Category Archives: Borderline Personality Disorder And Its Link To Childhood Trauma

Articles about how severe and protracted childhood trauma is linked to borderline personality disorder (BPD), symptoms of which include : unstable relationships, fear of abandonment, impulse control problems, unclear self-image, emotional dysregulation, explosive anger and chronic feelings of emptiness.

Five Types Of Dysregulation Linked To Childhood Trauma.

I have written extensively on this site about the link between the experience of significant childhood trauma and the possible later development of borderline personality disorder (BPD).

One of the leading experts on borderline personality disorder is Martha Linehan (who developed the treatment for BPD known as dialectical behavioral therapy, or DBT) and, according to her widely accepted theory, those who have developed BPD as a result of their adverse childhood experiences are often affected by all, or combinations of some, of the following types of DYSREGULATION:

(If we are dysregulated in relation to a quality, it means, in this context, that we have difficulty controlling and managing whatever the specific quality may be.)


Above: DBT has been shown to be an effective therapy for helping people who suffer from BPD and problems connected to various types of dysregulation (see five types below).

The Five Types Of Dysregulation We May Experience If We Have Developed BPD As A Result Of Our Childhood Trauma :

1) Emotional dysregulation:

We may have very volatile emotions that are so powerful we can feel controlled and overtaken by them. We may experience particularly intense and fluctuating emotions in response to our relationships with others, particularly our closest relationships.

Also, we may have difficulty identifying what exactly we are feeling (ie. find it hard to name some emotions we experience) and have problems expressing and experiencing some emotions.

2) Interpersonal dysregulation:

This means we might experience significant difficulties both forming and maintaining relationships with others. We may, too, constantly fear rejection and abandonment, leading to us becoming ‘needy’ and ‘clingy’ which, most sadly, can often cause the very rejection we are trying so ardently to prevent.

We may, too, find our feelings for others often vacillate dramatically from idealisation one minute, to demonization the next, possibly apropos (objectively speaking) very little.

3) Cognitive dysregulation:

This type of dysregulation may lead us to experience dissociation, depersonalisation and paranoia.

 4) Behavioural dysregulation:

Our behaviour may become extremely self – destructive : we may self-harm, attempt suicide, have promiscuous and unsafe sex, take unnecessary risks (such as reckless driving), become addicted to drugs and/or alcohol in a desperate attempt to numb and temporarily escape from overwhelming mental anguish, or develop eating disorders.

5) Self – dysregulation:

We may feel confused as to who we are and have a very poor sense of identity. We may feel different aspects of our personality are not well integrated so we can find ourselves acting in rather one-dimensional ways.

Our self-image can be unstable as can our values. We may be confused as to who we really are and what are beliefs and principals are ( indeed, these may frequently alter).

This can leave us feeling lonely and empty.

To read my article on the therapy devised by Marsha Linehan called dialectical behavioural therapy, click here.


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


Hallmarks Of Low And High Functioning BPD Sufferers.

 High Functioning Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) And Low Functioning BPD 

Those who have developed borderline personality disorder (BPD) as a consequence of their traumatic childhood experiences are, of course, individuals and act and behave in their own unique ways.

However, those who are involved in the research of BPD have made various attempts to group those suffering from this very serious disorder into various sub-categories.

In this article I will look at a sub-categorization method which places BPD sufferers into three groups/categories; these are as follows:

1) High Functioning Borderline Personality Disorder

2) Low Functioning Borderline Personality Disorder

3) A mixture of the above two categories


What Are The Hallmarks Of Individual BPD Sufferers In Each Of These Three Sub-categories?

These are as follows:

1) The hallmarks of low functioning BPD sufferers:

Low functioning BPD sufferers may frequently self-harm, often contemplate suicide and, sometimes, attempt suicide.

They are also likely, sometimes, to be hospitalized in a psychiatric ward, either voluntarily or under Section, as an inpatient, or, on other occasions, they may make use of the hospital’s services as an outpatient.

Often, too, low functioning BPD sufferers will have co-morbid conditions such as anorexia, bulimia and bipolar disorder (which used to be referred to as manic depression).

Also, their day-to-day functioning is likely to be significantly impaired. For example, they may find it very hard to hold down a job or even to work at all.

Low functioning BPD sufferers also tend to be highly dependent on family members for help and support to the extent that they (the BPD sufferer’s family) may experience ‘compassion fatigue’ and feel overwhelmed, unable to cope, inadequate and impotent.

2) The hallmarks of high functioning BPD sufferers:

High functioning BPD sufferers often excessively blame others for their difficulties (which is not the same as saying they are always wrong to do so) and may, too, have great difficulty suppressing intense feelings of anger (for example, they may frequently fly into fits of rage, even over things that others may regard as relatively trivial).

Often, too, they resist advice to seek psychiatric help, regarding such advice as a slur on their character and claiming that there is absolutely nothing psychologically wrong with them (often because they lack insight into their condition). As a consequence of this, they may remain unknown to psychiatric services for their entire lifetimes).

Also, they may (co-morbidly) suffer from narcissistic personality disorder and regard seeking professional help from psychiatric services ‘beneath their dignity.’

Because of their relatively high level of functioning, they may be able to hold down a job and even excel at it.

Their family members often become highly frustrated and despairing that their relative with BPD fails to acknowledge that they clearly have a psychological problem requiring professional intervention.

3) BPD Sufferers Who Suffer A Mixture Of The Above Two Sets Of Symptoms:

This is self-explanatory.





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

Highly Dysfunctional Families and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

borderline personality disorder and dysfunctional families

Those who go on to develop borderline personality disorder (BPD) almost invariably grew up as children in highly dysfunctional families in which the parent/s was/were emotionally unstable.

dysfunctional families and borderline personality disorder

I have written about BPD extensively in other articles on this site (to access them, simply type ‘BPD’ into the site’s search box) so I will only briefly recap upon some of the main symptoms from which the individual with BPD suffers :

– inability to control powerful emotions

– extremely chaotic interpersonal relationships

– extremely poor impulse control

– very poor sense of own identity (also sometimes referred to as ‘identity confusion’)

– sees others in terms of being either ‘all good’ or ‘all bad’ with no middle ground (this is also sometimes referred to as ‘black and white’ thinking or ‘dichotomous thinking)

– hypersensitivity, especiallly a tendency to interpret neutral, innocuous comments of others as personal slights

Overwhelmingly, the most important risk factors leading the child to go on to develop BPD are child abuse and child neglect. Indeed, these two risk factors easily outweigh the influence of biological and social factors.


The child who goes on to develop BPD as an adult is very likely to have grown up in a household in which he received ‘double messages’ from his/her parent/s – in other words, the child’s parent/s are very likely to have both felt and expressed EXTREME AMBIVALENCE towards the child. I describe how this ambivalence towards the child generally manifests itself below :


It is theorized that the parent holds, simultaneously, 2 attitudes towards being a parent which are contradictory and in direct opposition to each other. It is thought the 2 conflicting attitudes are :

ATTITUDE 1 : the parent/s believe their role as a parent is of great importance and central to their lives

ATTITUDE 2 (in direct opposition to the above but simultaneously held) the parent/s deeply resent having to fulfill a parental role and regard the child as an IRRITATING OBSTACLE PREVENTING THEM FROM PURSUING THINGS THAT WOULD LEAD TO THEIR PERSONAL FULFILLMENT.

