Personality disorders are less discussed than mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression, but they still play a prominent role in society. Around 10-13% of people worldwide live with a personality disorder, most of which begin in the teen years. Borderline personality disorder isn’t as common as other forms of personality disorder — around 1.4% of people are affected — but that shouldn’t minimize the significant effects experienced by those living with BPD.
Due to its relatively uncommon nature, many people don’t understand BPD and how it can impact those with a BPD diagnosis, as well as their friends, loved ones, and family members. Living with a personality disorder of any kind, BPD included, isn’t easy, but proper treatment can make a significant difference.
Understanding Living With Borderline Personality Disorder
Borderline personality disorder often referred to simply as BPD, is a form of personality disorder characterized by mood swings, instability, behavioral issues, issues with self-image, and problems with normal functioning.
Borderline personality disorder can be challenging to diagnose and treat as it may manifest differently from one individual to another. However, the most common symptoms of BPD include:
- Intense fears of abandonment and a strong dislike of being alone
- Periods of emotional instability
- Mood swings involving impulsiveness and irrational anger responses
- Trouble maintaining relationships, both social and romantic
- Problems with a self-image that can lead to suicidal ideations and self-harm
- Feelings of emptiness and an inability to maintain normal emotions
- Risky and impulsive behavior, including substance abuse, gambling, unsafe sex, and quitting jobs and relationships with little logical reason
- Shifting goals and values in response to self-image and mood swings
As with most personality disorders, there’s no true way to identify the cause of borderline personality disorder. Genetics may play a role, as can brain abnormalities in which certain aspects that regulate emotion don’t function properly. Risk factors of BDP include a hereditary predisposition and a stressful childhood. Many people who are diagnosed with BDP experienced childhood abuse or severe trauma.
BPD most often arises in late adolescence. In some cases, the initial onset can be more severe, with symptoms normalizing as individuals age. However, as with all personality disorders, how BPD manifests and progresses over time varies from person to person.
It’s not uncommon for BPD to exist as one part of a dual diagnosis. Many individuals with BPD experience mood disorders, anxiety disorders or substance use disorders. Alcohol and drug use are common risky behaviors for those living with borderline personality disorder and may also be used as coping mechanisms.
Day-to-Day Issues When Living With BPD
On a day-to-day basis, someone living with BPD may find that mood swings and uncharacteristic anger play a significant role in maintaining jobs and relationships. One moment, a romantic relationship may feel secure and comfortable, and the next, an individual with BPD may feel as though their partner is pushing them away and rejecting them. This can also happen with platonic relationships, bonds with family members, schooling, and employment.
Angry outbursts and mood swings of any kind can be among the biggest issues someone living with borderline personality disorder must face. The random bursts of impulsivity can lead to dangerous or illogical behavior that can sabotage a good thing or lead to decisions that may be regretted later.
Some of the most common complications of BPD that can affect life on a daily basis include:
- Frequent job changes and losses
- Trouble completing education, whether on a secondary or post-secondary level
- Legal issues related to impulsive and reckless behavior, such as serving time in jail
- Self-injury such as burning, cutting and attempted suicide, as well as hospitalization for such injuries
- Involvement in relationships that turn abusive
- Abandonment of healthy relationships with friends, family and partners
How BPD affects a person’s life can vary based on how the condition manifests as well as any treatment methods in place.
Understanding a BPD Crisis
Crises aren’t an everyday part of life with a borderline personality disorder but can be a significant roadblock to overcome. A crisis occurs whenever a severe burst of symptoms occurs over a short period of time. This can last for a few hours or a full day and generally typifies the worst of an individual’s BPD symptoms. These events can be triggered by any number of minor occurrences, such as a fight with a friend or a bad grade on a paper, and often in a way that appears illogical to outsiders.
Handling someone with BPD in crisis involves knowing what to look for in terms of triggers and how to best manage side effects and symptoms. In some cases, addressing the issue that caused the crisis can help improve the reaction, but this can vary from person to person. If the symptoms of BPD accelerate to a dangerous point during a crisis, seeking emergency care may be the best option.
Supporting a Loved One With BPD
Supporting a loved one with BPD, particularly one uninterested in getting help, can be very challenging. Dealing with mood swings and periods of instability or recklessness takes time, effort, and patience, and it’s not uncommon for family members and loved ones to pull away in response to bad behavior. However, severing ties or changing relationship dynamics can intensify or worsen the person’s symptoms.
As with all forms of mental illness, it’s important to encourage an individual with BPD to get help. This can mean therapy, medication or a group treatment program to explore ways to manage symptoms. Due to the negative ramifications of unaddressed BPD, learning how to live with BPD in a safe, healthy manner is necessary for symptom management.
If you or someone you love is living with borderline personality disorder, the right approach to treatment can make a huge difference. FHE Health is comprehensive substance use and mental health treatment center that offers specialized care for BPD. Contact us today to learn more about our programs.