Living With Borderline Personality Disorder: How To Lead A Satisfying, Fulfilling Life
A charming, intelligent, fun person suddenly turns mean, angry, and self-defeating for no obvious reason.
These unpredictable ups and downs are the hallmark of Borderline personality disorder (BPD), the most common and debilitating of all the personality disorders.
Personalities are the ways in which people feel, behave, think, and relate to others. Personalities remain fairly stable over time.
However, someone with a personality disorder, such as BPD, experiences pervasive, ongoing trouble with emotions, behaviors, thoughts, and/or relationships.
They take risks without thoroughly considering things cautiously.
Individuals with BPD so terrified of their feelings that they try to do everything they can to stay away from them.
They frequently resort to coping techniques that appear to work temporarily however aggravate their disorders, such as self-destructive behaviors, or suicidal gestures.
In fact, as many as 70 percent of BPD patients attempt suicide and up to 10 percent of individuals with BPD commit suicide.
Whether you struggle with BPD or your loved one has BPD, in this article, you’re going to understand BPD and how an individual with BPD can lead a satisfying, fulfilling life.
Ready? Let’s get started!
What Is Borderline Personality Disorder?
It’s important to keep in mind that you can’t determine yourself to have BPD, even if you may believe that some of the symptoms apply to you. You need to consult an expert (an analyst, a specialist, or another person who analyzes mental disorders).
Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is one of the most common of all of the personality disorders.
In fact, recent studies estimate that 18 million or more Americans (almost 6 percent of the population) are afflicted with BPD.
Borderline personality disorder is a personality disorder that impacts the way a person thinks and feels about themselves and others, causing problems functioning in everyday life.
It includes self-image issues, an intense fear of abandonment and difficulty tolerating being alone, difficulty managing emotions and behavior, frequent mood swings, and a pattern of unstable relationships.
If you have BPD, don’t get discouraged. Many people with this personality disorder get better over time with treatment and can learn to lead meaningful, fulfilling lives.
9 Symptoms and Features of BPD
Inconsistency is the hallmark of BPD and the major reason why it’s difficult to define a uniform set of criteria for the illness.
A friend with BPD might accuse you stabbing him in the back and stop talking to you over a minor slight. Months later, he might call back as if nothing had happened between you.
Individuals with BPD struggle with a paralyzing fear of being abandoned by a family member or friend.
The affected individual displays an attack mindset that makes them show a puzzling scope of feelings from glorifications (for example, extraordinary adoration and love) to depreciation (for example, serious annoyance and aversion) in a short amount of time.
Individuals with BPD read significance into little issues and are able to show upheavals of fierceness that lead to verbal and physical maltreatment against others.
This makes it hard for them to maintain relationships and connections with others.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) defines nine criteria, five of which must be present for diagnosis:
1. Chronic feelings of emptiness.
2. Emotional instability in reaction to day-to-day events (e.g., intense episodic sadness, irritability, or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days)
3. Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment
4. Identity disturbance with markedly or persistently unstable self-image or sense of self
5. Impulsive behavior in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating)
6. Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger.
7. Pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by extremes between idealization and devaluation (also known as “splitting”)
8. Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-harming behavior
9. Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms.
These nine symptoms can be grouped into four primary areas toward which treatment is frequently directed:
1. Mood instability (criteria 1, 6, 7, and 8).
2. Impulsivity and dangerous uncontrolled behavior (criteria 4 and 5).
3. Interpersonal psychopathology (criteria 2 and 3).
4. Distortions of thought and perception (criterion 9).
Treatment choices usually involve psychotherapy, medications and group and family support.
Momentary hospitalization has not been proven more powerful than network care for helping individuals with BPD avoid self-destructive conduct.
Psychotherapy helps calm a few side effects of BPD and lessen the individual’s desire to self-harm.
Psychotherapy for BPD includes dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and psychodynamic psychotherapy.
Although many individuals with BPD take medication, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not affirmed any meds specifically for the treatment of BPD.
This doesn’t mean that medication isn’t useful, but medicine isn’t a remedy for BPD.
5 Self-Help Tips to Manage BPD
#1. Overcome Fear of Change
Many people with BPD ache to feel better but fear change. Some might even believe that not trying at all is better than trying and failing.
1. You’re Not Going To Lose Who You Are
Most people with BPD struggle with concerns about losing their identity and what they value.
