Do you have BPD? Symptoms/traits of Borderline Personality Disorder with Explanations

Here are the 9 traits of Borderline Personality Disorder. Read on to understand BPD. In the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), BPD is diagnosed on the basis of (1) a pervasive pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, self-image, and affects, and (2) marked impulsivity beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by at least five of the following:

1) Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment

Explanation: BPDs have a major fear of people leaving them. This fear may be unreal and imagined. For example, we are waiting for our partner to call  and he/she does not call for an hour. This makes us paranoid that they are with someone else or that they don’t love us and that they are going to leave us. This might not be the case; maybe they are just caught up with work. But what we feel is very real and very intense – suspicion, fear and anger.

2) A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation

Explanation: We meet someone. We like them for whatever reasons. Within a day or two we like them even more. Soon, we think and believe they are the best! We will do anything for them. Then in a day or two something small happens such as they don’t agree with us about something – now we totally hate them! We want to have nothing to do with them. We feel betrayed and sometimes also feel like taking revenge or hurting them rght back!This entire cycle can happen very quickly over just a few days.

3) Markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self

Explanation: This has to do with how we view ourselves. Our sense of self or identity is made up of our beliefs, values, how we behave, our history, our personality our opinions and image.

People with BPD often feel that they have no idea who they are or what they believe in. They may sometimes even feel like they don’t exist. People that know us may sometimes describe us a chameleons because we  change who we are depending on the circumstances and what we think others expect from us. Many BPDs change their hairstyle and style of dressing to create some sort of a new identity because they feel they have no identity.

4) Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (eg, spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating)

Explanation: Us BPDs function a lot from impulse rather than well thought out plans. We want to feel good and may go to extremes to achieve this. Spending too much on things that we don’t need or having sex (sometimes unprotected) with people that we don’t necessarily fancy that much or relate to, are the types of behaviour we indulge in to feel good. Substance abuse includes indulging in alcohol, drugs, medications and anything else that makes us intoxicated and high. If we have a car or a bike we may unnecessarily speed recklessly and can cause accidents – but we don’t take this seriously; we just want to feel speeded and high. Binge eating can also be a problem – eating too much or eating foods that are not good for us; eating too much mithai, for example, when we are diabetic.

5) Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behavior

 Explanation: This can be a very dangerous behaviour and can cost us our life. Sometimes it successfully and unfortunately does. When we feel depressed and sometimes when we are desperately seeking love or attention, we may try to kill ourselves in various ways and also write suicide notes. If we don’t go through the action completely, we are really lucky. “I don’t want to live anymore”; “Life is not worth it” – these are some of the thoughts we have. Cutting our wrists, overdosing on tablets etc are all desperate cries for help. There are some of us that regularly cut ourselves; cutting yourself will not make you feel better. This kind of behaviour, whilst not normal, is also utterly dangerous and can lead to total misery for all involved.

6) Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (eg, intense episodic dysphoria, irritability, or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days)

Explanation: Affective instability is defined as the tendency to experience rapid and intense mood swings that are difficult to control. Dysphoria is a state of deep despair and a feeling that we are dissatisfied and unhappy with our lives. As BPDs, we may experience these intense feelings that may last for a few hours and sometimes even for a few days – these are called ‘episodes’. We are not able to control and regulate our mood; we feel deeply depressed; we are intensely unhappy and in the depths of despair.

7) Chronic feelings of emptiness

Explanation: “Who am I?”; “Why do I feel this way?”; “I am a shell – there is nothing inside me”. There are times  when we feel totally isolated and separate from everyone else. Nothing makes sense anymore and there is a feeling of ‘emptiness’. There is a large and deep void in our lives and we cant seem to fill it with anything. We may try to fill this void with risky behaviours such as sex or substance abuse.  But even the alcohol or drugs cannot fill this void – it is an extreme feeling of uselessness and hollowness and everything seems pointless.

 8) Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (eg, frequent displays of temper, constant anger, or recurrent physical fights)

Explanation: Everybody feels angry at some time or the other. But when we feel angry, it is intense and out of control. We may throw things, break things and get violent. We may hit our parners or family members or others. The rage is so strong that only violence and physical actions can bring some relief. What is the cause of such anger? It could be anything – something as petty as not being allowed to try on a shirt before we buy it. To make it worse, not only is the anger inappropriate or over the top, but we seem to believe it is justified.

 9) Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms

Explanation: When we get stressed out, occasionally we may go into a ‘suspicion mode’. We start to have panicky, paranoid thoughts that someone is going to hurt us or do something really bad to us. This symptom, luckily, does not happen very often. But when it does, it can be very scary. We may begin to think there is a conspiracy against us. When it reaches an unberable level, we may ‘dissociate’ – a feeling of breaking away from ourselves, our thoughts and our feelings. This kind of breaking away can cause us to be in an anxious state, affecting our normal functioning to an extreme degree. When we dissociate, we may feel disconnected from ourselves and the world around us – we may feel detached from our body or feel as though the world around us is unreal – a very frightening feeling indeed!

Conclusion: Yes, all of this sounds very frightening. But I’d like to also add that if you have borderline personality disorder, don’t get discouraged. Many people with this disorder get better over time with treatment and can learn to live satisfying lives. So don’t give up on your hope.


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