Thoughtful Thursday – Borderline Personality Disorder

flower_by_habbrock-d4ojkheTHURSDAY: Here we are again nearing the end of the week on a lovely Thursday. As you know we have been talking about mental illness, which we are going to continue for a bit longer. This week we are going to talk about Borderline Personality Disorder.

If you have borderline personality disorder (BPD) you probably feel like you are on a roller-coaster and not just with your emotions and relationships, but your sense of who you are. Your self-image, goals, and even your likes and dislikes may change frequently in ways that feel confusing and unclear.

People with BPD tend to be extremely sensitive. Some describe it as feeling like an exposed nerve ending. Small things can trigger intense reactions, and once upset, you have a hard time calming down. It’s easy to understand how this emotional volatility and inability to self-soothe leads to relationship turmoil and impulsive – even reckless – behavior.When you’re in the throes of overwhelming emotion, you’re unable to think straight and stay grounded. You may say hurtful things or act out in dangerous or inappropriate ways that make you feel guilty and ashamed later on. It’s a painful cycle that can feel impossible to escape, but it’s not. Healing is a matter of breaking the dysfunctional patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving that are causing you difficulty and distress. It’s not easy to change lifelong habits. Choosing to pause, reflect and then act in new ways will feel unnatural and uncomfortable at first. With time you’ll form new habits that will help you maintain your emotional balance and stay in control.

Borderline personality disorder manifests in different ways, but for purposes of diagnosis, mental health professionals group the symptoms into nine major categories. In order to be diagnosed with BPD, you must show signs of at least five of these symptoms. In addition, these symptoms must be long-standing (usually beginning in adolescence) and pervasive across many areas of your life.


  1. FEAR OF ABANDONMENT:People with BPD are often terrified of being abandoned or left alone. Even something as innocuous as a loved one getting home late or going away for the weekend can trigger an intense fear.
  2. UNSTABLE RELATIONSHIPS: People with BPD tend to have relationships that are intense and short-lived. You may fall in love quickly, believing this new person is the one who will make you feel whole, only to be disappointed.
  3. UNCLEAR OR UNSTABLE SELF IMAGE:When you have BPD, your sense of self is typically unstable. Sometimes you may feel good about yourself, but other times you hate yourselfor even view yourself as evil.
  4. IMPULSIVE, SELF-DESTRUCTIVE BEHAVIORS:If you have BPD, you may engage in harmful, sensation-seeking behaviors, especially when you are upset. You may impulsively spend money you can’t afford, binge eat, drive recklessly, shoplift, engage in risky sex, or overdo it with drugs or alcohol.
  5. SELF-HARM:Suicidal behavior and deliberate self-harm is common in people with BPD. Suicidal behavior is includes thinking about suicide, making suicidal gestures or threats, or actually carrying out a suicide attempt. Self-harm includes all other attempts to hut yourself without suicidal intent.  Common forms of self- harm include cutting and burning.
  6. EXTREME EMOTIONAL SWINGS:Unstable emotions and moods are common with BPD. One moment you may feel happy and the next, despondent. Little things that other people brush off can send you into an emotional tailspin.
  7. CHRONIC FEELINGS OF EMPTINESS: People with BPD often talk about feeling empty, as if there’s a hole or void inside of them. At the extreme, you may feel as if you’re “nothing” or “nobody.” This feeling is truly uncomfortable, so you may try to fill the hole with things like food, drugs or sex, but nothing truly feels    satisfying.
  8. EXPLOSIVE ANGER: If you have BPD, you may struggle with intense anger and a short temper. You may also have trouble controlling yourself once the fuse is lit– yelling, throwing things, or becoming completely consumed by rage. It’s important to note that this anger isn’t always directed outward. You may spend a lot of time being angry at yourself.
  9. FEELING SUSPICIOUS OR OUT OF TOUCH WITH REALITY:People with BPD often struggle with paranoia or suspicious thoughts of about others’ motives. When under stress you may even lose touch with reality–an experience known as dissociation. You may begin to feel foggy, spaced out, or as if you’re outside your own body.

Borderline personality disorder is rarely diagnosed on its own. Common co-disorders include: depression, bipolar disorder, substance abuse, eating disorders and anxiety disorders. If you have BPD , your brain is set on high-alert. Things feel more scary and stressful to you than they do to other people. Your fight-or-flight switch is easily triggered, and once on it hijacks your rational brain, triggering primitive survival instincts that aren’t always appropriate to the situation at hand.

This may make it sound like there is nothing you can do. After all, what can you do if your brain is different? The truth is that you can change your brain. Everytime you practice a new coping response or self-soothing technique you are creating new neural pathways. Some treatments, such as mindfulness meditation can even grow your brain matter. The more you practice, the stronger and more automatic these pathways will become. So don’t give up! With time, and dedication, you can change the way you think, feel, and act. For more information go to


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