Not infrequently, such ambivalent feelings will focus upon just one child, leaving his/her siblings relatively emotionally undamaged.


Unconsciously, the child has a deep need to keep the ambivalent parent/s as emotionally stable as possible (in Darwinian terms, this is clearly in the interests of his/her survival). The dilemma is, therefore, as follows :

On the one hand, s/he needs to remain of great importance to the ambivalent parent/s (in order to support attitude 1 (above)). On the other hand, however, s/he needs to allow them to justify, in their own minds, their hostility, anger and resentment towards him/her (in order to support attitude 2 (above)).

But how can this possibly be achieved?

Building upon an original idea of Melanie Kline, it has been theorized that, in order to maintain his/her parent’s/parents’ psychological equilibrium, the child must adopt what has been termed spoiler behaviour (this is NOT a conscious decision of the child’s – it is driven by unconscious forces).

‘Spoilier behaviour’ involves :

– in effect, refusing to grow up

– remaining dependent on the parent/s (as not able to function competently as an adult)

– rebelling against and severely denigrating the parent/s

Without therapy, such ‘spoiler behaviour’ may be maintained deep into the formerly abused child’s adulthood. Such behaviour is a way of INVALIDATING THE PARENT/S IN EXACTLY THE SAME WAY AS THEY INVALIDATED HIM/HER AS A CHILD. In essence, s/he is ‘giving back as good as s/he got.’

The now adult child will continue to try to keep his parent/s emotionally stable by (and I repeat, unconsciously) desperately trying to regulate their ambivalent emotions towards him/her :

– if they begin to feel too guilty (due to attitude 1, above), he will make them angry. However :

– if they become too angry (due to attitude 2, above) s/he will make them feel guilty

This is, I think, a very ingenious theory; however, it is very difficult to prove theories which are based in part upon ideas relating to unconscious mental processes.

If I could briefly indulge myself by suggesting a theory of my own : IF A CHILD KNOWS S/HE IS ESSENTIALLY DISLIKED BY HIS/HER PARENTS, IS IT NOT EASIER TO TOLERATE IF S/HE ACTS IN SUCH A WAY THAT HELPS THE PARENTS, IN THEIR OWN MINDS, TO JUSIFY THEIR DISLIKE, RATHER THAN TO TRY HARD TO GET ON WITH THE PARENTS, AND OBTAIN THEIR ADMIRATION, AND YET STILL BE DISLIKED? In the former case, the child can almost convince him/herself s/he wants to be disliked, and is only disliked due to his/her behaviour. Whereas, to be disliked whilst trying desperately to be liked by one’s parents could, potentially,  be psychologically catastrophic.



KANSAS STATE UNIVERSITY – further information about dysfunctional families (CLICK HERE).



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


How Borderline Personality Symptoms Reinforce Each Other.


One of the greatest difficulties of managing borderline personality disorder (BPD) is that the symptoms it creates tend to feed off, and intensify, each other; often this will end in a crisis point at which the affected individual will become suicidal and/or require hospitalization. Until the disorder is properly treated with the relevant therapy, the individual is likely to keep experiencing such crisis points throughout his/her life.

In this post, I want to look at how the symptoms of BPD can keep reinforcing and worsening each other, leading to a downward spiral from which the majority will find it impossible to break free without professional intervention. In order to do this, it is worth revisiting the main symptoms of BPD:

– almost always full of painful and distressing emotions
– becomes intensely attached to others very quickly, leading to feelings for, and expectations of, others that are not warranted given the context and/or history of the relationship
– expects to be rejected by those s/he forms an emotional attachment to
– is simultaneously deeply needy of, and rejecting towards, others ; feels deep need of emotional intimacy with, and caring from, others but then will tend to reject it when it is offered
– interpersonal relationships become unstable and chaotic
– experiences great difficulty in controlling (regulating) emotions which quickly become powerful and overwhelming ; these frequent powerful, intense, uncontrollable emotions frequently spiral out of control and then have a very adverse effect upon normal functioning
– inability to self-soothe (it is theorized that this is due to damage to the area of the brain known as the AMYGDALLA,thought to be caused by severe trauma and high levels of stress during childhood)
– suffers from impulsivity and recklessness
– frequently, or continuously, prone to severe depression and anxiety
– feels, and almost always is (by non-experts), misunderstood
– tends to constantly expect utter and devastating calamity (a mind-set referred to by psychologists as CATASTROPHIZING, a state of mind cognitive behavioural therapy, and other types of therapy for BPD, seek to correct).


Because the symptoms of BPD trap the sufferer in a downward spiral, as I shall illustrate below, it is just about impossible for individuals to cope with, let alone manage, the condition on their own. Professional intervention is therefore imperative. Because BPD is frequently misdiagnosed, it is worth noting down relevant symptoms and presenting them to the relevant professional in advance of an appointment. Also, there is nothing to prevent one seeking a second (or even third!) opinion. It is important to seek out a therapist who is expert in the condition and one is, of course, free to ask any potential therapist what experience s/he has of the disorder, together with their views about treatments (eg medication, talk therapy, a combination?) What is your own instinct on this? Let the therapist know.

Let’s now look at how the symptoms of BPD may become so mutually, destructively intertwined:

Because the person who suffers from BPD can be in such continuous, painful emotional distress it is very common for him/her to turn to alcohol or drugs in an attempt to numb these intolerable feelings.
The individual may well then castigate him/herself about this alcohol/drug use, seeing him/herself as an alcoholic or drug addict which lowers even further his/her already greatly damaged self-esteem. S/he may then seek psychological support from a friend, but, as a consequence of his/her distress, become clingy and demanding. In response to this, the friend may set down boundaries which the BPD sufferer interprets as rejection, thus further lowering his/her self-esteem and causing further painful emotions leading to yet more excessive drinking or drug taking…

Of course, this is just one example of how symptoms of BPD may unhelpfully feed off each other, though an almost infinite variety of harmful interactions between other symptoms can be easily imagined. Essentially, the BPD sufferer LACKS INTERNAL RESOURCES TO COPE WITH MENTAL PAIN AND STRESS, so will turn, with depressing regularity, to DESTRUCTIVE EXTERNAL RESOURCES such as one-sided relationships or activities which allow temporary, psychological DISSOCIATION from the emotional distress being experienced, such as ALCOHOL, DRUGS, PROMISCUOUS SEX or GAMBLING – in other words, maladaptive (unhelpful) coping mechanisms.

As these maladaptive coping strategies continue to aggravate and worsen one another, the BPD sufferer is likely to become increasingly desperate and to undertake increasingly self-destructive behaviours. How can s/he break free from this vicious cycle? Sometimes, as I said in the opening paragraph of this post, hospitalization may be required to interrupt the cycle; however, this has its negative side: being placed in a psychiatric hospital can significantly worsen, yet further, damaged self-esteem, making the sufferer feel like a pariah – stigmatized, demeaned, humiliated, and on the bottom rung of society’s ladder. S/he will also be burdened with the often acute worry of how s/he will now be perceived by others for having being placed in a psychiatric ward, making him/her less capable still of finding the confidence to interact successfully with acquaintances, friends and society in general. In extreme cases (eg when the sufferer is actively suicidal), however, there may, sadly, be little alternative.


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Best wishes, David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

How Childhood Trauma Can Profoundly Damage Our View Of Ourselves


If we have experienced childhood trauma to a significant degree, we may irrationally blame ourselves for it which, in turn, may well seriously, negatively, distort our self-perception; in other words, adversely affect our view of ourselves.

