By Wasim Kakroo
DO any of the following statements define how you think, emote and behave?
“I frequently feel empty.”
“My emotions are volatile, and I frequently experience deep sadness, overwhelming anger, and anxiety.”
“I'm always afraid that the people I love will desert or abandon me.”
“Most of my love relationships have been intense but unstable.”
“I don't always understand why my feelings about the people in my life fluctuate radically from one instant to the next.”
“I frequently engage in risky or harmful behaviours, such as driving dangerously, engaging in risky sex, binge drinking, taking drugs, or engaging in shopping sprees.”
“I've tried to damage myself, engaged in self-harming activities like cutting, and even threatened suicide.”
“When I'm in a relationship and I'm feeling insecure, I tend to lash out or make rash gestures to keep the other person close.”
“I've tried to hurt myself, engaged in self-harming activities like cutting, and even threatened suicide.”
You may have borderline personality disorder if you identify with several of the above statements. Of course, an official diagnosis must be made by a mental health expert, as BPD can be readily confused with other conditions.
Everything feels unstable when you have BPD: your relationships, feelings, thinking, conduct, and even your identity, literally everything. Another important and hopeful aspect of BPD that is often overlooked and rarely found online is that individuals with BPD are likely to respond to encouragement. This is presented and framed in session in a manner consistent with dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) proposed by Marsha Linehan (1993), which she calls “cheerleading.” This “cheerleading” focuses on the strengths of the individual with BPD that are illuminated by another person, which may be a therapist or someone else in their life, who communicates genuine faith in the individual with BPD’s ability to challenge and grow beyond their BPD maladaptive beliefs, behaviors, and patterns, while supplying them with the ongoing motivation to stay on this growth trajectory (Heard & Linehan, 1994). Another way encouragement can manifest is through empowering the individual with BPD to emotionally process intense and distressing emotions that encourage maladaptive beliefs, behaviors, and patterns with hope that they’ll succeed and get through it (Weinberg et al., 2011).
What is borderline personality disorder (BPD)?
You probably feel like you're on a rollercoaster if you have borderline personality disorder (BPD) and not just because of your unpredictable emotions or relationships but also because of your shaky sense of self. Your self-image, ambitions, and even your likes and dislikes may fluctuate on a regular basis, leaving you perplexed and uncertain.
People who suffer with BPD are often exceedingly sensitive. Some people compare it to having an exposed nerve ending. Small things can set off powerful emotional reactions. And once you're upset, it's difficult to settle down. It's simple to see how emotional turbulence and an inability to self-soothe can lead to relationship issues and impulsive—even reckless—behavior.
You can't think clearly or stay grounded when you're experiencing intense emotions. You may say nasty things or behave out in unsafe or inappropriate ways, leading to feelings of guilt or humiliation. It's a torturous cycle from which it sometimes seem hard to break free. However, this is not the case. Treatments and coping techniques for BPD might help you feel better and regain control over your thoughts, feelings, behaviours, and hence your life.
Is BPD treatable?
Many mental health practitioners previously believed that treating borderline personality disorder (BPD) was difficult and that there was little that could be done. However, we now know that BPD can be treated. In fact, the prognosis for BPD is better than depression and bipolar disorder in the long run. It does, however, necessitate a different approach. The truth is that most persons with BPD can and do improve, and with the correct treatments and support, they can recover quickly.
Breaking the dysfunctional patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving that are causing you emotional distress is the first step toward healing. It's difficult to break longtime habits. At first, pausing to contemplate and then acting in new ways will feel strange and uncomfortable. But, with time, you'll develop new behaviours that will help you retain emotional balance and control.
What are the various signs and symptoms of BPD?
Although the symptoms of borderline personality disorder (BPD) can show in a variety of ways, mental health practitioners categorize them into nine key categories for diagnosis. At least five of these symptoms must be present in order to be diagnosed with BPD. Furthermore, the symptoms must have been present for a long time (typically since puberty) and affect many aspects of your life.
Signs of BPD:
- Fear of being abandoned. People who suffer from BPD are frequently afraid of being abandoned or left alone. Even seemingly trivial events such as a loved one returning home late from work or leaving for the weekend can cause significant anxiety. This can result in desperate attempts to keep the other person close. You could beg, cling, instigate conflicts, track your loved one's whereabouts, or even physically prevent them from leaving. Unfortunately, this action has the unintended consequence of driving others away.
