What is BPD?
Borderline Personality Disorder is a very serious, and very complex mental health disorder. Personality disorders may sound daunting, and there is often a lot of negative stigma surrounding the disorders, whether it is borderline, narcissistic, or antisocial. Borderline personality disorder is a spectrum. No one’s BPD is the same as the severity and intensity of emotion is an individual experience. Individuals who struggle with borderline in specific are people who have very little impulse control, and extreme difficulty in regulating their emotions; they typically have large reactions or mood shifts based on little shifts in the environment. Personality disorders in general are hard to diagnose and identify, as they are different for everyone, however one of the similarities in all borderlines is that they are in constant emotional turmoil and pain.
Symptoms of BPD
There are nine criteria that need to be met. These “criteria,” or more accurately, symptoms are:
-Intense fear of abandonment
-Impulsive or self-destructive behaviours
-Suicidal ideation / self-harm
-Extreme emotional mood swings
-Chronic feelings of emptiness
-Paranoia / dissociation (typically stress induced)
Why and How is BPD
BPD is influenced by three factors: genetic, biological, and environmental experiences. A person who has BPD was born with a brain that is “wired” in a particular way that makes them more predisposed to trauma. These characteristics are further influenced by the experiences one faces as they grow up and develop into adults.
4 BPD Subtypes
-Petulant. Petulant BPD is known as the “angry” BPD. It manifests in people being easily frustrated, irritable, and impatient. Most people with BPD see the world in a negative way, but petulant borderlines are acutely pessimistic.
-Impulsive. People with impulsive BPD more often than not focus on material items and surface level issues. They may have extremely high energy, but get bored of activities, hobbies, or people easily. Acting without thinking is another trait of impulsive BPD.
-Discouraged. People with discouraged BPD have difficulty in being able to make up their mind, and will often rely on others to make their decisions for them. Because they rely so much on others, the pain they feel is often internalized, and directed towards themselves.
-Self-destructive. Self-destructive BPD is sort of like a combination of all of the above- they are impulsive and act without caring about consequences, but are also very indecisive. People who identify with self-destructive BPD have the same type of petulant anger, however it is frequently internalized much like discouraged BPD.
How it is diagnosed and why you can’t self-diagnose
There is no specific test for borderline personality disorder, but BPD is diagnosed by psychiatrists who closely follow your past history, as well as genetic factors. Using the nine criteria and potentially some other tests such as the MSI-BPD or the PDQ-4. they are able to diagnose you. In order to be diagnosed with BPD, you have to meet at least five of the nine symptoms for an extended period of time. However, a BPD diagnosis can take a very long time to receive as there is a lot of overlap between BPD and other mental health issues. This is the exact reason you are not able to self diagnose BPD- unless there is tremendous research done. Receiving a diagnosis is a privilege that many people do not have access to, and in that case self-diagnosis can be helpful; however only if that individual also learns the skills to help themselves cope.
How to cope with BPD
BPD may be a lifelong illness, however it is treatable and manageable. Through intensive Dialectical behaviour therapy, (DBT) and cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) recovery is possible. It is important to attend therapy regularly, and to be honest and open with your therapist about your symptoms and emotions- remember, they aren’t mind readers. The most difficult part of therapy and DBT specifically is that you must do that work yourself, and put in effort to get better, everyday.
It is also important for an individual with BPD to be able to identify their symptoms and triggers so that they are more adequately prepared to either deal with, or exit a situation.
How to support somebody with BPD
The easiest way to support somebody with BPD is to research the illness. You may not ever be able to understand exactly what they are going through, but you can have a better understanding. The types of support required is different for each borderline, and so having open and non-judgmental communication is the easiest way to support someone you love.
My experience and the stigma I face
Typically from my friends and family I am able to receive tremendous support, and I can rely on them, however others in society, online and particularly doctors have negatively impacted how I feel about my diagnosis. I have had both positive and negative experiences in the hospital, with psychiatrists, and with other therapists, but sometimes I feel as if professionals simply see me as a disease or disorder rather than a person. Because of that, I have a hard time reaching out for help when I am in crisis because I fear that it will be received negatively, or viewed as just a symptom of my illness and therefore not serious. The most important thing I would want people to know about borderline personality disorder is that I am not crazy, I just have a harder time regulating everyday emotions.
Mental health resources
-Canadian Suicide Prevention Hotline- 833-456-4566
-BOOK “Coping with BPD” By Blaise Aguire and Gillian Galen
-APP “DBT Coach”