Our ENVIRONMENT has a large influence on how our personalities develop. For example, children brought up in a loving and secure environment are much more likely to become relatively content and self-confident adults.

On the other hand, a child who has suffered abuse and neglect may develop into an adult lacking self-confidence and prone to anxiety, depression and other serious difficulties.

Also, if a child has had an unstable parent or carer who has been unpredictable and has given mixed messages, they may develop into an adult who is fearful of abandonment. As a result, he/she may:

1. cling to close relationships
2. avoid close relationships

and, quite often:

a painful combination of the two.

This can make maintaining close relationships very problematic.

Children are ‘programmed’ to learn from adults (for evolutionary reasons) so if the adult carer has been abusive and critical the child may well grow up FALSELY BELIEVING that he/she is bad, stupid, unlovable and worthless. Also, trusting others may become very difficult as the individual’s experience during childhood was to be badly let down BY THE VERY PERSON/S WHO WERE SUPPOSED TO CARE FOR THEM AND PROTECT THEM.


The more stresses and traumas a child has, the more likely it is that he/she will develop into a pessimistic, anxious, depressed adult who believes things are hopeless and cannot improve.

It should be pointed out, though, that if a child suffers abuse but also has significant positive support in other areas of his/her life during childhood, this can make the individual more RESILIENT to the negative effects of the trauma.

It is also important to note that if a person has suffered trauma and as a result has a negative view of themselves, the future and the world in general (sometimes referred to as the ‘depressive cognitive triad’), IT IS POSSIBLE TO CHANGE THIS PESSIMISTIC OUTLOOK.



We develop our most fundamental belief systems in childhood. If a child is brought up with love, affection and security s/he tends to build up positive beliefs. For example:

– people should not treat me badly

– I am a decent and likeable person

– I have rights

– I deserve respect

However, negative belief systems often develop in children who have been abused. For example:

– people cannot be trusted

– I am vulnerable

– I am worthless

– everyone is out to get me

– I am intrinsically unlovable

These negative beliefs often feel very true, but most of the time they are very inaccurate. JUST BECAUSE WE FEEL OUR BELIEFS ARE TRUE, IT IN NO WAY LOGICALLY FOLLOWS THAT THEY ARE.

In effect, then, childhood abuse can cause us to become PREJUDICED AGAINST OURSELVES – we see ourselves through a kind of distorting, black filter.


Negative, prejudiced self-beliefs are dangerous as they may become a self-fulfilling prophecy. For example:

– someone who thinks s/he will always fail may, as a result, not try to achieve anything and therefore not succeed in the way s/he in fact had the potential to do (if only s/he had believed in her/himself).

– someone who believes s/he is unlovable (when in reality this is untrue) may never attempt to form close relationships thus remaining unnecessarily lonely and isolated.

In summary, childhood EXPERIENCES form OUR FUNDAMENTAL BELIEF SYSTEMS. This in turn affects:

– our mood

– our behaviour

– our relationships

This negative belief system can become deeply entrenched. It is therefore necessary to ‘re-program’ our belief systems and I shall be examining how this might be achieved in later articles.


Eleven Types Of ‘Self’ That May Develop After Trauma :


In his book, The Posttraumatic Self, the psychotherapist John Wilson describes eleven types of ‘selves’ (or, what Wilson refers to, more technically, as ‘typologies of personality that form unique configurations of self-processes’) that may develop in the individual following severely traumatic experiences.

These eleven ‘selves’ can be seen as existing on a continuum such that the first (THE INERT SELF) represents those individuals most severely psychologically damaged by their traumatic experiences whereas, at the other end of the spectrum, the eleventh (THE INTEGRATED-TRANSCENDENT SELF), represents those individuals who have proved the most resilient in the face of their traumatic experiences and can be said to have ‘transcended’ them.

I list all eleven of the types of ‘selves’ below :

  1. Inert Self
  2. Empty Self
  3. Fragmented Self
  4. Imbalanced Self
  5. Over-controlled Self
  6. Anomic Self
  7. Conventional Self
  8. Grandiose Self
  9. Cohesive Self
  10. Accelerated Self
  11. Integrated-Transcendent Self

There follows a brief outline of each of these eleven types :



Wilson describes those individuals who develop an ‘inert self’ in response to trauma as ‘broken in spirit‘, ‘autistically withdrawn‘ and devoid of all motivation (‘even the motivation to be safe’); they are emotionally numb and facially expressionless. They may, too, experience catanoid states, brief episodes of psychosis or paranoid states.


Individuals displaying the ’empty self’ are passive and devoid of energy. They have also lost interest in activities which they previously (before their traumatic experiences) found to be engaging and have become withdrawn, socially isolated (having lost social confidence and social skills) and insecure. They also suffer from anhedonia (the inability to experience pleasure), are anxious, fearful and have lost trust in the world. Suicidal ideation is also a prominent feature of this group of individuals.


Individuals in this category suffer from identity defusion (confusion about their identity and about ‘who they are’ – in other words, they have lost of a coherent and solid sense of self). They also feel as if their personalities have become fragmented (click here to read my previously published article about the ‘fragmented personality’).

Furthermore, they experience problems with relationships (including intense emotional responses towards others which fluctuate dramatically), are likely to function erratically in the work place, may experience dissociative states and develop traits similar to those suffering from dependent personality disorder.


Those who respond to trauma by displaying an imbalanced self suffer from extreme emotional lability similar to that suffered by individuals who have developed emotional instability disorder.

They are also afraid of being left alone and have a constant need for reassurance, to be looked after and cared for.

Furthermore, they suffer from chronic anxiety and their relationships with others are highly dysfunctional ; if they perceive themselves to be abandoned by others, even briefly, they are prone to becoming severely agitated and/or angry.


Such individuals have difficulty expressing their emotions and have a fear of losing control. They display trairs similar to those displayed by individuals suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

They are highly driven, disciplined, routine-orientated and ‘overactive’ – this ‘over-activity’ unconsciously serves to exert a sense of control over inner, deep-seated feelings of anxiety; in other words, their frantic attempts to impose control over their external world represents an  an unconscious overcompensation for an anxiety-provoking sense of loss of control over their internal world.

It has also been suggested (e.g. Horowitz, 1999, cited in Wilson) that their intense overactiviry is an unconscious defense mechanism which serves to ‘block out’ / prevent conscious attention being directed towards traumatic memories.


These individuals experience life as empty and meaningless, are mistrustful of society in general and feel alienated and disconnected from it; indeed, often they may be seen as ‘loners’. They rebel against authority and lead an unconventional lifestyle. Also, because of the trauma they have suffered, they are wary of forming close emotional bonds with others. Furthermore, they may suffer from antisocial personality traits.


In contrast to individuals displaying an ‘anomic self’ (see above), these individuals have adjusted to, and reintegrated with, society following their traumatic experiences. By connecting with others, they help themselves redevelop a feeling of being safe; in relation to this, they have a strong need to gain the approval of others and to be liked and respected by them ; this powerful desire drives them to be highly conventional and conformist (Wilson, 1980).


These individuals strive to achieve and succeed in the desperate attempt of gain recognition from others in ordered to restore their shattered self-esteem (caused by their traumatic experiences).

