THE SYMPTOMS OF BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER
Learning about Borderline Personality Disorder is no easy feat. It is a highly complex disorder that is still widely misunderstood and under-researched within the medical field. It is one of the most highly stigmatised disorders and our own innate human biases can make it difficult to open our minds.
There are 9 symptoms of BPD in the DSM-5, and to meet the criteria of BPD, you need to suffer from at least 5 of them to the extent they disrupt your daily life.
Let’s explore them.
FEAR OF ABANDONMENT.
Fear of abandonment is often reported as the most painful symptom of BPD and, in my personal opinion, is often the driving force behind most of the other symptoms. Experiencing fear of abandonment can invoke absolutely frantic and distressing responses in an attempt to keep the other person close. It may cause us to physically cling to someone, beg, threaten suicide, start verbal (or even physical) fights and often block our loved one from leaving. Unfortunately, these behaviours often result in the opposite of the desired effect and drive the other person away. On the other hand, fear of abandonment can cause us to isolate ourselves to ensure no one can ever get too close. We may refuse social interaction or any kind of relationship at all.
People with BPD often enter intense, turbulent and short-lived relationships. We may fall in love incredibly quickly and believe our new partner is something like a “knight in shining armour”. We can make other people our whole world and reason for living, only to end up rapidly disappointed. We may perceive our relationships as either completely perfect or absolutely horrible, with no middle ground. This can often tie into “idealisation and devaluation”, otherwise known as “splitting”.
UNCLEAR OR SHIFTING SELF-IMAGE.
Most of us with BPD have difficulty with our sense of self. Sometimes our confidence can be elevated and other times, we feel extreme hate towards ourselves. Many of us find it hard to figure out what we truly want in life, and as a result of this, we might frequently change jobs, friends, partners and even morals, values and goals. This symptom can result in eating disorders, body dysmorphia and even social isolation.
IMPULSIVE, SELF-DESTRUCTIVE BEHAVIOURS.
We may engage in harmful, damaging behaviours, especially when emotionally triggered. We may impulsively spend money when we can’t afford it, binge-eat, drive recklessly, drink or take too many drugs, engage in risky sex or fuel up arguments while in an emotional fog. These behaviours have been proven to help in the short term.
Suicidal ideation and self-harm are common behaviours for us. It is important to note, regardless of what anybody makes you feel, these are not attention-seeking behaviours. They are self-soothing behaviours that are utilised to help us, similarly to above, though they are not healthy.
EMOTIONAL EMOTIONAL MOOD SWINGS.
Another common component of BPD is extreme emotional mood swings. These can be fairly quick (from a few minutes to a few hours) or, in rarer cases, a few days, weeks or even months. Quite often, we’re toppled by the “little things” that others would typically brush off and this is often because other things have been quietly building up without us realising.
CHRONIC FEELINGS OF EMPTINESS.
It appears to be common in BPD to “feel empty” - like there is a hole or a void inside of us. We can have a generally dissatisfied outlook on the world and life and may feel as though we are invisible, important or a nobody - or conversely, that everyone is harshly judging us or like we have a spotlight on us. We may try to fill this void by using impulsive, self-destructive behaviours, but nothing seems to truly work.
Although the majority of people with BPD will never commit a violent act in their lives, we can and do experience explosive anger. We often experience this anger internally - imploding on ourselves. We might physically lash out by throwing things, seeing red, being overtaken by rage and sometimes, physically assaulting others.
FEELING SUSPICIOUS OR OUT OF TOUCH WITH REALITY.
Dissociation is a common symptom of BPD and is often a defence mechanism built inside of us to protect ourselves from the harsh realities of the real world. When we dissociate, we may struggle with feeling paranoid about others and lose touch with reality. We may feel foggy, completely disconnected, spaced out, and unable to process any new information or relay information accurately to others. We may not be able to access our thoughts and feelings during dissociation and are essentially entering the void made from chronic feelings of emptiness. We may lose large chunks of time, unable to remember what we said or did.