By Victoria Mongiardo //
For the final day of Mental Health Awareness month, we found it fitting to discuss a relatively unknown mental illness that most commonly affects women.
Borderline personality disorder is a severe mental illness that typically involves feeling unloved, unwanted, and empty. People with borderline personality disorder tend to feel constantly afraid that people they care about will leave, leading to severe anxiety and depression.
What is Borderline Personality disorder?
Around 1.4% of the U.S population is affected by BPD. While those statistics aren’t specifically large, a majority of those affected by borderline personality are women. In fact, 75% of the people diagnosed with BPD are females.
Having borderline personality disorder means you are extremely sensitive, almost all the time. It is also known as Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (EUPD). It can make you feel as if you are constantly on an emotional rollercoaster. Even something small and insignificant can take you from feeling good feeling like your whole world has been turned upside down within a matter of moments.
It is normal for everyone to feel jealous, emotional, or unwanted at times. But what people usually don’t know is that frequent and intense emotional hijackings are a sign of something entirely else — a personality disorder.
With BPD, your emotions shift quickly, and they get so overwhelming that you lose your ability to think straight. You might say hurtful things, be reckless, have sudden bouts of extreme anxiety, fear that others might leave you, or have a quickly changing self-image, etc.
BPD can affect how you manage emotions, relationships, and life overall.
What BPD could look like in real life
Let’s say you’re in a relationship and everything is going well. Your partner came over to stay at your place. You had a good time.
Initially, it was planned for them to spend the whole night, but your bed turned out to be too small to sleep for the both of you comfortably so they decided to go back home for the rest of the night.
Quite normal, right? But not for someone with BPD. Your mood suddenly changes, and now you’re experiencing overwhelming sadness and anxiety. You start to over think and come up with questions like “What if something else about me made them leave instead?” or “What if they don’t like me and plan to leave me soon?” You were feeling amazing just an hour ago, but now your mind is in endless cycles of anxiety and insecurity. You suddenly start feeling worthless, and your eyes are about to burst with tears. But you end up getting a good night text sometime later from your partner, and now you’re instantly back to normal.
This might happen over other things too. For example, a random joke or comment from your friend might make you so insecure that it ends up ruining your day. You may suddenly lash out at people over small things. If your close friend makes plans to hang out with someone else, you start to feel unloved, unwanted, and empty all of a sudden. You’re constantly afraid that the people you care about will leave you, and this gives you anxiety.
Although this example is quite mild, people with borderline personality disorder tend to involve themselves in risky behavior and can end up getting themselves into difficult situations.
What are the symptoms of BPD?
Borderline personality disorder is often confused with Bipolar Disorder. Although both share similar symptoms, one common differentiating factor is that people with Bipolar disorder might have an episode where they experience these intense emotions for a limited amount of time. On the other hand, a person with BPD might have an intense emotional response all the time. The severity of Borderline Personality Disorder causes mental health professionals and healthcare professionals to be hesitant to diagnose minors with this disorder and often describe teens and children with this disorder as ‘displaying borderline personality traits’. Once these children reach adulthood, they can be properly diagnosed.
Here are some common symptoms of BPD:
● You are terrified of being abandoned or left alone, and even the slightest cues of someone losing interest can make you frantic and experience abandonment anxiety
● Most of your relationships are intense, unstable, and short-lived because of your extreme emotions
● You look at yourself in a negative light
● You make impulsive and often irrational decisions on the spur of the moment.
● You experience intense emotional mood swings
● You have uncontrollable anger, a short temper and can become completely consumed by rage. It might be directed outwards in the form of tantrums or feeling angry at yourself.
How can you take care of someone with BPD?
If a loved one experiences BPD, it might seem a good idea to increase the time or attention you give to them, but it’s always better to put on your own oxygen mask first before you start to help someone else.
This might seem selfish, but trying to help others by putting most of your energy into their life is a recipe for depression, burnout, and resentment. In this case, it’s better to devise an approach that helps both you and the person in need.
Here are some helpful tips that you can use to help a loved one with BPD.
● Stay in touch with them and make sure they are appreciated and cared for
● Give your loved one proper attention, but don’t make all your life about them as it will lead to mental exhaustion and frustration
● Learn about BPD and educate yourself enough to know how to take care of the person in need
● Be trustworthy, consistent, and honest. People with BPD fear mistrust and abandonment, and one of the best things you can do for them is to ensure them from time to time that you are there for them.
● Discuss conflict as a part of a healthy relationship and not something that means you will abandon them. Instead, demonstrate understanding and have open communication channels with your loved one.
● Encourage professional help to teach the person with BPD effective coping mechanisms and healthy behaviors
Bipolar disorder can be a debilitating condition, but it is also highly treatable. Getting professional help can teach you how to manage your symptoms better and can turn out to be that one big step you take towards changing your life for the better.