Their grandiosity can be seen as a defense mechanism serving to ward off and protect from inner feelings of vulnerability, similar to the function it serves in those suffering from narcissistic personality disorder.


Such individuals have proved resilient in the face of their traumatic experiences and may be described by others as having bounced back.’ In contrast with the ‘anomic type’ (see above), these individuals are prosocial and concerned with questions relating to ethics and justice.


Those displaying the ‘accelerated self’ type have become highly individualistic as a result of having overcome their traumatic experiences. Wilson also describes them as being ‘tough, resolute, resilient, morally principled, altruistic and self-directed [who have] ‘transformed traumatic impact into prosocial humanitarian modes of functioning’.

Wilson refers to such people as displaying an ‘ACCELERATED’ self as they have, as a result of their profound, traumatic experiences, had their psychosocial development ‘speeded up’ which, in turn, has led them to consider ‘critical life-stage issues‘ earlier than would normally have been the case.


Such individuals have optimally overcome their traumatic experiences and, therefore, can be described as having ‘transcended’ them to achieve a ‘structurally [integrated] self, the components [of which] reflect optimal functioning.’ Indeed, they can be seen as having achieved what Maslow describes as ‘SELF-ACTUALIZATION.’

These individuals embrace growth and challenges, have achieved ‘spiritual transcendence‘, gained profound wisdom and have the ‘capacity to have peak experiences of the numinous.‘ Wilson also describes such individuals as altruistic and able to ‘live in the present with consciousness attuned to a higher awareness of reality and cosmic order.’


Repairing Our Self-Image :

Those of us who suffered childhood trauma caused by our parents/primary carer are very likely to have received extremely negative messages about ourselves from these people – these messages may have been stated directly or implied and intimated.

Indeed, many of us were made to feel unwanted, worthless and utterly unlovable during the crucial stage of our development when we were forming our self-image.

In other words, we INTERNALIZED these messages which, in turn, may have led to us living all our adult life believing these messages to be true and also as being an accurate reflection of the essence of who we are ; this process can gradually erode, by a kind of drip-drip effect, and, eventually, destroy our self-esteem.



Furthermore, if we had a bad relationship with our parents/primary carer when we were young, we may have found that we have, since, experienced a pattern of forming similarly poor relationships with others during our adult lives; for example, perhaps we have been unconsciously drawn to form relationships with others who are likely to abuse us – this can be due to what is referred to by psychologists as a REPETITION COMPULSION (an unconscious attempt to master our adverse childhood relationship experiences), leaving us extremely vulnerable to revictimization.

Naturally, this lowers our view of ourselves even further as it just serves to REINFORCE our belief that we are ‘worthless and unlovable’.



In effect, we were programmed and ‘brainwashed’, when we were young, into a forming a FUNDAMENTAL (yet FALSE) BELIEF that we are ‘intrinsically bad’ people (click here to read my article entitled : HOW THE CHILD’S BELIEF IN HIS OWN ‘BADNESS’ IS PERPETUATED‘).


An effective therapy (this has been backed up by many research studies) that can help us to do this is COGNITIVE BEHAVIOURAL THERAPY (CBT) – click here to read my article on this.

It is also possible that having been indoctrinated with the belief that we are essentially bad, and having internalized this view, coupled with pent up rage about having been ill-treated in childhood, may have led us to make some significant mistakes in life.

However, we can lower the probability that we will repeat such mistakes by thinking about how we would like to change, in line with our now more positive view of ourselves (assuming we have worked at this), and then devise strategies as to how this goal may best be achieved.

It is also to point out that if we were conditioned to think ill of ourselves as children we may have found that, as adults, we have overly focused on our bad points whilst remaining oblivious to our more positive points.


Ways to help ourselves feel better about ourselves also include :

– cutting off contact with people who make us feel bad about ourselves

– associating more with people who make us feel good about ourselves

– taking up activities which make use of, and develop, our strengths



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David Hosier BSc; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).



Idealization Of Others : A Defense Mechanism Stemming From Childhood Trauma


Within the discipline of psychology there exists a concept known as ‘splitting’.Splitting refers to a false perception of seeing others as either ‘all good’ or ‘all bad’. During childhood, this is normal. However, it can persist into adulthood, operating as a psychological defense mechanism, which prevents us from taking a more realistic, considered and complex view of others (ie seeing them as possessing a blend of positive and negative characteristics).

A main reason why we may continue to ‘split’ others when we become adults is that we suffered early childhood trauma which caused as to become psychologically arrested, or ‘stuck’ at the splitting stage.



Above: Shakespeare’s Othello and Desdemona.


What is meant by idealizing another person?

When we idealise another person (often a person we would like to have a romantic relationship with) we see them through a distorting lenses so that they seem to us perfect in every way, or, as the name of the defense suggests, the ideal person.

However, because it is obviously impossible for someone to be perfect, s/he will, as surely as night follows day, inevitably fall sadly short of our stratospherically, over-exacting and unforgiving standards. In short, we have created an image of the person in our minds which may, in fact, have little in common with the person this image misguidedly represents.

Inexorably, then, initial intense infatuation, even worship, will be eroded away to leave us feeling bitterly disappointed, disillusioned, and betrayed.


How does this work as a defense mechanism?

When we idealise someone, it acts as a defense mechanism against acute feelings of inner pain and despair.

Our initial profound infatuation with the person creates a feeling similar to a drug-induced ‘high’ which temporarily elevates us out of our depression.

Unfortunately, however, our depression will return with redoubled severity when the idealised person fails to live up to our impossible standards.

Indeed, the very intensity of our feelings may themselves make the recipient of them feel uncomfortable and suffocated, thus being, in the final analysis, deeply counterproductive. That we are unable to see this at the time is part of the general irrationality of our feelings and concomitant behaviour (although it is worth pointing out that it could, conceivably, be argued that, for want of a better phrase, ‘normal love’ could not exist without its irrational aspects; my parents’ marriage to each other is a case in point here, I think).


Our idealised image of the person is, essentially, a fantasy we have created, existing only in our minds. In a sense, then, it is our imaginative process and its results that we are ‘in love’ with.

Similarity to hypomania

Hypomania is a state of excitement and heightened energy which is not as extreme as mania which occurs in people who are suffering from bipolar disorder. It is a way of escaping painful inner feelings and some experts believe that when we idealise another person it produces a similar feeling to hypomania.


Sadly for all concerned, when the idealised person fails to live up to expectations, the person who had idealised him/her and seen him/her as all- good may now suddenly switch to seeing him/her as all-bad (as splitting is still operating). Psychologists describe this as moving from idealising the person to devaluing him/her.

Needless to say, this leaves the originally idealized individual in a state of confusion and bewilderment.


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


Identity Disturbance And Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

identity disturbance

identity problems

BPD And Identity Disturbance :

We have seen from other articles that I have published on this site that one of the defining symptoms of borderline personality disorder (a condition strongly associated with childhood trauma) is identity disturbance. In other words, many individuals with BPD have an unstable self-image and no firm sense of their identity ; they may sum up such issues by using expressions such as : ‘I don’t know who I am.

