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Tag Archives: Borderline Personality Disorder Symptoms

Signs That A Parent May Have Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

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Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is an extremely complex psychological condition. Indeed, it is not infrequently misdiagnosed as some other type of disorder, such as bipolar disorder. For these reasons there is likely to be a very large number of individuals who have the condition but are not aware of it.

And the picture is further confused by the fact that BPD often exists alongside (comorbidly) with other psychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety. Furthermore, many who have the condition do not seek psychiatric help for the problem.

Of course, a formal diagnosis of BPD can only be made by an appropriately qualified professional. However, there are many signs to look out for that may suggest a parent has the disorder. It is to these that I now turn.

Signs That A Parent May Be Suffering From BPD:

The parent :

– shows little emotional or physical affection for the child

– invalidates/ignores/minimizes/derides/dismisses feelings that are important to the child (eg. ‘Why or you upset? – for god’s sake stop blubbering you little cry-baby’)

– responds inconsistently to the child’s behaviour – gives the child ‘mixed messages’ (this is sometimes referred to as putting the child in a ‘DOUBLE-BIND’ – click here to read my article on this)

– subjects the child to verbal cruelty – my own mother referred to me as ‘scabby’ (I self-harmed) and ‘poof’ (I was highly sensitive). Often, when I returned home from school, she would glare at me and announce, ‘Oh Christ, the little bastard’s home’. She finally kicked me out when I was thirteen)

– makes the child feel unloved/unwanted

– expects the child to meet exacting/unobtainable standards – frequently changes expectations of the child

– hinders the child from developing his/her own identity

– disputes child’s version/recall of events if it involves criticism of the parent

– creates ‘role-reversal’ (i.e. the child is treated as if s/he is the parent’s parentthis is also sometimes referred to as ‘parentification’ of the child; it may include making the child take on responsibilities that are inappropriate for his/her age (for example, I frequently had to act as my mother’s personal counsellor from the age of about ten. She reinforced this by referring to me as her ‘little psychiatrist’).

– makes the child feel on-guard and defensive all the time

– over-confides in the child (e.g. provides intimate details of sex-life)

– expects the child to be the carer/provider of emotional support

– expects child to constantly demonstrate undying loyalty and unconditional love, but DOES NOT RECIPROCATE

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Of course, such treatment as described above can have a catastrophic effect upon the child. Indeed, if the child is seriously affected, these effects can last a lifetime unless proper treatment is sought. I list some of the possible effects on the child once s/he becomes an adult below:

Possible effects on the child’s future adult life of the kind of treatment described above:

The affected person may:

– suffer severe social anxiety

– feel inadequate, unlovable, of no value and guilty

– have pervasive and chronic feelings of emptiness

– feel incapable of enjoyiong him/herself (this condition is referred to by psychologists as ‘ANHEDONIA’ – click here to read my article on this) or feel guilty about enjoying self, believing him/herself to be undeserving of happiness

– expects always to be betrayed by others/be deeply mistrustful of others

– have no sense of direction in life

– have serious problems in relationships, perhaps due to ‘repetition-compulsion’ the tendency to seek out relationships in which one is abused in a way similar to how one was abused by parents (this acts on an unconscious level)

– question his/her intuition, judgment and memory as parent will not accept his/her view of his/her childhood

– have chunks of childhood missing from memory (for instance, I can remember almost nothing about what happened to me before the age of about eight years)

– have a deep rooted fear of rejection/abandonment so will not take risks with trying to form relationships

– have a low tolerance of own mistakes/perfectionism

It should also be noted that research shows that those of us brought up by a parent with BPD are of elevated risk of developing the condition ourselves. Currently, one of the main kinds of treatment for the condition is ‘DIALECTICAL BEHAVIOUR THERAPY’ (DBT) – click here to read my article on this form of treatment.

NB: It is worth reiterating that a formal diagnosis of BPD must be made by a professional – as I have already said, it is a very complex disorder.

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BPD and ‘Clinging’ Dependency

bpd clinging dependency

An individual suffering from borderline personality disorder (BPD) typically finds it extremely difficult to judge the appropriate emotional distance/closeness s/he should keep with those with whom s/he interacts.

This can be very confusing indeed for those who interact with/form relationships with the BPD sufferer. This is because the individual with BPD may idealize the person one day, seeing him/her as ‘perfect’ and as someone ‘who can do no wrong’ to despising this very same person the next.

Very often, this cycle of idealizing and devaluing will continue until the relationship, sooner or later, breaks down altogether.

However, despite the fact that the BPD suffererer inevitably finds relationships profoundly confusing and emotionally painful, s/he often also finds being alone intolerable and is likely, therefore, to feel constantly compelled to form new relationships to make up for those that have been lost.

Indeed, the attempt to form relationships with others may become desperate. For example, the BPD sufferer may become highly promiscuous, frequently attending singles’ bars and having serial one-night-stands in an attempt to feel wanted, however transiently.

