Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a mood disorder that can put a strain on relationships. BPD is divided into three groups known as cluster A, cluster B and cluster C. Cluster A is when individuals are odd or eccentric and involves symptoms like paranoia or schizotypal personality. Cluster B are those who are highly dramatic, both emotionally and behaviorally. Mood disorders that fall into this cluster are antisocial, borderline or narcissistic. Lastly, cluster C are personalities that are anxious or fearful. These individuals are dependant, obsessive compulsive or antisocial.
The borderline personality disorder most likely to impair a relationship is cluster B because these individuals tend to be the most antisocial and can be quite unsupportive. Personality disorders are present in about 10 to 15 percent of the population, with cluster B affecting nearly nine percent, according to research.
Below we will go into more detail about personality disorders and relationships, and how you can cope and manage them.
What is borderline personality disorder?
Borderline personality disorder is a mental illness, which can result in mood swings, changes in behavior and psychotic episodes, all of which can greatly impact relationships. These individuals have difficulty regulating their emotions, so they may have low self-esteem, be impulsive and have trouble maintaining relationships. The National Alliance of Mental Illness estimated that 1.6 percent of the American population has BPD, but with so many undiagnosed cases it may be closer to 5.9 percent. Seventy-five percent of diagnosed BPD cases involve women, making it more common in women than men.
BPD and its effect on relationships
We now know that borderline personality disorder can lead to problems with relationships, but in what way? For starters, those with BPD often fear being alone and they latch onto others. Yet these unstable moods lead to anger and frustration outbursts, so their partners becomes hurt or upset by their actions.
Overall, because of the nature of BPD, these individuals are unstable in relationships, which in turn can harm the relationship. They may love intensely but can switch moods and emotions quite easily. They tend to have a “black and white” mentality and have difficulty seeing the areas of grey. They have a great fear of abandonment and do not want their partners to leave. Unfortunately, sometimes their actions lead to their partners leaving in frustration.
Those with BPD can be demanding and manipulative, so others may not be able to put up with that form of behavior and separate from the individual. People with BPD also have difficulty accepting change, so any change to the relationship may aggravate anger and mood swings.
Due to all the above factors, relationships can be quite difficult for individuals who have a borderline personality disorder.
Specific symptoms of borderline personality disorder
So far we have mentioned some broader symptoms of borderline personality disorder, from a range of emotions to being unstable. Here are some specific symptoms of borderline personality disorder.
- Emotional instability: Rage, anger, panic, emptiness and hopelessness
- Disturbed pattern of thinking: Hearing voices in your head or witnessing hallucinations, feelings of self-hate
- Impulsive behavior: Self-harming, drug abuse, promiscuous behavior, etc.
- Unstable relationships: Clinging to people, fear of being alone, controlling others, etc.
- Suicidal thoughts
Causes of borderline personality disorder
If you’re wondering how someone can develop BPD, it’s important to know that like many mental illnesses, it’s not quite fully understood. Some potential causes of borderline personality disorder have to do with genetics, the environment and brain abnormalities.
It studies conducted on twins, it was revealed the BPD may actually be inherited through genetics. Additionally, it has been proposed that children who grow up with abuse, neglect or separation from caregivers are more prone to experience BPD. Lastly, changes in brain chemicals may result in BPD.
Treatments and living with BPD
Borderline personality disorder can be difficult to live with, and although there is no cure, there are some treatments available to help with symptoms.
- Some treatments involve psychotherapy, or talk therapy. One-on-one counseling, group therapy and therapy can help the individual manage their thoughts and treat BPD.
- Medication may also be used to help symptoms associated with BPD. Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications are often used.
- If BPD is severe, meaning a person is inflicting self-harm or has persistent suicidal thoughts, then hospitalization may be required to keep the individual safe.
- Getting diagnosed is the first step towards choosing the appropriate form of treatment for borderline personality disorder.
BPD coping and support
If you are in a relationship with a person with a borderline personality disorder, know of someone who is, or have BPD yourself, here are some tips to help cope with and support the individual.
- Educate yourself about the disorder.
- Learn to recognize triggers or impulsive behavior.
- Seek professional help.
- Work with a mental health provider to develop a plan to deal with crisis.
- Get treatment for related problems.
- Involve those around you in the treatment, so they have a better understanding as well.
- Manage intense emotions and learn how to handle stress.
- Learn how to properly express emotions to keep situations controlled.
- Don’t make assumptions of other people’s thoughts or feelings.
- Reach out to others with similar experiences.
- Build a support system.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle with good eating and exercise.
- Don’t blame yourself for the disorder.
If you currently are in a relationship with someone who has BPD, it may be hard, but you can seek therapy to help as well. Understanding the illness is the first step. Once you understand what the person is going through, you can find effective means of coping with the problem. This will go a long way in helping you continue your relationship with the individual.
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