Today I am writing about a mental illness/disorder that I knew absolutely nothing about until a psychiatrist diagnosed me with it last year during my visit to Canada. Borderline personality disorder or BPD as it is known is an illness/disorder that I was completely unaware of so when I was diagnosed I was petrified, I had no idea what it was, how you get it, is there treatment? If so how do you treat it? I had no idea whatsoever and I think it is so important for people to have the knowledge as on average 1 in 20 people will have this disorder and like me, they probably won’t know what it is.
So firstly, what are the symptoms?
- Fear of abandonment: People with BPD are often scared of being abandoned or left alone. Even little things like a loved one being late home or going away for a few days can trigger an intense fear. It often leads to begging, being clingy, starting fights for attentions, being overly jealous, tracking your loved ones movements or even something like physically stopping you loved ones from leaving, ie; blocking a doorway etc.
- Unstable relationships: People with BPD often have relationships that are intense but short-lived. You fall in love quickly, believing that each new person you fall in love with will be the one to make you feel whole, however you end up quickly disappointed. Your relationships either seem perfect or completely horrible with absolutely nothing in between. People around you often become emotionally confused from your rapid mood swings.
- Unclear or unstable self-image: People with BPD often have an unstable sense of yourself. Sometimes you feel good about yourself, but sometimes you completely hate yourself or even can view yourself as evil. You don’t have a clear idea of who you are or who you want to be or what you want in life. As a result of this you may frequently change your jobs, friends, lovers, values, goals or even sexual identity.
- Impulsive, self-destructive behaviours: People with BPD may engage in harmful or sensation-seeking behaviours, especially when 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. The risky behaviours may seem like they’re going to help you feel better in that moment, but they hurt those around you over the long-term.
- Self-harm: Suicidal behaviour and deliberate self-harm is common in people with BPD. Suicidal behaviour included thinking about suicide, making suicidal gestures or threats or actually carrying out a suicide attempt. Self-harm includes all other attempts to hurt yourself without suicidal intent.
- Extreme emotional swings: People with BPD commonly suffer with unstable emotions and moods. One moment you feel happy and the next you’re angry or upset. Little things that other people can easily brush off send you in to an emotional tailspin. These mood swings can often be very intense however they tend to pass fairly quickly, usually lasting just a few minutes or hours rather than long term like depression or bipolar disorder.
- Chronic feelings of emptiness: People with BPD often feel empty as if there is a hole or void inside of them. With extreme cases you may feel as if you’re ‘nothing’ or a ‘nobody’. This feeling is uncomfortable and people with BPD often try to fill this hole with things like drugs, food, alcohol or sex but nothing feels truly satisfying.
- Explosive anger: People with BPD may struggle with intense anger and short temper. You may so have trouble controlling yourself once the fuse is lit. You may yell, throw things or become completely consumed by rage. It is important to note that this anger is not always directed outwards, you may spend a lot of time being angry at yourself.
- Feeling suspicious or out of touch with reality: People with BPD often struggle with paranoia or suspicious thought about others’ motives. When under stress, you may even lose touch with reality – an experience known as dissociation. You may feel foggy, spaced out or as if you’re outside of your own body.
Something to bare in mind is that Borderline Personality Disorder is very rarely diagnosed on its own, it is often associated with depression, anxiety bipolar, substance abuse and eating disorders, however saying that it can still be diagnosed on its own, it is just very rare to do so.
Now onto the causes, how does Borderline Personality Disorder occur?
There are many complex things happening in the BPD brain and researchers are still trying to untangle what it all means. But in essence, if you have BPD your brain is on high alert, things feel more scary and stressful to you than they do to other people. Your switch is easily tripped and once it’s on it hijacks your rational brain and makes you act in ways that aren’t always appropriate to the situation at hand. It may sound as if there is nothing you can do, after all what can you do if your brain is different? But you can in fact change your brain but training yourself with new coping mechanisms and self-soothing techniques. With time and dedication, you can change the way you think, feel and act.
Because personality is connected to identity, the term ‘personality disorder’ might leave you feeling like there’s something fundamentally wrong with who you are, but a personality disorder is not a character judgement. In clinical terms a personality disorder means that your pattern of relating to the world is significantly different to ‘the norm’. In other words, you don’t act in ways that people would expect and this causes consistent problems for you in many areas of your life, such as relationships, career and feelings about yourself and others.