Ultimately, however, this is likely to leave the BPD sufferer feeling emptier and more worthless than ever.

FEELING SUFFOCATED VERSUS FEELING ABANDONED.

It is especially difficult to form a satisfying and long-lasting relationship with the BPD sufferer as no way of relating to him/her seems viable :

If a person is perceived as getting too close to the BPD sufferer, s/he (the BPD sufferer) will feel suffocated and push the person away…

however…

If the person backs off, the BPD sufferer is liable to feel cruelly and cold-heartedly abandoned, becoming intensely angry and full of hatred for the person s/he (the BPD sufferer) perceives as having wronged him/her. This almost certainly occurs because, on an unconscious level, the abandonment triggers buried feelings of HAVING BEEN ABANDONED (eg due to emotional neglect/abuse) AS A CHILD.

RESPONSES TO FEELINGS OF ABANDONMENT AND SUFFOCATION:

When the BPD sufferer, in the course of a relationship, feels threatened by abandonment, s/he will typically behave in an extremely ‘clingy’ manner, perhaps placing impossible demands upon the other person.

However, as soon as the other person is felt to be getting too close, the BPD sufferer is likely to feel a sense of being engulfed.

Due to such problems, any relationship the BPD sufferer does manage to form is likely to be ephemeral. However, if both the BPD sufferer and the other person in the relationship both have a good level of insight into the condition of BPD, and with therapeutic support, the chances of the relationship surviving are likely to be significantly increased.

 

RESOURCES :

 

 

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Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) – Four Subtypes

 

borderline personality disorder subtypes

Borderline personality disorder is frequently linked to the experience of severe childhood trauma (click here to read my article about how the two are thought to be connected).

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An expert on the subject of borderline personality disorder (BPD), Theodore Milton, has proposed FOUR SUBTYPES of this serious disorder. These four subtypes are :

1) THE PETULANT BORDERLINE

2) THE DISCOURAGED BORDERLINE

3) THE IMPULSIVE BORDERLINE

4) THE SELF-DESTRUCTIVE BORDERLINE

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Let’s look at each of these four subtypes in turn:

1) THE PETULANT BORDERLINE – Milton describes this category of individuals as:

– pessimistic

– resentful

– complaining and critical

– irritable and impatient

– unpredictable

– having a marked tendency to swing between expressing a deep need of others and pushing them away (this is known as AMBIVALENT ATTACHMENT STYLE – click here to read my article about this)

– possessing a deep sense of inadequacy

– prone to outbursts of explosive anger ( click here to read my article on INTERMITTENT EXPLOSIVE DISORDER)

2) THE DISCOURAGED BORDERLINE – this category of individuals have characteristics in common with those who suffer from DEPENDENT PERSONALITY DISORDER (click here to read my article about this). Milton also describes those who suffer from this subtype of BPD as tending to be :

– depressive

– prone to self-harming behaviours (click here to read my article on this)

– angry (although this can often be suppressed)

3) THE IMPULSIVE BORDERLINE – according to Milton, those individuals who fall into this category have characteristics in common with those who suffer from HISTRIONIC PERSONALITY DISORDER (click here to read my article on this). They also :

– tend to have a superficial charm

– have a marked tendency towards thrill-seeking (eg impulsive sex, gambling, dangerous driving etc)

– tend to be highly attention-seeking

4) THE SELF-DESTRUCTIVE BORDERLINE – Finally, Milton describes this subtype of BPD sufferers as :

– consumed by self-hatred

– particularly prone to self-harming behaviours

– prone to physical self-neglect

-attracted to indulging in risky behaviours

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Borderline Personality Disorder – Possible Psychotic Symptoms

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Occasionally, some individuals who suffer from borderline personality disorder (BPD) may develop transient (short-lasting) psychotic symptoms ; these are also sometimes referred to as : psychotic episodes, psychotic experiences or ‘breaks from reality.’

What is Psychosis?

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Psychosis can involve :

– seeing things which are not there (visual hallucinations)

– hearing things which are not there eg the sufferer might believe they can hear voices telling them to harm, or even kill, themselves

– having the feeling of touching things which are not there (somatic hallucinations)

– smelling things which are not there (olfactory hallucinations)

– derealization (a change of perception in which the world seems ‘unreal’)

– depersonaliztion (a change of perception in which one’s own self seems unreal).

Note : Both derealization and depersonalization are what are known as ‘dissociative’ symptoms – click here to read my article about dissociation.

– holding on to extremely odd and unusual beliefs that others cannot dissuade the sufferer from believing, especially paranoid beliefs, such as their family, or strangers, are trying to kill them ; believing they are irredeemably evil ; believing they don’t exist ; believing the government is going to kill them and they are being pursued by MI5 (UK) or the CIA (US) ; believing aliens have placed an implant in their brains which broadcasts all their thoughts. Sometimes, too, the bizarre belief may be a delusion of grandeur, such as ‘they are god’.

