Saturday, November 09, 2013

So, What Is Borderline Personality Disorder Anyway?

About eleven years ago I was diagnosed with Depression and Anxiety disorders.  This was not really surprising to me.  For as long as I could remember, my moods were not like other people's.  I'll get more into this in future posts, but today I am writing about my "What's this you're telling me?" diagnosis:  Borderline Personality Disorder. 

Before I was diagnosed with BPD about three and a half years ago I don't think I had ever heard the term before.  If I had heard it in passing, I certainly didn't know what it was or what it meant.  I didn't have much more of an understanding of what it was after learning that I had this ailment.  When I would share with those closest to me my new diagnoses and they would ask what it was I would say, "It's ... ah... like a form of... um... Depression and Anxiety.  Mixed together.  Or... something."  It wasn't until this past spring when I was hospitalized for the second time that I realized that if I'm ever going to get better, I need to learn about the conditions that I have, especially the complex Borderline Personality Disorder. 

Borderline Personality Disorder isn't a form of Depression and Anxiety, but those who suffer from BPD often also suffer from other illness such as Depression, Anxiety, Bi-Polar Disorder, etc.  I think that the condition has a big scary name, which may lead to some misconceptions.  Is the personality disordered?  What is the personality on the borderline of?  Crazy?  Mental health experts are calling for an updated and more accurate term for the illness to be used: "Emotion Dysregulation Disorder." 

So, what is Borderline Personality Disorder?  A person with BDP experiences much more intense emotions than other people do.  These emotions also last longer than they do in the average person.  The results can be positive as well as negative.  The Borderline is exceptionally idealistic, loving and loyal.  However, we get overwhelmed by negative emotions, such as feeling intense grief instead of sadness, humiliation instead of mild embarrassment, rage instead of annoyance, and panic instead of nervousness.  The Borderline is especially sensitive to feelings of rejection, inadequacy and perceived failure.  We also have an intense fear of abandonment. 

Splitting is a typical characteristic of the Borderline.  Splitting is, in simple terms, "black and white thinking."  By default the Borderline is unable to join together positive and negative attributes to form a cohesive set of beliefs about others or oneself.  As a result a person may be seen as all good or all bad.  A friend or family member may be put on a pedestal by the BPD sufferer, but if that same person hurts the Borderline's feelings he or she may then be seen as a terrible person.  On the same token, if the Borderline feels judged, misunderstood or that someone is upset with us, we may feel that we are hated.  The Borderline may view oneself as "good" in one moment and as "bad" in the next. 

Which leads us to lack of sense of identity.  The person with BPD doesn't have a clear sense of self.  We might take on some of the characteristics of people around us in a subconscious attempt to feel "normal".    The Borderline's interests will change drastically; we may be passionate about something at one point in time, and then come to be completely uninterested in it -- or even deeply dislike it -- within a short matter of time.  Due to the absence of clear sense of self, even everyday decisions can be overwhelming for the Borderline. 

BPD sufferers experience chronic feelings of emptiness.  Some Borderlines describe a physical sensation of "hollowing" in the abdomen and chest area.  Borderlines often experience episodes where we feel separated from other people, even if people are physically around us.  We may feel that we are "not real" or that something vital to our existence is missing. 

Self-harm and suicidal ideation are core diagnostic criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder.  The Borderline doesn't necessarily want to die, but rather does not want to live their life the way it is. 

This is (in a nutshell) what I have learned about Borderline Personality Disorder.  In future posts I will go a little bit deeper into each of the characteristic points and my own personal experiences with the illness.  I've come to realize that there is a lot to learn about this condition, and I will be continually learning.  I hope with this blog that as I come to understand BPD, Depression and Anxiety, I can help others who suffer from these illnesses and their loved ones understand them as well.

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