Borderline Personality Disorder: Finding Empowerment for Change
by Bekke Abe
Have you ever experienced the internal feelings of “falling apart,” “shattered,” “beside yourself,” and/or “abandoned?” Have you experienced symptoms and behavior of inability to mask reactive mood, chronic feelings of emptiness, fear of abandonment, pattern of unstable interpersonal relationships, marked and persistent unstable self-image or sense of self, and impulsivity that are potentially self-damaging?
Dr. James A. Chu states that “this dissociative sense of fracturing results in psychic distress and a paralysis of functioning in which associative capacity – access to thoughts, feelings, normal abilities, and judgment – is lost or becomes limited.” (Chu, J.A., 2011 “Rebuilding Shattered Lives, 2nd Edition)
For a person that has been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BDP) or has a family member or in a relationship with someone who has BDP, it can be stressful and emotionally overwhelming.
So, what are some of the signs and challenges of someone diagnosed with BDP or lives with someone with BDP? (Dr. Dina Cagliostro, “A Guide to Spotting the Signs of Borderline Personality Disorder – BPD”)
- Negative self-image or distorted sense of self
- Risky or impulsive behavior or choices
- Engaging in self-harming behavior
- Intense emotions and mood swings
- Difficulty trusting others
- Apathetic or difficulty feeling empathy
- Unstable or chaotic relationships
- Fear of abandonment
- Excessive feelings of anxiety, worry, and depression
- Unstable goals, career, and aspirations
Living with Borderline Personality Disorder (BDP) or being in a relationship with someone diagnosed with BDP can be challenging. So, what can one do when living with BDP or living with someone with BDP?
Learn new coping skills:
- Take up activities such as playing music, doing art, exercising, taking walks, etc., to reduce the intensity of the emotional distresses you are feeling.
- Practice mindfulness exercises to help you to accept the strong emotions as it is.
- Practice grounding your strong current emotions, such as snapping a rubber band against your wrist to bring yourself out of your negative thoughts.
- Practice deep breathing when you are feeling some strong emotions. Find a place that is quiet, lie or sit, and do even, slow, and deep breathing. Pay close attention to your breathing.
Learn relational tools:
- Practice healthy communication skills, such as “I” statements, active listening, and reflective responses. When communicating with someone diagnosed with BDP, it is best not to make him/her feel devalued, disregarded, disrespected, and worthless.
- Practice asking “open-ended” questions. Individuals diagnosed with BDP often misinterpret what others are saying to them. By asking open-ended questions helps a person with BDP feel heard and seen, such as “How did the fight between you two start?” “What are your plans for today?”
- Practice avoiding labeling or blaming. Individuals with BDP often views labeling or blaming as an insult or slight.
- Practice talking when an individual with BDP is in a calm state. In a midst of a severe emotional episode it is best not to tackle potential sensitive topics, such as the lack of employment or lack of goals. A BDP might react irrationally, such as become defensive, isolate, or turn to self-harming behaviors when their symptoms are unsuppressed.
Learn how to live with Borderline Personality Disorder (BDP):
- Studying and learning about BDP helps to increase empathy in the partnership or relationship. It helps families, spouses, and/or partners understand that it’s a disorder and not a choice.
- Learn to prioritize self-care. Living with BDP or in relationship with someone diagnosed with BDP can be emotionally, physically, and psychologically overwhelming and all-consuming. It is important to seek out healthy outlets to deal with stress, frustration, and anger, such as finding time for friends, activities, and hobbies.
- Seek out support, either from a mental health counselor, therapist, and/or BDP support group, so that you can gain insight on BDP.
Find a therapist who works with Borderline Personality Disorder:
- Therapist that provides a safe space of individual with BDP to express him/herself. For example, to be able to express anger, frustration, hurt, annoyance, irritability, and etc.
- Therapist that provides a safe space for family and/or partners to share their experiences of living with someone diagnosed with BPD.
- Therapist that provides educational information and tools to help individuals, families, and partners affected by BPD.
- Therapist that assists individuals with BPD learn how to utilize healthy emotional regulation, such as recognizing when one is having an emotional response, understanding that response, accepting that response, accessing strategies to help reduce the intensity of the emotion, and control impulsive behaviors.
Dr. Dina Cagliostro states that “around 80 percent of people with borderline personality disorder display suicidal behaviors, including suicide attempts, cutting themselves, burning themselves, and other self-destructive acts. It is estimated that between 4 and 9 percent of people with BPD will die by suicide.” (Dr. Dina Cagliostro, “A Guide to Spotting the Signs of Borderline Personality Disorder – BPD”)
Mayo Clinic states that “symptoms associated with borderline personality disorder can be stressful and challenging for you and those around you. You may be aware that your emotions, thoughts and behaviors are self-destructive or damaging, yet you feel unable to manage them.” (Mayo Clinic, “Borderline personality disorder: Diagnosis and treatment”)
If you need assistance in living with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) or have a family member, spouse or partner diagnosed with BDP, Sync Counseling Center can provide a safe space to talk and explore those concerns.