Also known as Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder
A personality disorder is a distorted way of thinking. The exact cause is still not known but from my experience and research with people who have Borderline Personality Disorder – all of them have experienced abusive childhoods in some way. The severity of the personality differs according to each person’s attitude (and possible genetic factors) but they all seem to exhibit similar symptoms.
Cluster B personality disorders
A person with a cluster B personality disorder struggles to regulate their feelings and often swings between positive and negative views of others. This can lead to patterns of behaviour others describe as dramatic, unpredictable and disturbing.
When a child’s upbringing is traumatic or abusive in any way, a child has to find ways to cope with the upset and their emotional responses become distorted in order to manage their surroundings. Children are often vulnerable and powerless and adapt internally to deal with upsetting circumstances beyond their control. It is interesting how the symptoms are often very similar and it is possible that the effect on the developing brain of the emotional abuse is to cause the brain to develop in an unhealthy manner. Research has shown that people with Borderline Personality Disorder have a smaller hippocampus and amygdala). People with Borderline Personality Disorder find it difficult to manage their emotions and have an irrational fear of not being loved and abandoned.
Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder (also known as Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder)
- They see others as good or bad, there is no in-between grey areas. They can love you one minute and hate you the next without obvious reasons
- Their relationships (whether romantic, family or friendships) tend to be quite volatile emotionally. They rarely enjoy stable easy-going relationships
- When they feel threatened, they will shut you out. They can switch off from others and put people out of their minds at will (dissociation)
- They lack a stable sense of identity and can change who they are to fit in with the company they are in
- Deep down people with Borderline Personality Disorder fear rejection and abandonment and a lot of their focus is on how much others love them and will stay with them. The emotional volatility comes from their insecurities and fears of being abandoned
- Impulsive behaviour without seriously considering the consequences
- Emotional individuals who find it difficult to reason their emotional reactions and often act like the frightened child they used to be
- Experiencing extreme and intense emotional states can lead to self harm or thoughts of suicide
- Tend to hold grudges against others, may dwell on criticism for a long time
What to do
Long term psychotherapy is the most common talking therapy for Borderline Personality Disorder. One form of psychotherapy that seems to work particularly well is called Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT). This type of counselling is based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy which focuses on thinking and how our thoughts create emotions and consequent behaviour. Change your thinking and your emotions and behaviour will change too.
There does not seem to be one particular medication that has been shown to be extremely effective in treating Borderline Personality Disorder. If there are other problems such as depression (which is common), then anti-depressants can be prescribed to alleviate some of the symptoms. There unfortunately does not seem to be a miracle drug as yet that can cure or manage the symptoms very efficiently at present.
Mindfulness and meditation have also been shown to help by focusing an individual’s thoughts on the present moment, thereby minimising upsetting thoughts that lead to trauma.
Self-awareness as well as support from friends and family can make a big difference. Intervention by Mental Health Services obviously goes without saying. The earlier the intervention the better the prognosis. Mental Health professionals used to hold a dim view of a positive prognosis for borderline personality disorder but this seems to be changing.
Self-knowledge is the key – when you know that you are vulnerable, seek help and find positive ways to cope and manage.
If you need help with emotional instability, get in touch.