A borderline personality disorder is a mental health disorder that influences the way a person thinks and feel about himself(herself). It comprises of difficulty controlling emotions and behaviour. People who have borderline personality disorder usually have unstable relationships with others and are sensitive about things. This is because they have intense emotions for a long period and it becomes difficult for them to return to normal behaviour. They tend to misread and interpret situations wrongly which is no fault of theirs. They become impulsive and act unreasonably. Due to these behaviours, a borderline personality disorder is also called an unstable personality disorder.
Identifying borderline personality disorder
Do you relate to these?
· I usually feel ‘empty’.
. My emotions are difficult to control. I experience extreme anger, sadness or anxiety.
· I have a huge and constant fear that my loved ones and friends will leave me.
· My love relationship can be intense but it is unstable.
· My emotions (feelings) for people can change quickly from one level to the other even if I don’t want that but I don’t understand why.
· Sometimes, I do things that are termed crazy, dangerous or unhealthy. For instance, using drugs, having unsafe sex, shopping unwisely.
· I feel so sad sometimes that I have suicidal thoughts or attempt to hurt myself.
If you relate with many of these statements, then you might probably have a borderline personality disorder but you need a doctor to diagnose you. This is because it is easily confused with other conditions but this article will attempt to make things clearer and suggest some tips on what to do in the absence of a health professional.
Symptoms and signs of BPD
A borderline personality disorder is common than we imagined. The mental health association has come up with 9 major symptoms associated with this condition. For an individual to be diagnosed with BPD, a person must experience at least 5 out of these 9 symptoms.
1. Fear of being abandoned: people with this condition react extremely when they think a friend or a lover wants to leave them. This is usually not true, for instance, they might think that someone wants to leave them because they replied to their messages late or returned home late even if the person had a good reason (explanation) for doing that. They will take extreme measures such as tracking the person’s movement, being clingy or even blocking the person from going to work (events). Unfortunately, these exaggerated responses drive people away and they might eventually end up being alone- which was their greatest fear.
2. Relationships that are unstable: individuals who suffer from this condition usually have relationships that are intense but end quickly. This is because one moment the person is in love but then later claims to hate the partner. This is because of your rapid switch in moods. You might even assume your partner is cruel or doesn’t care enough.
3. Rapid changes in self-identity and self-image: individuals usually become confused about who they are: some days you feel good about yourself but other times, you just hate yourself and see yourself as a bad person who should not exist. You become confused about what you want in life and you change your friends, jobs, lovers, religion and so on.
4. Engaging in impulsive behaviours: people who have borderline personality disorder tend to engage in impulsive behaviours especially when they are upset. They may impulsively gamble, engage in unsafe sex, drive recklessly, misuse drugs or quitting a relationship or a job. This might make them feel good temporarily but eventually end up getting hurt and those around them.
5. Self-harm or suicidal thoughts: people living with BPD also tend to harm themselves especially if things do not go their way. This may happen after rejection, being abandoned or after they realize their exaggerated behaviours. Suicidal behaviour includes thinking of committing suicide, making some suicide threats or attempting suicide. Self-harm encompasses all the behaviours a person may exhibit to harm himself or herself, for example cutting or burning some parts of the body.
6. Overwhelming mood swings: they experience wide mood swings from being so excited to being depressed to being annoyed or ashamed. Some things that are generally cool might make you sad. These emotions are intense but they fade quickly.
7. Chronic feeling of loneliness or emptiness: sometimes they feel so low, bored and empty as if they do not exist. They tend to make up for this void and emptiness by engaging in some risky activities to feel alive such as engaging in sex, food or drugs.
8. Intense anger: they have difficulty controlling their anger and explode at little things which should have been handled otherwise. They might explode and throw things and be inappropriate towards others. Sometimes, the anger is not directed at other people but themselves.
9. Paranoia: they become paranoid and suspicious of others especially when they are stressed. Sometimes during stress, they may lose contact with reality and feel as if they are outside their own body, a term known as dissociation.
A borderline personality disorder is usually diagnosed with other mental health conditions such as:
· Bipolar or depression
· Eating disorder
· Drug or alcohol abuse
· Post-traumatic stress disorder
A borderline personality disorder is grouped into two:
1. Borderline– this type involves individuals who usually present with relationships with themselves and others (self-harm and loneliness).
2. Impulsive type- this group usually have problems with behaviours such as anger, impulsive behaviours and so on.
It is unclear what causes this disorder. The few factors that have been found include:
1. Environmental factors- a child who has usually gone through a traumatic experience might end up having this disorder which is also known as an emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD). Events during childhood such as abuse in any form, neglect, abandonment or separation from parents might cause this disorder.
2. Genetics- even though there has not been an identified gene, people who have relatives with borderline personality disorder are at a higher risk of getting this disorder.
3. Brain abnormalities- the brain is responsible for controlling behaviour and emotions. Research suggests that the parts of the brain together with chemicals released from the brain might be responsible for this disorder.
It is important to note that you cannot be certain about this condition unless you seek professional help from a doctor or psychiatrist. The doctor will recommend therapy or prescribe medications. Nonetheless, you can also help yourself if you experience many of these symptoms.
You can decide to calm the emotions. You can only achieve this by observing yourself-what triggers you. Then you can perform activities to relax you such as exercising, reducing stressful situations, having a good sleep and participate in things that make you happy and calm
Furthermore, you have to learn to control your impulses. Whenever you feel excited to do something impulsive, distract yourself and do something else.
Finally, learn to sharpen your interpersonal relationship. Try to get things from other people’s perspectives.
- Mayo clinic. Borderline personality disorder. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/borderline-personality-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20370237
- Mental health UK. Borderline personality disorder. Available at https://mentalhealth-uk.org/help-and-information/conditions/borderline-personality-disorder/causes-of-borderline-personality-disorder/
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