There is much stigma that surrounds this illness. It even comes from the medical professionals. Some professionals will not even work with sufferers of BPD.
Sufferers of BPD have grown up in/with dysfunctional families. Their child-brain has not grown into the adult-brain that it would have, if it didn’t have to rewire itself as it developed. The re-wiring that it did as a child was to compensate for its unsafe environment, to protect itself. Sufferers of BPD will usually know that they do not have a ‘normal’ brain, and they will usually seek help, and demand help from their GP.
Every single person that suffers BPD, suffers it differently. Sure, we share the same symptoms – some of them. But we are not all the same. Our traumas have shaped us, in different ways. Most sufferers report growing up in family environments that were unsafe (abusive, threatening, unstable), depriving (as opposed to nurturing), harshly punitive (often following inconsistent or invisible rules) and/or subjugating (punishing child’s normal expression of needs and feelings).
There are varying degrees of any illness, and BPD is not the exception. There are 4 different categories, or subtypes of BPD.
Psychologist Theodore Millon has identified the 4 subtypes of BPD as:
- Discouraged – includes avoidant, depressive or dependent behaviours.
- Impulsive – includes antisocial or approval-seeking behaviours.
- Petulant – includes passive-aggressive behaviours.
- Self-destructive – includes depressive or self-destructive behaviours.
A sufferer of Discouraged BPD believes that they are unworthy of love and affection. They act out with frantic efforts to avoid abandonment or the end of a relationship, but by doing the very things that cause the end of a relationship, or abandonment. Black-and-white thinking will occur, they swing from idealisations and devaluation of themselves and others. They will have an unstable sense of self, low self-esteem and little confidence. This person operates in Abandoned Child Mode.
A sufferer of Impulsive BPD struggles to control their impulses. These can be either over-controlled, or under-controlled impulses. Usually the impulsiveness is link with aggression and sexual endeavours. Persistent under-control can manifest itself as recklessness. These people are thrill-seekers. Sufferers of Impulsive BPD show a disregard for the rights and needs of other people. They struggle with addictions, self harming behaviours, destructive behaviours such as over-spending, over-eating, quitting a career or quitting studies and/or losing close relationships. The sufferer makes extreme efforts to avoid abandonment and disapproval. This person operates in Abandoned Child Mode and Angry Child Mode.
A sufferer of Petulant BPD will be a pessimistic person. Harbouring feelings of resentment due to a sense of inadequacy. They will be irritable and impatient. They are unpredictable, prone to explosive anger outbursts. They have a marked tendency to swing between wanting to help others and pushing them away. They are complainers. They are defiant. This person operates in Angry Child Mode.
A sufferer of Self-Destructive BPD believes that they are unworthy of love and affection, they are self-loathing. They feel that no one cares for them. They react by not caring for themselves. They will definitely self harm, usually in order to feel ‘something’. The sufferer had low self-esteem and an unstable sense of self. They have an intense fear of abandonment. This person operates in Abandoned Child Mode and Vulnerable Child Mode.
What if you do not find yourself relating to any BPD Subtype? Some BPD sufferers do have symptoms that relate to only one subtype category of BPD. Some don’t. We are all individual. Perhaps you are suffering co-occurring mental health conditions. I take symptoms from all 4 subtype categories. I also suffer PTSD. Probably cPTSD.
Below, I have gone through some of the more well-known ‘traits’, or symptoms of BPD. I have written about how I relate to them, and pointed out the discriminations that BPD sufferers face.
It is documented that BPD sufferers are unable to manage or control their emotions. This is true to a degree. Sometimes it is true, but not all of the time. I am less able to manage my emotions when I am under undue stress. Or when I feel threatened.
It is documented that people whom suffer BPD have unstable relationships. This is true to a degree. I have strong, well-formed relations with friends and family. And I also have relations that are fraught with conflict. I find it difficult to trust. So once that trust has been broken, by lying, manipulating or I feel that I am not being listened to, this sets the BPD and/or PTSD off. I struggle with authoritative relationships, and lovers.
It is documented that BPD sufferers will go through Crisis after Crisis. This is true for someone who does not know how to manage their BPD. Or perhaps if a sufferer in under stress. If the sufferer is taking control of their BPD, they have less crisis’. If the sufferer does not self-harm in mutilating ways, they have less visits to the hospital. I have had one call to the Crisis Team, when I was suffering suicidal ideation. I have almost had a second Crisis visit. But instead, I went to see a friend… Management. I have given all the tablets out of my house to a friend when I was suffering suicidal ideation…Management.
It is documented that BPD sufferers lack empathy. This is varying, person to person, I think depending on the trauma. If a sufferer has a narcissistic type of BPD, then yes most likely they will lack empathy. I was denied love and attention as a child. My emotional needs went unmet, and were abused. This has made me very aware of how I treat others and how they feel. I have an abundance of empathy. More than most that I have met throughout my lifetime!