Many people with BPD embrace only one aspect of themselves in their self-concept — their disorder.
Even if they don’t like having BPD, they still believe the diagnosis defines them, and so they worry that losing BPD may leave them with no identity at all.
If you’re worried that getting better may leave you with no identity, consider the fact that treatment proceeds slowly. As you explore “new ways of being,” you can build a new identity, one that feels real and authentic to you.
2. End The Blame Game
Most people with BPD can recall numerous negative experiences from their childhoods. Sometimes they blame their caretakers, but often they would blame themselves for what happened to them.
If they experienced abused, they might see themselves as deserving the abuse. As a result, they learn to loathe the very essence of their beings.
If you engage in the self-loathing and blaming, ask yourself, “If a little child tells me he’s being abused, what would I tell her?” Would you blame her? Probably not.
Try taking the same perspective for yourself. Consider how some of the things you blame yourself for aren’t really your fault.
On the other hand, many people with BPD point the blame in the right direction, but would also replay these scenes so much, they end up re-traumatizing themselves.
It might be hard for you, right now, to make sense of what happened and why other people did what they did, but remind yourself that blame just digs a hole.
Give yourself five minutes each day to blame others, and then shift your focus to something else. After a while, you’ll likely find yourself tiring of the blame game.
3. Don’t Fall Into The “Victim Mentality”
Victim mentality involves believing that your problems are especially overwhelming and that you’re incapable of helping yourself.
While your pain isn’t your fault, feeling like a victim does nothing to inspire positive change.
Seeing yourself as a victim, may get you extra attention and help from people around, but eventually, these people will find themselves burning out because they repeatedly try to help but have little to no success.
Meaningful change comes when the sufferer takes charge and learns to start coping.
One of the main reasons why people remain stuck in the victim mentality is the excuses they create to avoid addressing problems that seem larger than they can handle.
Quite often, these excuses seem believable, which make them harder to spot and change.
In your journal write down every reason why you think you can’t change, and try to challenge them.
The following are some common excuses and some arguments against them.
Excuse: I need to wait for the right time to start addressing my issues.
Argument: The right time never seems to come, if anything the right time is now.
Excuse: I need to be sure that treatment will work.
Argument: Nothing in life is ever guaranteed. Knowing that treatment works for most people is good enough.
If you still find it hard to challenge your excuses, here are questions you can ask yourself to help develop arguments:
* What would I tell a dear friend who used my excuse?
* Will staying where I’m at get me where I want to go?
* Is part of my excuse simply not true?
#2. Calm Down Your Overwhelming Emotions
What do you do when you’re feeling overpowered by overwhelming emotions?
This is when impulsivity of BPD comes in. You might feel as though you can’t control your reaction and find yourself doing anything including things you realize you shouldn’t do, such as cutting, careless sex, perilous driving, etc.
It’s important to recognize that these practices are unhealthy ways to deal with stress. They might help you feel better for a short minute, but the long haul costs are definitely not worth it.
Regaining control of your reaction begins with fining healthier ways to endure and manage trouble. Rather than responding to your overwhelming feelings with harmful practices, you will find ways to face them while staying in control.
1. Calming yourself down
People with PBD struggle to control their emotions. Irritation easily turns into rage. Laughter escalates to hysteria. Anxiety turns into panic.
When extreme emotions are triggered, it’s extremely difficult for you to slow down impulsivity, quiet down, and recover control. Instead of focusing on the fact that you need to calm down, center yourself around what you’re feeling in your body:
1. Find a peaceful place and sit in a comfortable position
2. Concentrate on what you’re experiencing in your body. Feel your feet on the floor. Feel your hands in your lap.
3. Focus on your breathing. Gradually, take in deep breaths. Hold your breath for three seconds and gradually exhale.
4. Do this for a few minutes until you can feel yourself calm again.
2. Distract Yourself
Distracting yourself may help. Simply catch your concentration long enough for the negative feeling to subside. Anything that draws your attention can work:
1. Watch something that is contrary to what you’re feeling – If you’re furious, try watching a relaxing video.
2. Get something done – Immersing yourself in work, cleaning your home, or shopping for food, could help you distract yourself when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
3. Exercise – Exercise is a great way to let off pressure.
4. Call a loved one – Talking with someone you trust can be a great way to divert yourself and feel better about yourself.
3. Do The Opposite Of What You Feel
While there is nothing inherently wrong with any feeling. When your feelings become overwhelming, the best way to manage them, is to do the opposite of what you feel.