Individuals suffering from identity disturbance may :

  • have an unstable self-image that frequently oscillates between two extremes and an inconsistent view of self over time
  • become obsessed by their appearance, even to the extent that they develop conditions such as body dysmorphic disorder and anorexia nervosa.
  • lose touch with reality (dissociation)
  • experience feelings of derealization and/or depersonalization
  • attempt to develop an unrealistic, idealized self (e.g. trying to adopt the image of a famous movie star) only to feel empty and deficient when this inevitably fails
  • act as ‘social chameleons‘ (find that, because of their weak and uncertain sense of their own identity, they mimic the behaviors, values and attitudes of those they happen to be associating with at any given time
  • live by inconsistent standards and principals
  • have inconsistent view of the world and their place in it

social chameleon

Categories Of Identity Disturbance :

Some psychologists break identity disorder associated with BPD into four categories ; these are as follows :


Let’s look at each of these four categories in a little more detail :


This involves individuals with an intrinsically weak sense of their own identity desperately attempting to create one by defining themselves through a particular role or cause. This may involve adopting a different name and radically altering their world view, values and belief system. Such individuals are vulnerable to being lured into cults whereby they may completely subjugate any sense of their own identity and, instead, overlay it with the identity into which the cult leader inculcates and indoctrinates them. Such individuals are obviously at high risk of being exploited by unscrupulous others.


Those who fall into this category constantly experience a distressing sense of emptiness (to read my previously published article, which goes into greater detail about this, entitled : ‘Constantly Feeling Empty? Effects And Solutions’ , click here.


Individuals in this category are prone to changing their values, attitudes and opinions according to the people they happen to be associating with at any given time and, because of this, are sometimes referred to as ‘social chameleons’, as referred to above.


Lack of commitment can manifest itself in relation to many important areas of life including education (e.g. frequently changing courses but never completing any) ; career (frequently changing jobs) ; geographic location (frequently moving home) ; relationships (e.g. inability to maintain relationships with friends / partners / spouses) ; interests / hobbies.

Addressing Identity Problems :

To read my previously published article about how to tackle identity problems stemming from childhood trauma, click here.





Find Your Identity | Self Hypnosis Downloads

The Real You | Self Hypnosis Downloads

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



Latest Research Leads to New List Of Main Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) Symptoms: The List

Main Borderline Personality Disorder Symptoms :

Recent research has led to an expansion of the description of the main borderline personality disorder (BPD) symptoms. Following the development of the Sheldern Western Assessment Procedure 200 (an assessment tool which includes 200 questions that aid in the diagnosis of BPD) experts, based on up-to-date research, have now developed a much more detailed and comprehensive list of symptoms of BPD than used to be the case.

The list is published in a book by Patrick Kelly and Francis Mondimore -called Borderline Personality DisorderNew Reasons For Hope – who are experts in the field of BPD. I reproduce the list of symptoms in full below:


FULL OF PAINFUL AND UNCOMFORTABLE EMOTIONS : unhappiness, depression, despondency, anxiety, anger, hostility.

INABILITY TO REGULATE EMOTIONS : emotions change rapidly and unpredictably; emotions tend to spiral out of control leading to extremes in feelings of anxiety, sadness, rage, excitement; inability to self-soothe when distressed so requires involvement of others ; tends to catastrophize and see problems as unsolvable disasters ; tends to become irrational when emotions stirred up which can lead to a drop in the normal level of functioning ; tends to act impulsively without regard for the consequences

BECOMES EMOTIONALLY ATTACHED TO OTHERS QUICKLY AND INTENSELY : develops feelings and expectations of others not warranted by history or context of the relationship ; expects to be abandoned by those s/he is emotionally close to ; feels misunderstood, mistreated and victimized ; simultaneously needy and rejecting of others (craves intimacy and caring but tends to reject it when it is offered) ; interpersonal relationships unstable, chaotic and rapidly changing.

DAMAGED SENSE OF SELF : lacks stable self-image ; attitudes, values, goals and feelings about self may be unstable and changing ; feels inadequate, inferior and like a failure ; feels empty ; feels helpless, powerless and at mercy of outside forces ; feels like an outsider who does not belong ; overly needy and dependent ; needs excessive reassurance and approval.


eBook :

borderline personality disorder


Above eBooks now available for immediate download on Amazon. CLICK HERE.

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

Managing Relationships With BPD Parents

Children Of Parents With BPD:

Some of us experienced childhood trauma due to a parent being unstable. As has been described in previous posts, BPD causes great instability in individuals, which can have a very serious impact on that individual’s child/ren, so some of us who experienced childhood trauma may have grown up with a parent with BPD. This could have contributed to ourselves developing similar problems, or, even, to us developing BPD ourselves.

However, whatever the state of our mental health, as adults now ourselves, we need to know the best way to manage our relationship with BPD parent/s in the present, and, also, understand what effect our parent/s condition may have had on our own lives. This is of particular interest to me as I was brought up by a highly volatile and extremely unstable mother.


Parents with BPD can lack the necessary resources to bring their children up – in the worst case scenario, this may lead to neglect and/or abuse.

Children of BPD parents have frequently grown up in a highly unstable emotional atmosphere, have witnessed highly distressing behaviour in their parent/s, and, often, have been on the receiving end of extreme hostility, expressed verbally and/or physically. Further, they may have been exploited by their parent/s burdening them with their own emotional problems. My own mother, for example, used me, essentially, as her own private counsellor from when I was about 10 or 11- years- old, and would, on top of this, very often be terrifyingly verbally aggressive and hostile.

With experiences such as these, as adults, we can feel that our childhoods were stolen from us and we may go on to enter a kind of mourning for the childhood we never had.

Being brought up with a parent with BPD leads to a much higher probability of us developing the following problems:

alcoholism – illicit drug use
– depression
anxiety – suicidal feelings/ suicide attempts/ suicide
– behavioural problems e.g. impulse control
– personality/emotional disorders
Indeed, this is not altogether surprising when it is reflected upon that, as children, we may have been exposed to many long, painful, distressing years of intense conflict and arguments, threats (eg of violence, or, as in my own case, of abandonment),and unpredictable, unstable and highly volatile emotions.

Whilst we may feel deep resentment for the way in which we were treated, not infrequently necessitating professional support to deal with it, it is necessary, also, to keep in mind that our parent/s with BPD have developed it due to their own personal histories,including psychological, biological and social factors. However, this is cold comfort when we are children struggling to understand ourselves and living in a permanent state of acute distress.


1) The parent’s impulsivity: this could include alcohol, drugs, gambling etc causing enormous anxiety in the child and possibly in him/her developing similar problems in later life (due to the psychological concept known as ‘modelling’).
2) The parent’s dependency on child: for example, the parent may become emotionally dependent upon the child, using him/her as their personal counsellor, which can lead to the child feeling overwhelmed with concern, responsibility and anxiety, leading later to anger and resentment.
3) The parent’s volatility, instability and unpredictability: this, again, often leads to the child developing extreme anxiety and deep concerns about being abandoned – causing long-term, deeply ingrained insecurity (the parent may threaten to send the child away to live with relatives or to live in the care system).
4) The parent’s threats of suicide: again, this can lead to the child experiencing acute anxiety, possibly leading, later down the line, to the individual developing his/her own self-harming or suicidal behaviour.
5) The parent’s ambiguity towards the child: technically, this is known as ‘SPLITTING’- being consumed with passionate hatred towards the child one day, but then giving him/her extravagant praise the next – these polarized attitudes towards the child vacillating in a deeply confusing fashion.

This will often lead the child to have an extremely unstable identity and self-concept – sometimes feeling they are better than others, but, at other times, feeling worthless, inferior and consumed with self-hatred. Thus, the child can grow up not quite ‘knowing who he/she is’.