- Relationships that are unstable. People with BPD have a tendency to have intense but short-lived relationships. You may fall in love quickly, believing that each new person will complete you, only to be disappointed soon after. Your relationships appear to be either wonderful or terrible, with no in-between. Because of your fast swings from idealization to devaluation, wrath, and hate, your lovers, friends, and family members may experience emotional whiplash.
- Self-image is hazy or changing. Your sense of self is usually unstable when you have BPD. You may feel good about yourself at times, but you may despise yourself at other times or even consider yourself as evil. You most likely have no notion who you are or what you want out of life. As a result, you may change employment, friends, lovers, religion, values, objectives, and even sexual identity on a regular basis.
- Self-destructive and impulsive behaviour. You may engage in dangerous, sensation-seeking behaviours if you have BPD, especially when you're unhappy. You may spend money you don't have, binge eat, drive recklessly, shoplift, indulge in unsafe sex, or use drugs or alcohol excessively. These dangerous practises may make you feel better in the short term, but they are harmful to you and those around you in the long run.
- Self-harm. People with BPD are more likely to engage in suicidal behaviour and self-harm. Suicidal behavior can range from contemplating suicide to making suicidal gestures or threats to actually attempting suicide. All other attempts to harm yourself without suicidal intent are classified as non-suicidal self-harm. Cutting and burning are two common types of non-suicidal self-harm.
- Extreme mood swings. BPD is associated with erratic emotions and moods. You could be happy one minute and depressed the next. Little things that other people dismiss can throw you into a whirl of emotions. These mood swings are severe, but unlike the emotional swings associated with depression or bipolar disease, they normally dissipate rapidly, lasting only a few minutes or hours.
- Feelings of emptiness on a regular basis. People with BPD frequently describe themselves as feeling empty, as if they have a hole or empty space within them. You may feel as though you're "nothing" or "nobody" at times. Because this sensation is unpleasant, you may try to fill it with substances such as drugs, food, or sex. Nothing, though, feels completely satisfactory.
- Anger that explodes. You may struggle with extreme anger and a short temper if you have BPD. Once the fuse is ignited, you may have difficulties restraining yourself, yelling, throwing objects, or becoming fully overtaken by extreme level of anger. It's worth noting that this rage isn't always focused towards others. You can spend a lot of time hating yourself.
- Suspicion or a sense of being out of touch with reality. Paranoia or suspicious beliefs about others' motives are common in people with BPD. When you're stressed, you could even lose touch with reality, which is referred to as dissociation. It's possible that you'll feel fuzzy, disoriented, or as if you're not in your own body.
What are the various mental health issues that co-occur with BPD?
BPD usually does not appear alone in a person’s life. The following are examples of common co-occurring disorders:
- Depression or bipolar disorder
- Substance abuse disorder
- Eating disorders
- Anxiety problems
How to Deal with BPD
Learning mindfulness techniques through meditation apps
Learning how to ground yourself in difficult moments so that you can bring your focus to the present time
Seeking out emotional and practical support such as therapy groups and friends and family
Acknowledging unhealthy behaviors and avoiding them by pressing pause on your feelings before you act or react
Staying active to keep your mind distracted when you have high levels of anger or irritability
Pressing Pause on Negative Emotions
While it can be difficult to just force yourself to stop feeling a certain way, you can practice patience and pause to collect yourself when you do feel an overwhelming rush of negative emotions. By taking a step back from the situation and taking a few deep breaths, you may be able to calm your mind and, thus, lessen the negative emotions that are trying to take over.
What to Do If Your Loved One With BPD Threatens Suicide
If your loved one threatens suicide, seek help immediately. It can also be helpful to recognize signs that your loved one is thinking about self-harming behaviors because they may not always voice them aloud. Suicidal actions or threats always warrant professional evaluation even if you may believe that there’s no real risk.
People who cope with BPD often go through times of normalcy that are broken up by episodes. Everyone has unique triggers because each person is different, but one common theme among many people with BPD is the fear of rejection or abandonment. To cope with the illness, it’s important to recognize triggers so that you can avoid them when possible. When symptoms do arise, seeking help or practicing self-care techniques may help you manage the symptoms and avoid overindulging in unhealthy behaviors.
- The author is a licensed clinical psychologist (alumni of Govt. Medical College Srinagar). He works at Kashmir Life Line, a free mental health counseling service. Author can be reached at [email protected]
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