BPD Sufferers Likely To View Life As Meaningless

Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.


Macbeth Act 5, Scene 5

Research carried out by Wiley et al. has found that psychiatric patients suffering from borderline personality disorder (BPD) have felt that life lacks meaning to a greater degree than do those who are suffering from mental disorders other than borderline personality disorder.

A separate study confirmed this finding by demonstrating that feeling that life HAS meaning is very significantly NEGATIVELY CORRELATED with symptoms of borderline personality disorder; in other words, the more symptoms a person has of borderline personality disorder, the less s/he is likely to feel that life has meaning.

So, to put it simply, people with BPD have a tendency to view life as essentially meaningless and as having no purpose.

Other research by Weibel et al supports the above findings; Weibel and colleagues conducted a study that found that there is an association between individuals suffering childhood abuse or neglect (which puts them at increased risk of developing BPD) and the subsequent failure, as adults, to find meaning in life.

Which Symptoms Of BPD Are Particularly Associated With Feelings That Life Is Meaningless?

The symptoms of BPD which seem to be particularly associated with feelings that life is meaningless, according to the research referred to above, are :


Implications :

Given the above findings, it has been suggested that therapy for borderline personality disorder (BPD) should include methods that help the individuals suffering from the disorder start to perceive life as more meaningful.

How Can A Meaningful Life Be Achieved?

Finding meaning in life is a subjective experience so nobody can give a definitive, objective account of what makes life meaningful. However, Baumeister and Vohs (2005) propose that we are more likely to perceive life as meaningful if :

1) what we do has a purpose and helps to lead us towards a future goal that will bring us fulfillment

2) what we do is in line with our values

3) we have faith in our self-efficacy (i.e. ability to make a real, positive difference in the world)

4) we have firm feelings of self-worth

The American psychologist and expert in positive psychology, Martin Seligman, defined a meaningful life as one in which you use ‘your signature strengths and virtues in the service of something much larger than you are.’ (Martin Seligman, 2002).


Viktor Frankl (d. 1997), holocaust survivor and author of ‘Man’s Search For Meaning,‘ proposed that meaning in life could be found by:

  1. interacting AUTHENTICALLY with others
  2. giving something back to the world through SELF EXPRESSION and CREATIVITY
  3. when confronted with a set of circumstances one cannot change, changing one’s attitude towards it

Frankl also coined the phrase ‘Sunday neurosis’ which refers to a point in the week when a person has had enough mental space over the weekend (assuming s/he does not work at weekends) to reflect on the meaninglessness, absurdity, and futility of his/her life and escapes through activities like binge drinking, binge drinking, drugs, etc, dreading the start of a new week and the unavoidable continuation of his/her pointless cycle of existence.


Different Perspectives From Which The Meaningfulness Of One’s Life May Be Assessed: Cosmic, Species, Community, Individual.

There are different types of meaning depending upon the perspective one takes. Four perspectives from which people may attempt to assess the meaningfulness of their lives are as follows:

  1. MEANING IN RELATION TO THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE (Cosmic Meaning), assessed from the perspective of the universe (sub specie aeternitis).
  2. MEANING IN RELATION TO ONE’S SPECIES AS A WHOLE, assessed from the perspective of the species (sub specie humanitatis).
  3. MEANING IN RELATION TO ONE’S COMMUNITY, assessed from the perspective of one’s community e.g.nation, tribes, communities, families (sub specie communitatis).
  4. MEANING IN RELATION TO THE INDIVIDUAL, assessed from the perspective of the individual (sub specie hominus).




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

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