Therapy For The Effects Of Our ‘Stolen Childhood.’

If we have been brought up as children with a parent who has BPD, it is often necessary to seek therapy to help resolve the trauma that we have suffered and to help us come to terms with our loss – in effect, our ‘stolen childhood’.

In therapy, it may often be necessary to work through the resentment we might well feel (particularly as this feeling of resentment can be deeply painful for us to carry around) and consider how our lives have been adversely affected.Also, we may want to work with our therapist to consider what positive or useful things we may have learned from our difficult childhood, perhaps through strategies we adopted to deal with this problematic period of our lives, or from other, more positive, role models (e.g. teachers, friends, counselors etc).

Reviewing things in such a way can bring to the surface very painful feelings, and, if we do not have a therapist to speak to, talking things over with a sensitive and compassionate friend can be valuable.

Releasing emotions connected with our past through ‘talking them out’ can help us to move forward in our lives. Until we do this, our emotional development can remain arrested (‘stuck’), as I am quite convinced happened in my own case for more years than I care to recollect.

One way in which we can express our, perhaps, long pent-up feelings towards the parent with BPD is to write them a letter describing how their behaviour made our lives so stressful and painful. (It is usually better not to actually send the letter as this runs the risk of making matters worse still; however, some therapists may have different views.)


Individuals with BPD find it very hard to understand that others have personal boundaries, thus it is necessary to put more effort into establishing such boundaries with a parent with BPD than might otherwise be the case.

In some cases, it may be necessary to cut off completely from the parent with BPD, as the relationship is mutually destructive and it appears that this is beyond remedy. That, very sadly, was the decision I had to take with my own mother.

However, such drastic action may not be required; it might, instead, be necessary to make it clear we are unable to cope with constantly supporting the parent with BPD with their endless emotional problems as we have our own to deal with; that we need time alone/personal space/privacy; or that we are not prepared to discuss certain topics which always give rise to unpleasantness, hurt and pain.

These are just examples; there may be several other areas in which we need to make clear our boundaries. A parent with BPD will often put their own emotional needs ahead of ours; we need to be clear in our own minds that we have a right to have our own needs respected.

Indeed, we have a duty to ourselves to meet our own needs, especially as so much emotional damage was done to us as children. We need to ASSERTIVELY make this clear.

Of course, our parent with BPD is very likely to respond by trying to make us feel guilty and bad about ourselves for expressing our own needs, so we need to be prepared in advance for this reaction and not to give in to emotional blackmail. We need to maintain our strength and confidence – a good view to take is that we have a duty to protect the hurt child who still resides within us.

As I have said, it is extremely advisable to have support when thinking about making such changes as I have written about, ideally professional. If, however, this is not possible, there are many support groups for people affected by BPD, both online and offline.





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

Overcoming Feelings Of Shame With Counseling

overcome feelings of shame

We have seen from other articles that I have published on this site that those of us who have experienced significant and protracted childhood trauma often experience irrational, deep feelings of shame as adults which can severely disrupt our lives (for much more on this, see the section of this site entitled : ‘Self-Hatred And Shame).

Because living with profound feelings of shame is so psychologically painful and impinges so seriously upon our quality of life, it is worth considering undergoing counseling to help overcome the problem.

One important counseling technique employed to help individuals diminish their irrational, but insidious, sense of deep-rooted shame is to help them build shame resilience.

Overcoming Feelings Of Shame By Building Shame Resilience :

According to the American  Psychological Association (2014), there are several important factors that help a person to overcome their feelings of shame which include the following :

  • self-awareness
  • reaching out and connecting to others
  • access to care and support
  • paying attention to own needs
  • setting healthy boundaries
  • self-confidence
  • having realistic expectations and goals
  • cultivating feelings of empathy and compassion (including, most importantly, self-compassion)

.overcoming shame

Now let’s now look at the above list of factors in a little more detail :

SELF-AWARENESS :  recognizing early life experiences that implanted deep feelings of shame into our psyches (e.g. internalizing our parents’ negative view of us / view of us as ‘bad’ whilst we were growing up) ; becoming aware of dysfunctional thought processes and irrational beliefs that help maintain feelings of shame ; identifying situations / events which trigger feelings of shame and recognizing and acknowledging defenses we employ against shame.

REACHING OUT AND CONNECTING WITH OTHERS : talking to others one trusts (such as a counselor) about one’s feelings of shame and realizing that shame is a universal emotion that, when NOT ‘toxic’, serves a vital evolutionary purpose that everyone experiences to one degree or another.

This, in turn, is likely to help one access care and support which itself can then help one to become more mindful of one’s own needs.

Relationships connected to our care and support need to be founded upon healthy boundaries to reduce the likelihood of such relationships generating further feelings of shame within ourselves.

CONFIDENCE : when the above factors are combined with increased self-confidence one can start to modify one’s expectations about oneself and others in such a way that such expectations become more realistic which, in turn, facilitates the development of realistic expectations of oneself and the setting of appropriate and obtainable goals for oneself.

CULTIVATING FEELINGS OF EMPATHY AND COMPASSION : not judging others or oneself ; seeing things from the perspective of others ; talking to others about their feelings and about our own feelings (including being open about our own feelings of shame and letting go of our defenses / ‘removing the mask’ we use to hide our shame); developing self-empathy (i.e. compassionately  and non-judgmentally accepting and understanding our own shame related experiences / behaviors and treating ourselves in the same way we would treat someone we deeply cared about) ; accepting, non-judgmentally, our human weaknesses, frailties, faults and failures / letting go of ‘perfectionism’ and ’embracing’ our non-perfect selves (to do this we need to understand that we have been shaped by our early life experiences over which, at the time, we could exert little or no control.

Because developing compassion for others and for ourselves is so important to the process of overcoming feelings of toxic shame, it is unsurprising to learn that compassion focused therapy can be a very effective means of facilitating such a process.


David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)


Personality Types A,B,C and D And Their Relationship To Childhood Trauma


We have seen in other articles published on this site that if we experience significant trauma during our childhood we are at higher risk than average of developing psychological problems (such as an impaired ability to cope with stress, complex post-traumatic stress disorder and borderline personality disorder) in adulthood, which, in the absence of appropriate therapy, can potentially devastate our lives.

Indeed, even if we are fortunate enough to avoid developing a formally diagnosable psychiatric condition as a result of our childhood trauma, our early traumatic experiences can still, along with our genetic make-up and other factors, have a marked adverse effect upon the type of personality we develop.

The Four Personality Types : A,B,C and D.

Researchers into personality have identified four distinct personality types : A, B, C and D. Let’s look at each of these in turn:

Type A: 

Individuals with Type A personalities tend to:

– be very driven and have a high need to achieve

– be impatient

– feel a sense of urgency and a need to hurry

– be materialistic / have a strong need to acquire expensive possessions

– be highly competitive

– be intolerant of errors

– be suspicious

– find it hard to relax

Shockingly, research suggests that Type A personalities suffer 90% of all heart attacks.

Type B:

Those with a Type B personality tend to:

– have a relaxed attitude towards their work

– NOT be easily angered

Type C: 

Those with Type C personalities tend to:

– hostile, easily angered, intolerant and mistrustful in their dealings with others

– have a generally negative thinking style and a negative attitude to life in general

– have difficulty controlling/managing their emotions (this is sometimes referred to as emotional dysregulation or emotional liability; in informal terms, it may be referred to as being ‘prone to ups and downs’).

