Borderline personality disorder (often abbreviated as BPD) is one of the most misunderstood mental health disorders in the world. People who live with this condition are often labeled “dangerous,” “crazy,” or “manipulative” by others and these stereotypes have a profoundly negative impact on the lives and relationships of people who live with BPD. So, in this article, we’ll break through the stigma by exploring a few key things that people who have BPD want you to know.
But first, we’ll start with a brief overview for people who aren’t familiar with BPD. Borderline personality disorder is a mental health condition that impacts a person’s self-image, emotions, and their ability to interact with others. It’s called a personality disorder because BPD symptoms primarily affect an individual’s personality. For example, when we think about personalities, we tend to describe people as “cheerful,” “talkative,” “sarcastic,” “chill,” etc. These outward manifestations of an individual’s emotions and moods typically characterize our impression of who they are as people.
This is often unfortunate for people who live with BPD because borderline personality disorder affects a person’s ability to regulate their emotions. People who have borderline personality disorder feel everything very intensely so it might seem like they cycle wildly through diametrically opposing spectrums of emotion with no rhyme or reason. For example, it’s not uncommon for someone who has BPD to feel an intense sense of elation or crushing despair within the same few minutes. This can feel like an emotional roller coaster for someone with BPD and for those around them, so it’s unsurprising that BPD symptoms often leave many people feeling confused and concerned.
We can better understand this experience if we consider some of the hallmark symptoms of borderline personality disorder. For example, common symptoms of BPD include:
- Intense mood swings
- Fear of abandonment
- Unstable relationships that swing between intense moments of idealization (idolizing another person) and devaluation (feeling that that same person is dead to you)
- Extreme efforts to avoid real or perceived abandonment
- Distorted self-image
These are just a few of the most common symptoms experienced by people who have borderline personality disorder. We can imagine how these symptoms might present in practical application, but it’s important to understand what’s going on beneath the surface so we can be empathetic and understanding of people who live with BPD.
So, let’s take a look at a few key things that people with BPD want you to know.
- People who have borderline personality disorder are not attention-seeking
One of the most common accusations lobbed at people with BPD is that they “act crazy for attention.” But in reality, nothing could be further from the truth! People with borderline personality disorder experience the same emotions as anybody else; they just experience them in a very intense way that can make their feelings very difficult to control. So, when someone who has BPD is spiralling through a shocking cycle of emotions, they’re not doing it to manipulate others or to elicit your sympathy. Instead, they’re likely struggling to regulate their emotions and they might be as confused and overwhelmed as you are!
One person who experiences BPD chose to share their experience using the synonym SF, and they wrote: “I have encountered a large amount of stigma throughout my illness, mainly from people who assume that I have chosen to behave in a certain way for attention (normally surrounding self-harming or suicidal behaviors). I would like to make it clear that choosing to harm myself was a very traumatic experience.”
- People with BPD are not manipulative
This is another common assumption that people with BPD often face. But, just like the first stereotype on our list, this one isn’t true either. This misunderstanding also occurs because of the intense emotions experienced by people who have borderline personality disorder. Andrea Shaw, a woman who lives with BPD, described her experience by saying:
“I am extremely sensitive to emotional stimuli — emotional hypersensitivity is the core of my experience of BPD. Because of this, the speed at which my emotions fluctuate is breathtaking, and they tend to be extremes of emotion, such as elation or utter despair. I have to work hard at managing and regulating my emotions. This is very difficult, and sometimes I get overwhelmed.”
This is an extremely realistic representation of what it’s like to live with borderline personality disorder. Someone who lives with BPD may respond to situations in ways that seem unrealistic, irrational, or manipulative. But people who have BPD are not inherently manipulative and they’re not trying to be overly dramatic. Instead, they’re responding in a way that seems perfectly appropriate based on their emotional experience. Keeping this in mind can help you be understanding and empathetic when someone with BPD behaves in a way that doesn’t make sense to you.
- People who have BPD love very deeply
Unstable relationships are considered a hallmark of borderline personality disorder. That’s partly because people who live with BPD experience all emotions with extreme intensity. As a result, the start of a new relationship can bring a rush of overwhelming euphoria while a minor disappointment can create a crushing sense of despair. This can make it difficult for people with BPD to maintain stable relationships. They might react to small disagreements in a way that seems wildly disproportionate, causing their partner to feel hurt and bewildered.
Because disproportionate reactions are common in BPD, people who live with this condition often get a bad rap and are labeled as “unstable,” “manipulative,” or “psycho.” But none of those things are accurate! The behavior of a person who lives with BPD might be confusing to their partner, but it’s important to remember that they react the way they do because they love very deeply. While that doesn’t excuse toxic or inappropriate behavior, it can be important to remember that your loved one isn’t as “unstable” or “confused” as they may seem.
People who live with BPD give their entire hearts to everything they do– especially their relationships. So, even when they’re struggling, remember that they love you with a passionate intensity and they don’t want to hurt you. But someone who experiences borderline personality disorder may need some help and support to regulate their emotions. And that’s where therapy comes in.
If you or someone you love is struggling with symptoms of borderline personality disorder, you should know that you’re not alone. Although BPD can feel overwhelming, it is a very treatable condition that can be managed with a combination of medication and therapy. A therapist can work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan that is specifically designed for you and your symptoms. So, if you’re not currently seeing a therapist or receiving treatment for BPD, you can take the first step by taking this free borderline personality disorder test from Mind Diagnostics.
This test is not meant to serve as a replacement for a professional diagnosis but it can help you learn more about common BPD symptoms and the resources that are available to help you treat it. So, whether you or someone you love is struggling, it’s important to remember that many common misconceptions about BPD are untrue and that help is right at your fingertips.