Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a mental disorder characterized by an intense fear of abandonment, unstable relationships and impulsive behavior. It can manifest in symptoms such as emotional instability, difficulty regulating emotions, distorted self-image or sense of self, impulsive behaviors such as substance abuse or reckless driving, suicidal thoughts, and actions or threats of self-harm like cutting. BPD is often mistaken for disorders like bipolar disorder or depression. It is treatable with consistent therapy and support from friends and family.
It’s easy for teens and adolescents with borderline personality disorder (BPD) to feel like they are the victims of a very cruel curse. This personality disorder is often characterized by an intense fear of abandonment, unstable relationships and impulsive behavior that ultimately drives people away. “BPD makes me lash out, allowing some of the cruelest things to tumble from my mouth. And believe me, there are only so many times loved ones will forgive a lack of control,” one person writes. Young people that have this disorder describe what it’s like to live with it, in their own words.
What is Borderline Personality Disorder?
A young woman who was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder at the age of 14 shared her story anonymously in Elite Daily. Describing her battle with BPD, she says, “Relationships feel impossible, my brain never stops running and my stress is magnified. I find it very difficult to distinguish who I actually am and who my mental illness wants me to be.”
In a revealing article for VICE magazine, Australian writer Patrick Marlborough offers a personal explanation of BPD: “It is hard to offer a simple medical definition of BPD, but I’ve heard it brilliantly summed up as ‘chronic irrationality.’ Think severe mood swings, impulsivity, instability and a whole lot of explosive anger.”
Borderline Personality Disorder Diagnosis
Because young people with BPD may project symptoms that seem similar to other personality disorders, it is often confused with bipolar, depression, or anxiety disorders. The National Institute of Mental Health offers this description:
“Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a serious mental disorder marked by a pattern of ongoing instability in moods, behavior, self-image, and functioning. These experiences often result in impulsive actions and unstable relationships. A person with BPD may experience intense episodes of anger, depression, and anxiety that may last from only a few hours to days.”
Borderline Personality Disorder Diagnosis Signs and Symptoms
Teens with BPD may experience extreme mood swings and can display uncertainty about who they are. As a result, their interests and feelings about any recent event can change rapidly.
According to NIMH, symptoms include:
- Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment
- A pattern of intense and unstable relationships with family, friends and loved ones, often swinging from extreme closeness and love (idealization) to extreme dislike or anger (devaluation)
- Distorted and unstable self-image or sense of self
- Impulsive and often dangerous behaviors, such as spending sprees, unsafe sex, substance abuse, reckless driving and binge eating
- Recurring suicidal behaviors or threats or self-harming behavior, such as cutting
- Intense and highly changeable moods, with each episode lasting from a few hours to a few days
- Chronic feelings of emptiness
- Inappropriate, intense anger or problems controlling anger
- Stress-related paranoid thoughts
- Severe dissociative symptoms, such as feeling cut off from oneself, observing oneself from outside the body or losing touch with reality
Living with BPD
Ordinary events may trigger these symptoms. For example, adolescents or teens with BPD may feel angry and distressed over minor separations, such as vacations, trips or sudden changes of plans, from people to whom they feel close. Research shows that young people with this disorder may see anger in an emotionally neutral face and have a stronger reaction to words with negative meanings than people who do not have the disorder.
Marlborough writes, “I think it’s this erratic oscillation that makes BPD so hard to communicate, particularly to those who are close. Because on the surface, it looks like I’m just being ornery. Like all mental illness, it’s best treated with patience and empathy. And unfortunately, like depression or hypomania, it places the onus on people who are not necessarily in a position to help or understand, no matter how much they may care for you. In a relationship, BPD can leave both parties feeling isolated.”
The Dark Side of Borderline Personality Disorder
Just living with someone that has this personality disorder, or being around them, can be extremely difficult, Marlborough admits. “It brings out my mean streak something shocking. I’ve always had a devilish way with words, particularly nasty ones, and BPD is like a Terminator vision that highlights the chinks in everyone’s armour. Unlike my mania, which tends to make me charismatic and eloquent, a BPD ‘turn’ or ‘moment’ sees me turn sour and crude.”
Relationships & Borderline Personality Disorder
Due to their impulsiveness, young people with BPD tend to change jobs frequently and abruptly cut ties to people they are close to, the young woman with BPD explains in Elite Daily. “We also have intense and sudden mood changes, and we have severe difficulty regulating our emotions. Unintentionally, we tend to blame others when we make a mistake, which causes us to be manipulative and cruel to those we care about.”
The Disorder that Makes People Seem Out of Order
BPD can make life feel almost unbearable. “It’s a mirage illness,” Marlborough writes in VICE. “You feel like someone without fingerprints. You have no identity. You move between things constantly, people and passions. Onlookers can be tricked into seeing you as boldly transformative. In reality, you are someone without a sense of self.”
The young woman with BPD told Elite Daily, “Long story short, it’s very hard for those with BPD to have successful and healthy relationships and stable confidence levels. Our version of ‘logical thinking’ is most often overthinking. We have a very hard time distinguishing between real issues or imaginary issues. BPD is considered to be one of the most serious mental illnesses, as it causes a great deal of suffering and has a high-risk for suicide.”
Recognizing Red Flags of BPD
If you think that someone you love might have borderline personality disorder, and they are expressing suicidal thoughts and feelings, this should not be taken lightly. Seek professional help immediately. If your friend or loved one is exhibiting any suicidal warning signs, contact a mental health professional, or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Or call 911, or take them to the nearest emergency room. If the person is acting and not willing to accept treatment, call the police, your local hospital emergency department or 911 if you feel that they are in danger. Also take precautions to consider your own personal safety. It is important not to put yourself in harm’s way, experts say.
BPD Recovery is Possible
“Luckily, BPD is treatable with consistent therapy, self-awareness and support. It doesn’t have to be a lifelong chum like depression or anxiety. The ghost can definitely be outed. But like all mental illness, to do that requires some love, from friends, strangers, and yourself,” Marlborough says.
“This is a lifelong battle, but I’m prepared to fight,” the woman tells Elite Daily. “I will never be cured of BPD, but I believe my disorder does not own me. This is my life, and I know it can be beautiful.”
Discovery Mood & Anxiety Program Can Help
We’ve been helping families find their way to lifelong recovery since 1997. Our personalized behavior modification programs are tailored to fit your needs. Discovery Mood provides multi-faceted levels of care for adolescents and teens that struggle with borderline personality disorder, depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, self-harm behaviors, gender identity, oppositional defiant disorder, eating disorders and other major mental health disorders. Call us at 800-760-3934 today.
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- VICE magazine: How it Feels to Live With Borderline Personality Disorder, by Patrick Marlborough. Retrieved October 20, 2016.
- Elite Daily: What It’s Like to Live With Borderline Personality Syndrome. Retrieved October 20, 2016.
- National Institute of Mental Health: Borderline Personality Disorder. Retrieved October 20, 2016.