Type D:

Those with Type D personalities tend to:

– be prone to both anxiety and depression

– be highly self-critical

– uncomfortable / awkward / lacking confidence in social situations

– be prone to feelings of insecurity

NB: It should go without saying, of course, that the human personality is an extremely complex phenomenon, therefore the above A,B,C,D model of personality represents something of a over – simplification.

What Factors In Childhood Have A Significant Effect On Whether We Develop A Healthy Or Unhealthy Personality Type?

We are more likely to develop a healthy personality in adulthood if:

– as infants our primary caregivers help us to develop a sense of security, trust and calm by soothing/holding/hugging/stroking/being spoken to softly and comfortingly etc. In relation to this it is important to remember that if our primary caregivers frequently interacts with us in a state of anxiety when we are infants we are likely to sense / pick up on this anxiety and are thereby at higher than normal risk of developing an anxious personality ourselves.

– as children, our feelings are accepted and affirmed by our primary caregivers and they display empathy towards us. Having our feelings minimized, dismissed or invalidated with derogatory remarks such as: what are you crying about you big baby? are psychologically damaging as they result in us repressing our emotions which stores up problems for the future.

– as children, our primary caregivers help us to develop our own problem solving skills and strategies to help enable us to deal with life’s inevitable myriad problems and difficulties in practical and constructive ways rather than being overwhelmed by the anxiety they may evoke in us.

– as children, we learn by modelling our behaviours upon those of our primary care givers. Thus, it is important our role models set a positive example and show us how to deal with difficult emotions such as fear and anger in an effective manner.

– as children, our primary care givers encourage us to talk about feelings and emotions that trouble us

– as children, our primary caregivers set boundaries for us by using fair and consistent rules and discipline.

– as children, our primary caregivers spend sufficient time interacting with us in a positive manner

– as children, our primary caregivers help us to develop the skills and confidence necessary eventually to become independent

– as children, our primary caregivers help us to learn how to balance our rights with our responsibilities.


Childhood Trauma Can Increase Our Risk Of Developing A Personality Disorder :


The experience of childhood trauma can contribute to many other personality disorders; the main personality disorders are shown below :





About FIVE MILLION people in the UK suffer from a personality disorder and approximately one hundred thousand of those are, at any one time, caught up in the criminal justice system (e.g on bail, on probation, undertaking community service – click here to read my article about links between mental health and the criminal justice system).

Also, at any one time, about 50,000 of those suffering from a personality disorder are in jail. It is also shown that 1,000 individuals have a personality disorder which warrants detainment in a mental health institution and that 3,000 have a serious personality disorder making them a very high risk to the welfare of others.



It is difficult to precisely define personality; this is because the way we feel and behave often varies across different situations. For example, we may behave one way at work, another way with friends, and yet another way with family. However, by about the early twenties, most people have developed a core set of characteristics/personality traits in relation to how s/he thinks, feels and behaves. These attributes and qualities remain fairly consistent over time and can be said to form the basis of personality. If the personality is relatively healthy, it will enable the person to function at least reasonably well in relation to his interaction with others and with the world in general.


Unfortunately, however, some people, due to adverse childhood experiences and other factors (such as having a poor social support network) do not develop a healthy personality; the most severely affected of these will, instead, develop a personality disorder. In essence, this means they will have aspects of their personalities which, without therapy, they find extremely difficult to overcome, even when they repeatedly experience these personality characteristics causing significant problems in their own lives as well as in the lives of those with whom they interact.


Often, the person who goes on to develop a personality disorder will start to show significant problems relating to how they feel and behave around the beginning of puberty (it is very important to remember, however, that this is a time of life when many young people experience emotional turmoil so it is necessary to exercise extreme caution when making formal diagnoses in relation to a person’s mental health at this age – an expertly trained professional is called for if such diagnoses are to be considered). These problems are likely to involve severe difficulties with forming and maintaining relationships at school, within the family and in social situations. Also, it is likely, as time goes on, that the individual will repeatedly get into trouble, seemingly unable to listen to advice or to learn from experience. There will, too, be a general inability to control feelings (this is sometimes referred to as emotional dysregulation) or behaviour (the individual may well be highly impulsive and prone to dangerous risk taking). The person may frequently be extremely aggressive, often have temper tantrums and be constantly disobedient. Underneath these displays of problematic behaviour, the person is very likely to be in a state of deep unhappiness and emotional distress, for which therapy is vital.

Once a personality disorder is established and ingrained, it can lead to a vicious downward spiral which becomes, essentially, out of control (click here to read my article about the process that underlies such a downward spiralling) and may lead the individual to turn to alcohol and drugs in an attempt to dull the pain of his/her chaotic and perpetually problematic existence. This,of course, will invariably make things even worse.

There are five main types of personality disorder, and I have provided a summary of them in an article you may read by clicking here.

As I’ve already alluded to, adverse childhood experiences tend very much to play a very significant role in the development of personality disorders; these include physical, emotional and sexual abuse, neglect, having parents/carers who misuse substances and growing up in a household where a parent/carer has a significant mental health problem.

Indeed, if a child’s upbringing is extremely stressful, his/her brain development can be harmed leading to the kinds of emotional and behavioural problems that may precede the development of a full-blown personality disorder (click here to read my article about how severe stress in early life can adversely affect neurological development).


Research shows that stress can very significantly worsen the symptoms of personality disorder. Stresses which should, as far as possible, be avoided include :

– financial worries

– stressful interpersonal relationships (especially if these involve family or partners)

– situations that give rise to significant anxiety


Until relatively recently, personality disorders were poorly understood and little effective treatment was available. Now, however, it has been established that many of those with a personality disorder can be given therapies that are potentially highly effective. These include dialectical behaviour therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy.

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











Possible Damaging Behaviors Of The Borderline Personality Disordered Parent


In order to write the articles on this site, which now number nearly 200, I have spent a considerable amount of time researching how borderline personality disordered parents can adversely affect the psychological development of their children. For this post, therefore, I thought it might be interesting to simply list some of the descriptions of how the borderline parent thinks, feels and acts that I have come across during my research.

It should be borne in mind, of course, that people with borderline personality disorder will not necessarily have all the symptoms listed, and, likewise, people without borderline personality disorder may have some of the characteristics I list.

However, the more of the following characteristics a parent has, the more likely it is that he or she suffers from borderline personality disorder.

BPD Behaviors That Can Be Damaging :

– deep need to exercise control over others

– prone to always blame others rather than take responsibility

– prone to explosions of intense rage, hostility and anger

– ignores the boundaries of others

– deep need for attention

– very accusing towards others

– emotions easily get out of control

– prone to extreme over-reactions

– projects own faults onto others

– billitles and derides others

– hugely self-destructive

– exclusively focuses on self and own problems

– deep sense of inferiority

– frightens and intimidates others

– holds inconsistent opinions

– uses threatening behaviour

– very quick to judge others, often on the basis of flimsy evidence

– issues ultimatums

– has rapid mood swings

– life tends to be a never ending series of crises

– very demanding

– prone to irrational thinking and behaviour

– sees things in ‘black or white’ (ie sees things as either ‘all good’ or ‘all bad’)

– fluctuates between idealizing and devaluing/demonizing others (this is related to ‘black or white’ thinking, above)

– in constant denial in relation to own faults, but sees faults in others everywhere

– extremely intense

– prone to highly inconsistent behaviour

– impulsive/indulges in high risk behaviours

– distrustful

– oscillates between intensely clinging to others and then angrily pushing them away

– displays extreme emotions  / often has dramatic outbursts

– emotionally exhausts others, especially those close to

– insatiable need for love, respect and admiration

– inconsistent and changeable behaviour confuses others / others do not know ‘where they stand’

– unbalanced

– has  highly volatile and unstable relationships

– verbally abusive/hostile

– very weak sense of own identity

Of course, people with borderline personality disorder, or BPD (click here to read one of my posts on this very serious condition), have their good points too! However, the above list has been compiled to focus on the damaging effects their behaviour may have on others.