It is documented that BPD sufferers are aggressive. Again, varying from person to person and most likely depending on their circumstances that they find themselves in. The sufferer will most likely not be aggressive all of the time. That would be exhausting. If a person is aggressive, there is most likely a circumstantial reason. Anger outburst are different to being an aggressive person. I am not aggressive all of time. I can be agressive when I feel like I am not being heard, or I am being mistreated. This does not happen instantly, it comes from an accumulation of worries. Frustrations cause me to be aggressive. I am though, abrupt and to the point. I am too honest sometimes. Some people find this way of communicating aggressive. I don’t mind it. I know people who have been diagnosed BPD that are very timid and quiet, not wanting to raise their voice or question anything.
It is documented that BPD sufferers have a very unstable sense of self. Confused about who they are. This is true for all of the BPD sufferers that I know. They want this, but they want that. They sabotage their professional goals, or lack them. This is due to the identity disturbances that the sufferers face, and their low self-esteem. With guidance and therapy this can be approached and managed.
It is documented that BPD sufferers are impulsive and reckless. This is true to a degree. Not all sufferers will be impulsive. Not all sufferers with be reckless. And the sufferers that are impulsive and/or reckless are not feeling those ways all of the time. It is usually under stress that a BPD sufferer will inhibit these symptoms. Though, these symptoms can continue for a long time. I had a period of about 4 years from the age of 18 where I misused drugs. I was reckless and completely impulsive. I did some stupid things that I regret. More recently in these days, the impulsiveness comes out in me when I am stressed. I usually say something that I regret. The stress also causes paranoia so, that helps. I have over-spent and had to send things back… like the time when I bought all new doors and door handles for my whole house instead of paying the Council Tax bill. I had to send them all back of course, and pay my bill. Stupid. I do binge-eat, sometimes until I feel sick. I have had a couple of very short periods in my life where I have misused alcohol as a coping mechanism. I can be reckless under threat, or as a coping mechanism.
It is documented that BPD sufferers engage in regular suicidal behaviours, threats or self harming. I do this, but it is ALWAYS triggered. Usually by a lover, lying to me or mistreating me. It sends me into overdrive. Panic. I feel an emotional pain that is so difficult to bear, even suicide can seem a better option than to feel the pain. I have had a couple of short periods where I have scratch my nails down my arms, and dug them in causing bruising and temporary scars. I do not regularly self-harm, and it is always triggered. Suicidal behaviours are always triggered by Depression or overwhelming anxiety. It has to be extreme.
It is documented that BPD sufferers have difficulty controlling their anger. This is true for some people, others it is not. When I am under stress, I sometimes have trouble controlling my anger. It will come as an outburst, shouting usually. I have smashed up a few inanimate objects in my lifetime. I am actually quite a patient person. I become more irritable than angry.
It is documented that BPD sufferers have chronic feelings of emptiness. I think that this symptoms is due to the misunderstandings of BPD, and of people who suffer BPD. Other people, friends and family do not understand the sufferers or their symptoms and lay blame on them. Or they might try to understand in such a way that the BPD sufferer feels is not fully genuine. This is probably because the sufferers find it difficult to trust people, but it is also because people are not forth-coming or always endearing. I think that this is why I have the chronic feelings of emptiness. And because I was abandoned by my care givers at prime times in my childhood.
It is documented that BPD sufferers have intense and highly changeable moods. Some BPD sufferers will highly changeable moods, some will not. It varies and the degree of the moods will vary too. Usually depending on circumstances that surround the sufferer at any time. I experience mood swings, when I am uncertain of something. When I am unsure of myself, who I am, I experience mood swings. I can be happy and have energy one day, and then feel completely deflated the next. It’s actually rare that I will keep the same mood for more than a week because I am always trying to reinvent myself, or help people, or learn about something new or learn about my mental health (etc). Outside forces influence my moods. If I am feeling unstable or under extreme stress then my moods are intense and highly changeable. When I am feeling more stable, they are not so interchangeable.
It is documented that BPD sufferers have paranoid thoughts under stress. Every BPD sufferer that I have met, does have paranoid thoughts under stress. I find that under stress, I do get paranoid. I am not paranoid all of the time. It has to be an extreme circumstance. I have been known to close all of my curtains and lights and turn down the sound, to avoid people when I have been very paranoid. I also have not been able to leave the house due to paranoia anxieties.
BPD is a very complex mental health condition. It requires patience from the sufferers and those around them, in order to heal. BPD is treatable, and usually lessens with age. Dialectal Behavioural Therapy is now a renowned treatment for BPD. Transcranial magnetic stimulation is being explored for treating BPD. Schema Therapy is also being explored for treating BPD. Psychotherapy is a very useful treatment for BPD.
I think that the trick is to first recognise when the BPD is ‘taking over’, and then analyse the behaviour and work through it. Understand the ‘Why’s’. When we can understand the ‘Why’s’, life becomes clearer. The symptoms become more managable with recognition. Sufferers should definitely have some kind of therapy, along with one to one councilling with a psychotherapist.
With time, patience, love and understanding – and therapy! – BPD sufferers can go on to live fulfillng lives.