloomy depression. This kind of depression can be so overwhelming that it can lead to dangerous self-harm behaviors like cutting or even thoughts of ending their own life.
8. An appropriate and intense anger or trouble controlling anger (e.g., always angry or often temperamental)
Frequent outbursts can be a sign of underlying emotional issues that need to be addressed. Individuals with BPD may be constantly boiling with rage or struggling to keep their temper in check.
9. Short-lived stress-related paranoid thoughts or extreme dissociative symptoms
Individuals with BPD may have fleeting moments of stress-induced paranoia or extreme dissociation. During those moments they may feel like the world is closing in on them and they can’t seem to shake the feeling of being disconnected from reality.
How do we support our loved ones with Borderline Personality Disorder?
Buckle up, because life with a loved one who has Borderline Personality Disorder can feel like a wild ride on a roller coaster. But fear not, there are ways you can help them manage their symptoms and minimize any negative effects.
Focus on responsibility
If your loved one has Borderline Personality Disorder, it’s important to remember that they are still capable of knowing right from wrong. It can be tempting to swoop in and save them from the consequences of their actions, but it’s actually better to let them face the natural outcomes of their decisions. For example, if they go on a wild joyride and end up wrecking their car, resist the urge to buy them a new one. Or if they max out their credit card, don’t bail them out by paying the bill. By allowing them to experience the consequences of their actions, you may actually motivate them to make positive changes in their behavior. So, stay strong and let them learn from their mistakes!
Take all suicidal ideation seriously
When someone you care about drops hints or outright says they’re thinking about hurting or killing themselves, it’s crucial to take them seriously. Don’t brush it off as attention-seeking behavior or assume they’re just being dramatic. This could be their way of crying out for help, and it’s up to you to act fast. Don’t hesitate to get them the help they need right away. Remember, your quick action could make all the difference in saving their life.
Be consistent and honest
Individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder often lack insight into how their behaviors affect others. So, if your friend with BPD is going through a breakup and they’re blaming themselves for being a “horrible human being,” don’t just feed into their behavior unless you actually agree. For example, if you know the breakup was due to your friend’s infidelity, it’s important to be honest with them and not just go along with their self-blame. It’s all about finding that balance between being supportive and being truthful.
It’s important to know your limits. Sometimes, you just need to take a step back and disengage from a situation. Don’t be afraid to set clear boundaries and stick to them. And while you’re at it, keep in mind how you communicate with your loved ones. Remember, they have their own vulnerabilities and your words can have a big impact. So, always check for understanding and make sure you’re on the same page.
Encourage them to seek professional help
Individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder may experience something called “Anosognosia” or “Abnegation”? It’s a fancy way of saying that they may not be aware of their mental health status or may refuse to accept the truth even when presented with evidence. It’s tough to deal with, but we can help. Instead of telling them outright that they have BPD, let’s meet them where they are and acknowledge the difficulties they are facing. We can gently point out areas that may need improvement and express our concern for their well-being. Remember, nobody’s perfect, and we all have room to grow. Let’s work together to support those who need it most.