For example, if you’re angry at your boss and feeling like telling him off, you’ll probably be fired and end up feeling horrible
In instead of acting on your anger, you consciously choose to think of something you appreciate about him and maybe even tell him that, your anger will likely subside and you’ll experience a different, more desirable outcome.
Here are examples of doing the opposite:
* If you feel depressed, watch a show that makes you laugh, or do something to keep yourself active, such as going out for a walk, or even doing house chores.
Change your body posture – walk tall and maintain eye contact, with a steady and clear voice.
* If you feel angry, take a few deep calming breaths, or try to feel empathy for the other person – consider the reasons that might push him to act the way he did.
* If you feel guilty or ashamed, accept the consequences of your actions and learn from them for the future. If there is something you can do about it, like apologizing or fixing your mistake, do it. If not, remind yourself that it’s okay to make mistakes.
4. Calming Down With Coping Affirmations
An affirmation is something you repeat to yourself to enhances your sense of empowerment.
For affirmations to work, follow the subsequent rules:
Use positive expressions: Saying “I am not a failure” is perceived by your unconscious as “I am a failure” because it fails to assimilate negative concepts. Instead, say “I am a successful person.”
Use expressions in the present: It’s better to use phrases like “I am a successful person” instead of “I am going to be a successful person.”
Visualize the pictures associated with these statements: This will help increase the effectiveness of the statements.
Feel the corresponding emotions: It makes no sense to tell yourself something like “I’m a self-confident person” if you think otherwise in your mind. In a way, you’ll only send mixed signals to your subconscious mind.
Repeat, repeat, and repeat: Tow times a day if possible.
The following are some examples of positive affirmations:
* I am stronger than I feel right now.
* I can handle this.
* It’s OK to feel like this; it will end soon.
* I can grow from this if I work on it.
5. Soothing Through The Senses
Make a list of five to ten activities that you can easily do to help you calm down.
Sound: pick a music that often soothes you. You can also try out recordings of nature sounds. There are plenty of apps that can play that sound for you. Depending on where you live, you may enjoy going outside and listening to the birds, or the ocean.
Sight: Look outside, watch animals play, look at your favorite photos, look at the ocean or a lake. Look at the ocean or any other part of nature that soothes you.
Smell: Light a scented candle, bake some cookies, put on your favorite perfume, burn incense, or try aromatherapy.
Taste: Savor a hot cup of tea or coffee, a small piece of chocolate, a cold glass of ice water, , a cup of chicken noodle soup, or a bowl of ice
Touch: Get a massage or a hug from someone you love, pet your dog or cat, wear your favorite sweats, or sit in a hot tub.
10 Grounding Techniques
- Put your hands in water
- Breathe deeply
- Savor a food or drink
- Take a short walk
- Hold an ice cube
- Recite something
- Describe what’s around you
- Picture the voice or face of someone you love
- Touch something comforting
- Listen to music
#3. Control Your Impulses
1. Increase Your Awareness of Impulsive Behavior
People with BPD tend to be impulsive. They sometimes make decisions without thinking.
When acting impulsively, people with BPD often report very little awareness of their impulsive behavior.
Change begins with monitoring and observing your impulsivity. Awareness alone can help you put the brakes on your impulsive behaviors.
The best way to increase your awareness is to write about your impulsivity and the thoughts and feelings that led to it.
2. Put the Brakes on Impulsivity
Acting on your impulses has probably left with feelings of regrets and remorse afterwards.
You can use these feelings by bringing them to the surface before you act on your impulses next time.
Slow down for a moment and consider the consequences of your impulsivity. Ask yourself some questions before you act
* How important is doing this action to me?
* If I do this action now, how will I feel about it later?
* What are the long-term consequences if I continue this action?
* How will later I feel if I don’t carry out this impulse right now?
3. Delay Acting on Your Impulses
If you feel that you’re not ready to stop your impulsive behaviors yet, try to delay going through with the urge. For instance, if you have an urge to cut yourself, try waiting for a half hour or more before you do it.
This can help you build up your ability to tolerate frustration and delay gratification. With practice, you may discover that you don’t miss your impulsivity as much as you thought you would.
4. Do something different
When you feel a strong desire to act on your impulses, try doing something completely different from what your impulse tells you to do to quell the urge.
