I think I can safely say Borderline Personality Disorder isn’t very
well understood. I think I can safely say it is still very
stigmatised. I doubt I can explain to you what it is. I’m not even
sure I could explain to you what it is to me.
I was diagnosed only two years ago, despite having been back and
forward to GP’s with mental health symptoms for 20 years and having
had symptoms of problems since the age of about 4. In the end it was
me who took the diagnosis to them to be confirmed.
So what are the symptoms? There are a lot, and as with many
personality disorders you don’t have to have them all to have the
illness. Just enough of them. Suicidal thoughts, actions and self harm
are very common with BPD. Addictive behaviours too. People with BPD
lack good impulse control. They find it very difficult to regulate
their emotions. They suffer from an inability to develop good
interpersonal relationships, a fear of abandonment and a lack of self
All very academic. How does it feel? …
“To be on your own. With no direction home. A complete unknown.”
It feels like living on quicksand. Nothing is solid. You’re depressed
a lot. You’re anxious a lot. You don’t know what you’re supposed to be
doing. You don’t know what you want to do. Everything tugs you around.
Everything you see on tv, everything you read, everyone you talk to.
You don’t trust anything after a while. Everything seems real and
important and then suddenly it seems stupid and pointless. You don’t
cope well with reality. It’s too confusing. Every slight insult or
negative comment sends you spinning. You’re afraid all the time; that
you’re getting it all wrong, that it’s your fault, that people are
angry with you.
Some people react out. They take a lot of drugs or alcohol, or have a
lot of sex, or spend a lot of money. They get loudly and
uncontrollably angry or excited. They shout and they cry and they get
in fights, attacking people, ending up in police custody (25-50% of
prison inmates have borderline personality disorder). They’re exciting
and terrifying and destructive.
Some people react in. They retreat. They stop communicating, stop
trying. They may be taking a lot of drugs too, but nobody knows except
their dealer and maybe close family (studies suggest around 50% of BPD
sufferers also become substance addicts). They self harm, they attempt
suicide, they quit one thing after another until there’s no point
starting anything in the first place. They’re difficult and insecure
Because if there’s one thing BPD is it’s destructive. Outwardly,
inwardly. In every direction. And in my experience because of that it
gets worse with time not better. The more time passes the more of
yourself and everything around you has been destroyed. You have no
inner strength, no resilience. So every set back, every break up,
every mistake, every moment of weakness digs a deeper hole. Every
attempt at construction somehow leads to only more and more
And it’s extremely hard treat. Mood stabilisers are often prescribed,
as some of the symptoms are similar to bipolar disorder. But the
biology is different, because it’s mostly caused by human interaction
not brain chemistry. The drugs make you slow and fat and unmotivated.
The recommended therapies are new, long and intensive and hard to
access on the NHS (Dialectical Behavioural Therapy and Schema
But what do you really need to know? Maybe something that comments on
the stigmatisation of those with Borderline. We are far more dangerous
and destructive to ourselves than we are to anyone else. Some of us
may be difficult to deal with, or confusing and contradictory, or even
frightening and occasionally dangerous, but far more people than you
realise have this problem without your even noticing (5.9% of
Americans have BPD, and about 4.4% of Britons), and many of them will
have suffered physical or sexual abuse or neglect as children as this
is one of the main causes of the disorder. Your inconvenience at
having to deal with our insecurity, mood swings, impulsiveness,
depression and unreliability is as nothing to the sheer awfulness of
having to be the person with BPD.