WTF IS BPD? – All 9 Symptoms Explained
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So, you’ve got BPD… what does that even mean?
If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, you might be wondering WTF IS BPD?
I will explain exactly what each symptom means.
Did you know BPD is also known as emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD)
I was 25 when I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and the first thing I did was get on the internet and try to find out as much information as I could.
Being an avid reader, I looked for books.
Unfortunately, a lot of the books I found were written in a professional dialect with boring, analytical psychobabble.
Half the time they were written by someone who had not even experienced mental illness or BPD and they only learnt about it by reading a book and going to a class.
I don’t believe you can truly understand a mental illness unless you experience it yourself.
So, therefore, I am an expert in BPD – HAHA –
I am not an expert in BPD, I just suffer from the disorder.
I am not a qualified practitioner and I do not give any medical advice.
Anything I publish on here should be taken lightly and for entertainment purposes only.
If you need help, you should seek the guidance of a medical professional.
So, what Is Borderline Personality Disorder?
I’d love to just give you a quick and easy answer to this, but it’s actually quite complicated.
BPD is still one of the main mental illness disorders often misunderstood within the general community.
Borderline Personality Disorder is said to have as many as 9 symptoms.
You might read the list below and identify with some or even all of it – this does not mean you have Borderline Personality Disorder.
Only a trained professional can diagnose and assess you.
To be diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder you must possess at least five out of the nine symptoms.
These symptoms start to appear in early adolescence and will impact multiple areas of your life.
Let’s break down the nine categories –what do they mean?
1. Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment
BPD sufferers live in constant fear of abandonment.
Something as simple as heading out to see some friends without us can cause a chain reaction of emotions.
Someone with BPD may be fine with your plans that are in place to hang out with your friends in a few weeks, but when the day arrives, it’s a very different feeling.
We subconsciously fear that you are abandoning us somehow; even if we have known about the plans for a while.
To try and get you to cancel your plans and stay home, a BPD’er might throw a tantrum or start a fight with you – on purpose – but we don’t usually know it’s deliberate at the time.
The tantrum can arise in many forms such as crying, yelling, screaming, smashing items, attempting to hurt you or even physically trying to detain you.
Why do we do this? because you can’t leave me, you might not come back.
Of course, this is likely to not be true but inside the mind of a BPD’er, it is a very real fear. Acting out on this fear can cause the other person to rethink their position in your life.
If we feel like you’re slipping away, we will push you even further. In the moment, we believe that what we are doing is rational behaviour, we believe we will be better off by pushing you away.
You can’t abandon me if I push you away.
This is where it gets confusing, we don’t want you to go away.
We believe it is better to push you away instead of being rejected or “abandoned” by you.
We try to protect ourselves from being hurt by detaching ourselves from the situation and forcing you to make a decision, but really it is almost like we are testing you.
Will you really leave? Were you going to abandon me, just like I thought all along?
2. A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealisation and devaluation
Relationships can be very intense, short-lived and filled with extreme and chaotic behaviours.
Some people may see our behaviour as manipulative and in some situations they can be, but often we find that we can’t control it because at the time we believe our response is reasonable.
You may notice that the BPD’er might jump from relationship to relationship – this comes from the fear of abandonment and being alone – we mask our pain from the previous relationship by replacing our ex-partner with someone new.
Idealisation and devaluation – which is known as splitting or black and white thinking refers to a BPD’er and how they view another person or even themselves.
BPD’ers go through cycles of extreme infatuation to wanting absolutely nothing to do with a person – with no middle ground in between.
This all-or-nothing attitude means friendships and relationships are often left behind and will leave the BPD’er asking themselves “why do I act this way?“.
3. Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self
Some BPD’ers have trouble identifying who we are and what we represent, often you might notice we are constantly re-inventing ourselves.
This could be anything from chopping and changing our personal style to moving from job to job, changing careers, or our values, morals and goals.
Some of us might even invent new personas depending on what situation and environment we are in.
These personas can be far-fetched and over-the-top and some may even find them annoying, loud and boisterous but behind closed doors, we are usually the opposite.
At times, we might feel great about ourselves, and other times, we can’t stand ourselves.
We are constantly trying to seek approval and admiration from others because we don’t value ourselves.
You may also notice that we do not take criticism well, even if it is constructive.
We take these comments personally and see it as another failure and another way we have disappointed somebody.
4. Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating)
(Note: Do not include suicidal or self-mutilating behaviour covered in Criterion 5.)
Most people experience impulsivity at some point in their lives, but when you have BPD, impulsivity can be a constant issue in your life.
A BPD’er might find themselves engaging in self-damaging activities without thinking of the consequences.
A BPD’er might turn to these self-harming behaviours in a bid to try and find new ways to cope with their emotions.
The outcomes are often undesirable and sometimes they not only hurt themselves but they can hurt others.
Self-damaging behaviour can be a range of things including but not limited to:
- Abusing alcohol / Binge-drinking
- Using illegal drugs
- Overdosing prescription medication
- Exceeding the speed limit
- Spending money you shouldn’t
- Unprotected sex
- Cheating on your partner
- Telling lies / Lying
DID YOU KNOW: Borderline Personality Disorder is the only personality disorder that has suicide and self-harm included in the diagnostic criteria.
5. Recurrent suicidal behaviour, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behaviour
Among the symptoms that we suffer with, are the feelings of depression that can cause us to have suicidal thoughts and with that, threats of suicide and self-harming behaviour.
Suicide attempts are not unheard of with BPD sufferers – with 10% of sufferers succeeding in ending their life – this should magnify the seriousness of this disorder.
It is important to remember, that tomorrow could be better. If you are gone, you won’t be here to find out.
BPD is not a stranger to self-harm either, with many of us harming ourselves to try to feel something – anything.
You may notice scars on our arms or even our legs – these are not always an attempt on our life.
We can feel so empty and emotionless at times, that we see self-harming as a sort of release.
6. Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of moods
(e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability, or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days).
A common theme with BPD is an instability of moods.
Affective instability refers to the shift in moods from a neutral emotion to a depressed, withdrawn, irritated or anxious mood.
These mood changes can be triggered by something or they can be completely random, but generally, a trigger is what causes the fluctuation.
The BPD’er finds it difficult to find relief from this depressive or anxious mood even with a period of well-being.
Surprisingly, it is often reported that the mood is broken with anger or panic.
7. Chronic feelings of emptiness
BPD’ers often describe themselves as feeling empty.
What we mean by this is that we feel like there is always something missing in our lives, like there is an empty hole inside our heart that can’t be filled.
No matter what we do, we feel like the emptiness won’t go away.
The feeling can be so overwhelming at times that we can struggle to find a reason to get out of bed.
In depressive states, it can be hard to think of anything else and some of us will try to fill the void.
Self-damaging behaviour can help ease the feeling of emptiness for a short period, but it often leads to feelings of guilt which can bring up other issues.
BPD’ers might use mind-altering substances such as alcohol and drugs in an attempt to try and lessen the overwhelming emotions.
8. Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger
(e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights).
BPd’ers can sometimes burst with anger and have a hard time controlling their reaction.
Often these bouts of anger seem rational in the BPD mind.
The problem arises when we feel like we’ve been pushed too far and in return, this makes us lash out.
We believe our response to the situation is warranted and we also believe we are in control of our reaction.
Some of us think we have given enough chances, and this is the last straw.
We can have very short tempers and some of us – once angry, find it difficult to calm back down again.
The inability to control our anger can make things escalate quickly, especially if the person we are angry with is continuing to try and reason with us.
By this stage, we have had enough and red is usually the only colour that can be seen.
9. Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms
This category refers to the imagined paranoia and the feeling of disconnection that can be present in the BPD’er.
These feelings are usually made worse when overcome with stress but are generally only experienced for a short period.
You may find yourself questioning others frequently and wondering what their true motives are.
Dissociative symptoms can be scary because you can become confused and unaware of your surroundings.
You can experience amnesia-type symptoms and in a severe episode, you could even forget who you are.
Your surroundings can appear unreal, and you may feel like you are detached from the world around you.
Some BPD’ers get a feeling of being disconnected from their body, as well as the world.
If you made it this far, well done. I hope you learnt a few things – because I did.
I don’t harbour all 9 of the criteria for BPD, so it was interesting to see what the other symptoms can be like.
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Do you have a different personal explanation of your experience with any of these symptoms?
I’d love to hear your story, so please leave a comment below.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, depressed or you’re just finding it difficult to function in your normal day
to day activities, don’t be afraid to reach out for help at organisations such as Beyond Blue.
You are not alone.
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