We all see the world in different ways. While most of us agree upon a shared reality within which we operate, we are all living inside of our own individual reality structures. Some people are more easily able to reconcile their individual realities with the realities of others: to get along and cooperate with people and society at large. Many people suffer from mental imbalances that limit or interfere with their ability to interact with other people in rational ways. Their perceptions of reality are so far from the normal perception for their cultures that they are unable to interact in healthy ways. One such imbalance is Borderline Personality Disorder.
Defining Borderline Personality Disorder
Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a mental health condition categorized by strong emotional patterns that are unstable or turbulent. For it to be actual BPD, it must be a long-term stable phenomenon. BPD occurs in a variety of settings and usually leads to impaired functioning in work, relationships, and other areas. It is considered BPD when it affects at least two main areas of functioning, such as interpersonal relating, impulse control, cognition, or affect (perception of experiences). It is also characterized by being unchanging even when a person is in different situations.
The distortion begins on the inside. People with BPD usually have very low self-image and self-esteem. Their sense of self-worth is so dependent on outside forces such as the approval or presence of loved ones, that they may judge themselves as inadequate or unworthy of love. This can lead to any number of behaviors, including impulsive, irrational choices.
BPD causes people to feel uncertain about their sense of self. They may not understand who they are as independent beings and may have trouble making rational decisions and caring for themselves. Their perceptions of other people can shift dramatically, making an enemy of a friend or vice versa in a moment. They also often have extreme perceptions, believing that a person or experience is all good or all bad.
People with BPD often cannot tolerate being alone. They also usually have a fierce, debilitating fear of abandonment that is strongly linked to their sense of self worth If that person leaves me then that means I am bad. They will frantically do anything to avoid being left by someone important to them. They may vacillate between boredom, apathy, extreme inappropriate anger, and emotional crises.
Causes and Contributing Factors of Borderline Personality Disorder
The exact causes of BPD are not yet fully understood. There may be genetic factors, though the primary contributors seem to be family life and environment during childhood. BPD usually appears by early adolescence, though the symptoms need to have been present for at least a year for it to be considered BPD, and people are usually diagnosed in adulthood.
The primary risk factors for developing BPD are abandonment and abuse as a child, especially sexual, physical, or emotional abuse. A disrupted home life is also a risk factor, as is having grown up in a home environment that did not include loving and skillful communication.
Women tend to experience BPD more than men, and hospitalized psychiatric patients seem to be susceptible to this condition. BPD diagnosis is made by a thorough psychiatric evaluation. If you feel that you or a loved one suffer from BPD, do not attempt to diagnose it on your own- seek the help of a skillful and compassionate mental health practitioner.
Treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder
As it is a disorder that is still being explored and understood, there are few certain treatments for it. Medications can be helpful for some of the side effects such as depression and mood swings, but not for treating the disorder itself. The most promising treatment thus far is a combination of individual talk therapy and group counseling. Somatic therapy and other modalities that explore the mind-body connection may prove helpful in enabling integration and greater sense of self-worth, as well as restoring healthy brain chemistry. Mindfulness practices are also helpful, as they tend to improve mental clarity and the ability to see life as it is, not just our fears and projections of it.
Borderline Personality Disorder is a fracturing of the lens of reality. Through genetic, familial, and social factors peoples perception of what is real, including their identities and relationships, become so distorted that they are not able to function within the greater collective reality. They live with a great deal of anxiety, fear of abandonment, low self-worth, and poor impulse control often from adolescence onward. BPD is treated through individual and group therapy, with medications sometimes being given to treat the lesser symptoms of the disorder.