Written by: Robert R. Cassman, LPCC
Many times, people will assume someone is “crazy” simply if that person is moody or impulsive. But there may be more than meets the eye. People who are moody, irritable, impulsive and irrational may have a disorder known as borderline personality disorder.
The term “borderline” was first used in the 1930s to label patients with problems that were in between neurosis and psychosis, or on the “border” of these issues. Today we understand borderline personality disorder with more clarity. Below are five signs of borderline personality disorder (BPD.)
1. Mood swings. People with BPD may have severe and abrupt mood swings. This can lead to a misdiagnosis of bipolar disorder. These mood swings are rooted in their own perceived uncertainty about themselves. They may think they are happy and then come to think they are worthless and sad.
2. A pattern of “push-pull” relationships. People with BPD tend to have intense relationships that rarely last. They will push a partner away in an attempt to sabotage and then desperately try to win back the partner’s love through some extreme measure. This measure may be in the form of buying a lot of merchandise or threatening self-harm or suicide if the partner doesn’t come back. Self-harm is common among those with BPD. People with BPD may resort to violence out of fear. They may destroy their boyfriend’s car, post embarrassing details on the Internet, or stalk an ex.
3. General unstable view of self. Those with BPD have feelings and thoughts of loneliness, unlovability, and thoughts of rejection. They tend to think they “mess everything up” and deserve punishment.
4. Dramatic. People with BPD tend to be attention-seeking. If they come to a party, they make sure to show up late to be seen. Or they will dress provocatively to garner attention. They laugh louder than others and drink more than is called for. They are more likely to take a bet to “act silly.” They tell inappropriate jokes at work and tend to “always have something going on.”
5. Impulsive. Impulsivity may be shown in many areas of life. They may have sex with four different people in one night or use many different drugs. Those with BPD are more likely to be sexually assaulted AFTER the diagnosis of BPD than those without BPD. Due to the impulsivity, they tend to find themselves in dangerous situations. The danger is what draws them to those situations. Plain and boring is worse for them than safe and predictable. Those with BPD have a history of eating disorders as well. The impulsivity may be reflected in their spending habits too.
Finally, it should be understood that the overall issue with those with BPD is the extreme all-or-nothing nature of their lives. Everything that is done is to the extreme: relationships, work, play etc. If they are going to remodel a room, they remodel everything. If they are going to go on a vacation, it will be extreme and expensive. If they are going to lose weight, they lose a lot of weight. A person with BPD may cut off all her hair and dramatically change her look. A safe, moderate middle ground is almost allergic to them. They are not comfortable with “normal” or “average.”
In general, women who have suffered some sort of trauma or abuse are more likely to be diagnosed with BPD. Treatment for BPD will focus on the dysfunctional patterns of thinking, specifically the “all-or-nothing” and the “catastrophizing” extremes. Many times women come to therapy for drugs or anxiety when in fact it can be BPD. Knowing this will help to get the proper treatment.