BPD and ‘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 sufferer 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…
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.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).