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Whilst such experiences can sometimes be severe, most frequently they are not long-lived. However, such symptoms are also a sign that the illness (BPD) is worsening, and, therefore, a person who has psychotic symptoms should always seek expert help as quickly as possible.

If a BPD sufferer is unlucky enough to experience a psychotic episode, when is it most likely to occur, and how can that person minimize their risk?

Sufferers of BPD are at greatest risk of experiencing a psychotic episode following a significant stressor. Such experiences are sometimes referred to as ‘reactive psychosis.’ It follows from this, of course, that those with BPD should avoid stress as far as it is possible.

Psychotic Depression

guilt and childhood trauma

guilt and childhood trauma

The depression which accompanies BPD can become so acute that it leads to psychotic symptoms. Extended dysphoria (the word ‘dysphoria’ refers to a highly distressing state in which the sufferer feels extreme emotional pain, restlessness, emptiness and agitation) can tip over into psychotic experiences ;These may include : feelings of extreme, irrational guilt and false beliefs about being responsible for things that they are, in fact, in no way responsible for (such as the abuse they suffered).

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Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Sexuality

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In several of my previous posts on the topic of borderline personality disorder (BPD), I have referred to how those who suffer from this serious condition tend to be highly impulsive, and, as might be anticipated, research now shows that this tendency towards impulsivity is likely to extend into sexual behaviours.

Indeed, many empirical studies have been conducted (some of which I will briefly refer to below) showing that, in connection with impulsive sexual behaviour, those who suffer from BPD are, in statistical terms  (there are of course individual exceptions as each case of BPD is unique) and as a group :

–  significantly more preoccupied with sex than average

– have had earlier sexual experience than average

–  are more likely to be sexually assaulted (including by both ‘date rape’ and attack by strangers, due to sexual impulsivity putting the BPD sufferer in vulnerable positions – for example, going back to the home of a stranger after a drunken night out

– are more promiscuous / have more casual sex than average

– are more likely to have homosexual sex (impulsivity makes experimentation more likely)

– are more likely to have unprotected sex

– are more likely to be coerced into having sex

EXAMPLES OF RELEVANT RESEARCH STUDIES :

Many studies have been conducted which provide evidence for the above, but I will restrict myself to providing a few brief examples here :

Hull et al assessed a group of seventy females who suffered from BPD and found that just under half of them had had experience of casual sex – a significantly higher proportion than in the average population.

Neeleman conducted research demonstrating that those who suffered from BPD were significantly more likely to have had experience of homosexual sex than average.

Lavan et al conducted research into the sexual histories of four hundred teenagers and found that those who had symptoms of BPD were significantly more likely to have had unprotected sex than those who were relatively symptom free

Whilst some studies have NOT found significant differences related to aspects of sexual behaviour in those who suffer from BPD compared to those who do not, such studies are in a tiny minority.

TREATMENT IMPLICATIONS :

It is now becoming increasingly recognized that, in the light of such research findings as detailed above, treatment for BPD should include checks on the sufferer’s sexual health (in connection to sexually transmitted diseases) and, when appropriate, education about safe sex.

A FINAL NOTE :

As some of the above information suggests, those with BPD are more likely than average to be sexually victimized. It has been hypothesized that, because those with BPD are more likely than average to have been victimized in childhood, there is an unconscious ‘repetition compulsion’ at play.

RESOURCES :

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Borderline Personality Disorder Tests

 

borderline personality disorder tests

Borderline Personality Disorder Tests And Self Diagnosis

Many people who believe that they may have borderline personality disorder (BPD) search out self-diagnosing tests on the internet, or borderline personality disorder tests. Whilst it is very important to exercise extreme caution when it comes to self-diagnosing, a doctor may diagnose you as having BPD if you suffer from 5 or more of the following symptoms and these symptoms are sufficiently severe to adversely affect your everyday life and functioning. The symptoms below are in line with UK government guidelines (NICE – National Institute for Medical and Clinical Excellence, 2009).

1)  difficulty in forming and maintaining relationships

2) emotions which fluctuate between extremes (eg elation and despair) and often feeling empty and angry

3) prone to reckless behaviour, taking risks without considering the consequences

4) unstable and confused sense of own idenity

5) fear of abandonment, rejection and of being alone

6) prone to carrying out, or thinking about, self-harm (cutting self or attempting suicide)

7) sometimes believing things which are not true (doctors call these delusions) or seeing or hearing things which are not there (doctors call these hallucinations).

DISCLAIMER – ‘Self-diagnosis’ and ‘borderline personality disorder tests’  can only give a rough indication as to the probability of having a certain condition. If you suspect you have BPD, or any other psychiatric illness, it is imperative to seek the opinion of a fully qualified professional.

Other conditions which often exist along side BPD :

People with BPD often also have other mental health conditions which include, in particular :

– depression

anxiety

– eating disorders

substance misuse

BPD is a sensitive and controversial diagnosis, so it is important to remember that, if you do not agree with the first diagnosis you are given, it is sensible to seek a second opinion.

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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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Copyright 2013 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery
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