We have seen in many other articles that I have posted on this site that there is a strong association between the experience of childhood trauma and the development of BPD.
Sadly, compounding their problem, those suffering from BPD can be stigmatised by their friends, associates, work colleagues, and even by their own parents and siblings. As well as, of course, by society in general.
One reason for this is that when someone with BPD upsets others s/he may be accused as having behaved badly deliberately, intentionally, wilfully and premeditatively. This state of affairs is, of course, inevitably going to exacerbate yet further the BPD sufferer’s already intense feelings of rejection, isolation, alienation and disenfranchisement.
However, research clearly shows that a mistake is being made in assuming that those in the grip of this serious illness have any real control over their less than helpful behaviours. Indeed, neurological studies have now revealed DIFFERENCES IN THE BRAIN of BPD sufferers compared to non-BPD sufferers that affect, in particular, three dimensions of their behaviour.
The three behavioural dimensions affected by brain differences :
1) Emotional control
3) Cognitive abilities (specifically, learning, memory and reasoning)
N.B. BPD sufferers are not a homogenous group and individual BPD sufferers will vary in relation to the extent to which the three behavioural dimensions are adversely affected.
What has gone wrong in the brain to cause these 3 behavioural dimensions to be adversely affected?
1) Problems with emotional control (sometimes referred to as EMOTIONAL DYSREGULATION) appears to be connected to disruption of the part of the brain called the AMYGDALA.
2) Problems controlling impulses appear to be connected to disruption of the parts of the brain called the ORBITOMEDIAL and ANTERIOR CINGULATE SYSTEM.
3) Problems relating to learning, memory and reasoning appear to be connected to disruption of the part of the brain DORSOLATERAL PREFRONTAL SYSTEM.
All of the above neural systems can be damaged during their development by the experience of significant childhood trauma.
People who suffer from BPD are also far more susceptible to the negative effects of stress than the average person (which is also due to neurological dysfunction). This is particularly unfortunate as, when a BPD sufferer is under stress, the behavioural dimensions described above are liable to be especially badly affected. It is imperative, therefore, that BPD sufferers who wish to maximise their chances of recovery live in as near to a stress-free environment as is feasible. Indeed, in a supportive, positive, substantially stress – free environment the brain can gradually begin to recover and repair itself. This is due to quality in the brain known by psychologists as neuroplasticity.
From the above, we may infer the following conclusion:
– dysfunctional behaviours of BPD sufferers are not intentional or deliberate. They are also not premeditated, overturning the cynical theory that BPD sufferers are ‘manipulative’.
Calling BPD Sufferers ‘Manipulative’ Is Based On A Fundamental Misunderstanding.
Indeed, one expert working in the field of BPD, and the developer of dialectical behaviour therapy (currently one of the most effective treatments for BPD), Marsha Linehan, has argued that BPD sufferers do not have the social skills, the cold, calculating control capabilities (quite the opposite, in fact) or the rational planning abilities to be manipulative. They act impulsively, according to their feelings and cannot control these extremely powerful and overwhelming emotions or their impulsivity to show them.
From this perspective, BPD sufferers act authentically and the source of their behaviour derives from feelings of desperation, overwhelming psychological pain, hopelessness, despair, loneliness and fear of abandonment – not from malicious intent. Their actions can also frequently be explained by the fact that behaving in such (ultimately maladaptive) ways is the only way they know to express their desperate need to be cared for and helped. Paradoxically, they may scream with rage at someone whilst, underneath, wanting only to be affectionately hugged, loved and accepted.
Neither is their behaviour self-indulgent, as it is not under their control. Indeed, their behaviour tends to ultimately hurt themselves more than anyone else, filling them with shame and self-hatred. People do not willingly choose to be so utterly self-destructive and anyone who thinks they do is a fool.
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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).