This requires prior planning. Think of some activities you like to do that keep your mind focused, and make a list you can refer when you need it.
These activities may include:
- Going for a walk or jog
- Going to the gym or exercising at home
- Reading a good book
- Sipping a cup of tea outside
- Calling a friend
- Cleaning the house
#4. Check In With Your Feelings and Thoughts
1. Allow Yourself to Feel Your Feelings
As someone with BPD, you’re probably investing a great deal of energy fighting your impulsivity, so acknowledging your feelings and letting yourself feel them can be extremely difficult to understand.
Accepting your feelings doesn’t imply acting on them or surrendering to torment. It simply implies that you quit denying and battling your feelings.
By allowing yourself to have these feelings, you remove a great deal of their capacity and impact on you.
Relinquish the past and the future and focus on the present moment and start watching your feelings without judgment or analysis.
2. Using a Journal to Challenge Negative Thoughts
Using your journal, start replacing negative thoughts with more nurturing one to boost your mood and self-esteem:
1. Spend at least ten to fifteen minutes every day journaling, ideally at a regular time.
2. Write down what you are thinking and feeling at the moment – express any concerns, wishes, feelings, or thoughts your might have.
3. After a week, read your journal and try to identify any patterns of negative statements.
When do you think you first have heard that kind of statement?
Can you associate the critical voice with any voices from your past or present?
4. Look for evidence that suggests that the negative thought is inaccurate or too extreme. Start replacing them with more accurate ones.
If you find it hard to come up with a more positive thought,
* Imagine what you would tell a loved one who is in the same situation.
* Visualize someone from you past or present who is supportive to you, and imagine what they would tell you in response to that negative thought.
3. Thank your mind
Thanking your mind refers to using the power of sarcasm to diffuse the painful emotions that negative thinking triggers.
When you hear negative, critical thoughts in your mind, thank your mind for being so creative.
Negative thought: I’m a mean person.
Sarcastic, thankful thought: That was a creative thing to say. Thanks so much.
The thanking-your-mind technique help you relate to your thoughts differently. After a while, you’ll see that thoughts are truly just thoughts and don’t necessarily reflect reality.
#5. Improve Your Relational Abilities
Having BPD, you’re bound to experience difficulties seeing things from others’ point of view. You will frequently misread others feelings and behaviors and neglect to see how your own behavior is influencing theirs.
It’s not that you don’t care about their feelings. It’s simply because when it comes to relational abilities, you have a major vulnerable side.
When you quit accusing others and acknowledge your relational vulnerable side, you start finding a way to improve your relationships.
1. Check your presumptions
Rather than drawing conclusions right away and assume that someone has lost enthusiasm for you, for example, stop to think about the various possibilities.
Perhaps she’s having a distressing day. Ask the person for a clarification. This doesn’t have to be done in an accusatory way, rather ask “I could be wrong, yet it feels like… “, or “Perhaps I’m wrong, but I get the feeling that… “
2. Shut down projection
You project when you lash out at others when you’re feeling terrible about yourself, or feel assaulted when given a helpful input or analysis.
To shut down projection, you need to learn how to stop for a minute and check out your feelings and physical sensations before reacting.
Be mindful of indication of stress such as a quick pulse, muscle pressure, perspiring, or dazedness.
If you’re feeling stressed, or annoyed with yourself, take a discussion break. Tell the other person that you’re feeling overwhelmed and need a minute or two to calm down.
3. Take responsibility in your relationship
Ask yourself how your behavior is adding to issues. How do your words and actions cause your loved ones to feel.
The goal here isn’t to make yourself feel bad, but to put forth an attempt to imagine others’ perspective and be able to understand them and trust them better.
4. Try not to test the ones who want to help
Most people with BPD experienced loss, abuse, or neglect as children. As a result, they perceive their relationships with a combination of fear and hope.
They crave closeness yet expect abandonment.
Because of their fear of abandonment, people with BPD feel that rejecting is better than being rejected, and so they would test the limits and patience of people close to them to make sure they do the hurting — not the other way around.
Look out for this pattern in your interaction with your loved ones, and ask them directly whether they think that you engage in testing at particular times.
Should You Tell Others About BPD?
After finding out they have borderline personality disorder (BPD), many people wonder what and how to tell other people, not to mention which “other people” to tell.
They worry about being stigmatized or even discriminated against by other people.
Always consider the benefits and costs of telling someone. Consider why you want to share this information and how you think the other person will react.
