Borderline Personality Disorder is a very serious mental illness that is characterized by a lack of stability in moods, behaviours, and relationships. The name of this disorder was given because it was thought to “border” many different types of mental illness, which has now been found to be quite inaccurate. Though each case is different, there are commonly occurring symptoms that are used to diagnose. (Please keep in mind that a trained professional should be making a diagnosis, as they are equipped to do so.) These symptoms include:
- Impulsive behaviours: These behaviours are often harmful to themselves and/or others. These behaviours may include promiscuity/unsafe sex, drug abuse, or self-harming behaviours (i.e. Cutting). Spending sprees and binge eating are also known to occur. It is important to note that not all of those who suffer from borderline personality disorder engage in all of these behaviours. It is also important to note that their self-harming behaviours are not usually intended to cause death, but are in an attempt to express their pain, have some control over their bodies, or to punish themselves for their choices/behaviours.
- Low self-worth: Low self-worth can manifest itself in many different ways. They may speak very critically of themselves (i.e. They are ugly, or unintelligent, or worthless, etc.), or have distorted beliefs of what others think of them (i.e. No one likes them, no one loves them, no one likes spending time with them, etc.). Their low self-worth may also cause them to very rapidly change plans for their future, showing in an unexpected change in career, goals, and romantic partners.
- Aggressive behaviours: Controlling anger is something that those suffering with borderline personality disorder struggle with. They will often times yell and scream when they are angry, and they may also lash out physically at those around them. Their anger can be incredibly frightening and dangerous.
- Intense emotions and mood swings: The emotions and moods of a person struggling with borderline personality disorder fluctuate quite quickly and intensely. It is not uncommon for someone to be experiencing a very happy period to only hit a very intense angry and upset period a few hours later. The way that they treat those around them changes along with how they are feeling as well. They can be very loving and caring, switching very quickly to hateful and angry when they are feeling upset.
- Intense fear of being abandoned: Those suffering from borderline personality disorder constantly worry about those around them leaving them completely. This intense fear manifests itself in “clingy” behaviours towards those around them (i.e. Repeatedly asking them not to leave, attempting to guilt trip people into being around, other manipulative behaviours) when their relationship feels threatened or close to breaking.
- Tumultuous relationships: Relationships that a person with borderline personality disorder are involved in are incredibly chaotic. Relationships can go from being incredibly close and loving to incredibly distant and hateful in a very short amount of time. Romantic relationships can be especially so, and are often short lived as their partners have a hard time dealing with the mood swings and impulsive behaviours.
Borderline personality disorder is not a death sentence. If your loved one is struggling with borderline personality disorder, it is very important that you help to support them through treatment and encourage them to continue to work through it. Treatment for a personality disorder is often times a combination of therapy as well as medication, which can be very difficult for your loved one to handle, especially on their own. It is important that they stay hopeful and focused on the future. It is also a good idea to educate yourself on their illness. Know what the signs and symptoms are, especially when they are in crisis. Understand that you will need to recognize their signs and symptoms for crisis, not just the ones that are listed in a website or book. It is also essential that you yourself seek treatment. Their illness does affect you, whether you see it or not. Having your own safe place to discuss your feelings and emotions is the best way to be an effective part of their support system.