What is Borderline Personality Disorder
People who have Borderline Personality Disorder tend to be volatile, unstable, overreactive, impulsive, and lacking in boundaries. While not all people with BPD are abusive to their partners and others, the cluster of personality traits common with the disorder can contribute to abusive behaviors and attitudes in some.
It can be very difficult to be in a husband, wife, boyfriend, or girlfriend to someone who has Borderline Personality Disorder.
And it can be very difficult to get out of a relationship with someone who has BPD.
What's In This Post
|What is Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)?|
|Volatile Relationships with Borderline Personality Disorder|
|Instability Borderline Trait|
|Borderline Personality Disorder Signs and Symptoms|
|Self-Harm and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)|
|BPD Fear of Abandonment|
|Books About Partner Abuse Help|
What is Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)?
The term borderline was first used to describe a set of personality traits that bordered between neurotic (mental distress) and psychotic (break from reality).
That set of traits is included in what is now known in North America as Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).
Volatile Relationships with Borderline Personality Disorder
People with borderline personality tend to run hot and cold.
They love you or they hate you.
They view people in absolute terms: absolutely wonderful or absolutely terrible.
They go through a lot of relationships, both romantic and platonic. They wear partners and friends out. Relationships that do last for them are usually with partners who are particularly perseverant.
Instability Borderline Trait
The word, or concept of, unstable crops up a lot when describing people with borderline personality.
They have unstable emotions, unstable image of themselves, unstable relationships, and impulsive destructive behavior.
In fact, the international title for BPD is Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder. (North America is moving towards adopting the international system for mental health designations.)
Borderline Personality Disorder Signs and Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of borderline personality include the following (not all are necessarily present in an individual):
separation anxiety when away from their loved ones
self-mutilation (self-harm) such as cutting or burning themself*
extreme fear of abandonment**
viewing people as absolutely wonderful or absolutely terrible
quickly flipping their assessment of a person from wonderful to terrible or vice versa
chameleon-like: lacking a clear sense of self, they may take on the opinions and behaviors of others as their own
very intense emotions
extreme mood swings (short-lived episodes of depression, irritability, anxiety, anger . . .)
verbally and/or physically abusive
feeling empty and worthless
severe dissociation, numbness, or detachment
anger, rage, aggression
recklessly impulsive with spending, shoplifting, dangerous driving, substance abuse, bingeing and purging, risky sexual behavior . . .
suicidal gestures, threats, or completion
lacking in boundaries
sees themself as right and others as wrong
*Self-Harm and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
"Non-suicidal self-injury is the deliberate, self-directed damage of body tissue without suicidal intent and for purposes not socially or culturally sanctioned."
Other terms for self-harm are self-injury and self-mutilation.
What this category of self-harm is not:
It's not suicidal.
It's not risky behaviors like not wearing a seatbelt.
It's not behaviors that don't cause immediate injury (ie. It's not food restriction)
It's not culturally sanctioned behaviors such as tattooing.
While self-harm such as superficially cutting on arms and legs is very typical borderline personality behavior, it is not necessarily present in every person with BPD, and every person who “cuts” does not necessarily have BPD.
**BPD Fear of Abandonment
The borderline person’s fear of abandonment may result in them reacting in extreme ways to anything that triggers their feelings of abandonment.
Their partner being a few minutes late can set off rage or tears.
They may lash out at a friend for cancelling a lunch meeting, or threaten suicide if they suspect that their partner is considering ending their relationship.
To Learn More
Biskin, R. S., & Paris, J. (2012). Diagnosing borderline personality disorder. CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association journal, 184(16), 1789–1794. https://doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.090618
Books About Partner Abuse Help
People with Borderline Personality Disorder can be very challenging as romantic partners.
They aren't always abusive, but as you can see from the signs and symptoms above, the cluster of personality traits that lead to a diagnosis of BPD can make for volatility and instability that can show up as abusiveness toward partners and ex-partners.
- Ann Silvers