It’s recommended that you let your loved ones know. A supportive relationship can be invaluable in your road to recovery.
When it comes to friends and acquaintances, keep in mind talking about yourself isn’t always in your best interest.
If you’re dating a new partner, you might consider waiting a few months, or until you the relationship appears to be stable, before letting them know
At work, consider that revealing details about your emotional problems may limit your opportunities for advancement.
On the other hand, if you need reasonable accommodations that directly relate to your BPD, you may decide that the risk of disclosure is worth considering.
The ADA protects people with both physical and mental disabilities from discrimination by employers and BPD falls under the ADA’s protection.
If you feel that you’ve been discriminated against for your BPD, go to the U.S. Department of Labor’s web site and search for the Office of Disability Employment Policy (www.dol.gov). It will tell you what to do and whom to contact.
Are Borderline Personality Disorder And Bipolar The Same?
While both Bipolar disorder and Borderline personality disorder involve mood swings, the duration and the triggers of these mood swings are different.
Bipolar disorder involves alternating periods of depression and mania that can last from days to months and are not triggered by interpersonal conflicts.
In borderline personality disorder, the mood swings last a few minutes to hours and are accompanied by changes in sleep, energy, speech, and thinking.
Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a condition characterized by troubles managing emotions.
Feelings can be unpredictable, and suddenly move from enthusiastic romanticizing to disdainful annoyance.
This implies individuals who experience BPD strong feelings and for extended timeframes. This can affect their relationships with others but also with themselves.
It’s important to acknowledge these feelings and learn how to deal with them in healthier ways.
Web Sites with More Information
Borderline Personality Disorder Resource Center (https://bpdresourcecenter.org): This site contains statistics, research, and resources for families and professionals of people with BPD.
BPD Central (www.bpdcentral.com):This site focuses on BPD and provides support groups, and information for choosing BPD therapists in the United States and some other areas of the world.
National Education Alliance for Borderline Personality Disorder (www.borderlinepersonalitydisorder.com): This site contains information about BPD for families and professionals
The American Psychiatric Association (www.psych.org): This organization is made up of medical specialists and offers information about BPD and other mental disorders.
The American Psychological Association (www.apa.org): This professional and scientific organization offers fact sheets and information about BPD and other emotional disorders.
Managing Difficult Emotions
If You’re Feeling Angry or Frustrated
- Breathe slowly – and focus on each breath as you take it.
- Relax your body – focus on each part of your body in turn to tense and then relax your muscles.
- Try mindfulness Exercises – to become more aware of when you’re getting angry and calm your body and mind down.
- Exercise – to work off your anger.
- Use up your energy safely in other ways – try tearing up a newspaper, hitting a pillow or doing practical work like gardening or woodwork.
- Do something to distract yourself mentally or physically – like fixing something, or doing something creative, or taking a cold shower.
If You’re Feeling Sad or Lonely
- Write all your negative thoughts and feelings on a piece of paper and tear it up
- Listen to uplifting music
- Write a comforting letter to the part of yourself that is feeling sad or alone
- Play with your pet
If You’re Feeling Anxious or Panicky
- Do a grounding exercise like chewing a piece of ginger, holding an ice cube, sniffing something with a strong smell, breathing deeply, etc.
- Write down your anxious thoughts
If You’re Feeling Dissociative or Spaced Out
- Put your hands in water
- Breathe deeply
- Savor a food or drink
- Take a short walk
- Hold an ice cube
- Recite something
- Describe what’s around you
- Picture the voice or face of someone you love
- Touch something comforting
- Listen to music
- Clap your hands and notice the stinging sensation
- Walk barefoot
- Touching something or sniffing something with a strong smell.
If You Want To Self-Harm
- Rub ice over where you want to hurt yourself
- Take a cold bath.
- Distract yourself
- Read Helpful sayings or words of encouragement
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- Portions of this article were adapted from the book Borderline Personality Disorder: Effect, Suggestions and Solution, © 2020 by Albert Piaget. All rights reserved.
- Portions of this article were adapted from the book Borderline Personality Disorder for Dummies, © 2009 by Charles H. Elliott and Laura L. Smith. All rights reserved.
- Portions of this article were adapted from the book I Hate You– Don’t Leave Me: Understanding the Borderline Personality, © 1989 by Hal Straus and Jerold Jay Kreisman. All rights reserved.