Now onto three self-help tips.
- Calming the emotional storm: You need to stop trying to fight, avoid, suppress or deny what you’re feeling, give yourself permission to feel the way you feel, no matter what those feelings are. Just experience your feelings without judgement or criticism. Let go of the past and the future and focus on the present moment.
- Reduce your emotional vunerability: You are more likely to experience negative emotions when you’re run down and under stress. That’s why it is important to take care of your mental well-being. You can take care of yourself by avoiding mood-altering drugs, eating a balanced diet, getting plenty of sleep, exercising regularly, minimising stress and practising relaxation techniques.
- Learn to control impulsive and tolerate distress: When you feel overwhelmed by difficult feelings, borderline personality disorder means you’re so desperate for relief that you’ll do anything for relief including things you know you shouldn’t be doing such as cutting, reckless sex, dangerous driving and binge drinking. It is important to recognise that these impulsive behaviours serve a purpose, they are coping mechanisms for dealing with distress, they make you feel better even if it’s just for a brief moment. Regaining control of this starts by learning to tolerate distress. It is key to change the destructive patterns. A key way to doing this is finding a quiet spot and sitting in a comfortable position, concentrating on your breathing, taking slow, deep breaths. Breathe in slowly, pause and count to three then slowly breath out and continue doing this for several minutes. You could also watch something on TV that you enjoy, throw yourself into work, calling a friend for a chat, exercise or do something you enjoy that keeps you busy.
Next, onto diagnosis and treatment. It is very important to remember that you cannot diagnose borderline personality disorder on your own. So if you think you or a loved one may be suffering, it’s best to seek professional help at some point. BPD is often confusing or overlaps with other conditions so you need a mental health professional to evaluate you and make an accurate diagnosis.
The support and guidance of a qualified therapist makes a huge difference in BPD treatment and recovery. Therapy has the potential to be a safe space where you can work your way through your relationship an trust issues and try new coping techniques. You should feel safe with your therapist and feel as though you can trust them to help you and guide you through, someone who makes you feel accepted and understood. You must make a commitment to therapy, attend your sessions and work hard with the therapist.
I did a lot of reading and research into BPD when I was diagnosed because I had no idea what it was or how I had got it, but once I did the research I started to realise that it was not my fault, it’s just a part of my life and brain. I worked hard learning coping mechanisms and techniques to deal with things better than I used to and overall I am a lot happier now than I ever was. With the help of my parents and my boyfriend I am finally in a good place and a happy place.
One thing I would say if you think you could be suffering from BPD or if you know someone who could be, it is definitely push it with the doctor for a proper diagnoses. For 18 months I was put on anxiety medication and anti depressants in England with my regular doctor and therapists and it was only when I went to Canada and seen a doctor and psychiatrist out there that I was actually given a solid diagnoses and told I no longer should be taking the anti depressants or anxiety medication because it wasn’t needed and wasn’t helping me. I think the NHS is very special in our country, but sometimes the diagnoses with mental illness isn’t always accurate. In my case the doctor just threw tablets at me and assumed they would make me better and I have heard a lot of similar stories, so definitely push for a proper diagnoses if you think you have BPD, push for a session with a psychiatrist or therapist and don’t give up until you receive the help you actually need and not just tablets.
I, for one, am so grateful to the psychiatrist out in Canada for helping me to finally get a diagnoses to be able to work on because in the past 6 months or so I’ve worked on it all and I am now a million times better than I ever was.
Another thing I would say is if you know someone suffering with BPD support them and help them through because it is honestly such a horrible place when you have something wrong with you but you don’t know why or what or how and everything just spins around in your head. I am fortunate enough to have a really strong support network around me, my parents, my best friends and my boyfriend have all supported me, listened to me and understood me, they’ve helped me through and I am honestly so grateful to each and every one of them for everything they’ve done for me.
Mental illness is something I am passionate about talking about and spreading awareness because so many people suffer in silence and are too scared to speak out in case they are judged and that shouldn’t be the case. Speak out, get help and don’t be scared to admit something isn’t right. Today’s post is something very close to my heart and I hope you have all at least learnt something from it.
Thank you for reading!
Disclaimer: All information and facts were read and reworded from: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-disorders/borderline-personality-disorder.htm