Unfortunately, if we have been brought up by a parent with BPD, we are prone to develop some of the above characteristics ourselves, or even develop BPD ourselves. The first step to overcoming BPD is to accept one may be suffering from it. One of the most promising treatments for BPD is dialectical behavior therapy (click here to read my post on this).




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

Psychotherapeutic Interventions That Research Suggests Are Helpful For Individuals Suffering with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).


A quick search of the internet reveals a very large range of therapies on offer which purport to treat BPD effectively. Indeed, the sheer range of putative treatments can seem confusing and overwhelming.

It is for this reason that I concentrate on just six treatments which research suggests are the most beneficial.

Let’s look at each of these in turn:


My previous post on BPD referred to how people suffering from it have difficulties with how they are attached to (ie how they relate to) PRIMARY CARE GIVERS (eg parents). This can manifest itself in ATTACHMENT DISORDERS (which I also looked at in my last post) making other relationships they develop in adult life very difficult, volatile, complex, painful and distressing.

MBT seeks to help the person understand the roots of these difficulties and how their feelings and behaviours may be impacting on their relationships which in turn makes these relationships problematic.

Research shows that outcomes of MBT treatment have so far been very encouraging.

As well as reducing relationship problems, the therapy has also been found to lessen the likelihood of suicidal ideation ( thoughts and plans about suicide) and hospitalizations. Also, it has been shown to improve day-to-day functioning.


Schemas are deeply entrenched beliefs relating to both oneself and the world in general. In people with BPD, these schema can be extremely negative (inaccurately so) and very unhelpful (or, to use a more technical term, MALADAPTIVE) to the individual who holds them.

Very often, they stem from a negative mindset which developed during the individual’s early life, due to, in no small part, childhood trauma. It is worth repeating that these negative schema can be very deeply ingrained and colour the individual’s entire outlook on life.

Schema therapy seeks to change these maladaptive schema into more adaptive (helpful) ones.

Treatment can be very lengthy, but there is strong evidence that it can significantly reduce symptoms of BPD.

Research into this type of treatment remains ongoing and I will report on any significant developments.


It is certainly worth first defining the psychotherapeutic idea of TRANSFERENCE:


For example, if our parents hurt, exploited or rejected us as children, in adult life we might feel that everyone we get to know will do the same, but without evidence that this will be the case (we are basing our view on a past relationship which is now not relevant).

The treatment aims to help individuals stop viewing present relationships in a rigid way determined by their painful past and show them that they could be misperceiving their present interactions with others ( including the therapist, as often individuals transfer the feelings they had for their parents as children -eg resentment- onto the therapist in the present).
Research, so far, has shown positive results and remains ongoing.


Cognitive therapy has long been known to be a very effective treatment for conditions such as anxiety and depression, and it is now being increasingly used to treat BPD. Studies of its effectiveness in relation to this have, so far, been encouraging.

One advantage of cognitive therapy is that it often leads to very significant improvements over quite short treatment periods. I myself underwent cognitive therapy and found it very beneficial.

Cognitive therapy focuses on correcting faulty, distorted, negative thinking styles relating to how we view ourselves, the world and the future. I write in more detail about cognitive therapy in the EFFECTS OF CHILDHOOD TRAUMA category of my blog.


The studies on this therapy have , so far, given mixed results. It has been shown, though, in several pieces of research, to reduce the likelihood of suicide attempts in the individual undergoing treatment (the risk of suicide in people suffering from BPD without treatment is high).

Also, after a year of treatment, individuals report a more general improvement in their condition, but, unfortunately, often are still left with significant levels of distress. More studies are required, and, indeed, are being conducted to see if longer treatment periods yield better outcomes. I will report on any significant developments in this area.

DBT draws on psychotherapy, group therapy, meditation, elements of Buddhism and cognitive-behaviour therapy. More research needs to be conducted on the therapy to discover which of its varied components are the most effective in treating BPD. Again, I will report on significant developments.


Whilst there is, at the moment, no obvious, single medication to treat the whole range of BPD symptoms equally effectively, there are, nevertheless, established medications which can help with some of the symptoms the BPD sufferer might experience, such as anxiety and depression. This is, though, of course, the province of GPs and psychiatrists.

borderline personality disorder ebook.  CPTSD ebook

Above eBooks now available on Amazon for immediate download. $4.99 each. CLICK HERE.

Best wishes, David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Self-Defeating Personality Disorder And Its Link To Childhood Trauma

Self-defeating personality disorder (also sometimes referred to as masochistic personality disorder), whilst not included in the current edition (fifth) of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), is still frequently referred to by mental health professionals to help explain various aspects of behavior.


What Is Self-Defeating Personality Disorder?

In order to be considered as suffering from self-defeating personality disorder, an individual will be suffering from a minimum of five of the following symptoms :

– avoidance of accepting help offered by other people

– drawn to people and situations which lead to negative outcomes (e.g. to relationships with abusive partners) despite availability of more positive options

– avoidance of pleasurable activities despite having the psychological capacity to experience pleasure (unlike those suffering from anhedonia) or a reluctance to admit to feelings of enjoyment (e.g. due to feeling guilty such feelings and that they are ‘undeserved)

– tendency to induce anger in, and rejection by, others, but then feeling emotionally shattered when this happens

– undermines own abilities by not undertaking vital tasks (of which s/he is capable) that would allow him/her to achieve his/her personal goals, leading to under-achievement and under-performance. Also, may set self clearly unobtainable goals which ensure failure and humiliation.

– indulges in excessive, unsolicited self-sacrificing behavior

– rejects, or undermines relationships with, those who treat him/her well (instead, forming relationships with those who are likely to have a negative impact upon him/her – see above) as feels unworthy of love, particularly the love of ‘decent’ people


Theories Relating To How Self-Defeating Personality Disorder / Masochism May Be Related To Adverse Childhood Experiences :

   – Francis Broncek theorized that self-defeating personality disorder / masochism is linked to the episodic or chronic experience of not being loved as  a child, as having been rejected / abandoned as a child, and / or having been used as a scapegoat in childhood,.

– Berliner (1947) stated : ‘in the history of every masochistic patient, we find an unhappy childhood, and frequently to…an extreme degree.’ He also proposed the idea the masochism serves as a defense mechanism which protects against the development of depression or, even, schizophrenia.

Grossman (1991) stated that self-defeating personality disorder and masochism are linked to severe traumatization inhibiting a person’s ability to sublimate the pain psychological pain generated by the traumatic experience into productive mental activity.

– It has also been hypothesized that a child who has been brought up by a very strict parent or other significant authority figure ,and  has been treated in such a way as to make him/her feel worthless ,  unlovable and frequently deserving of harsh punishment, may grow up to internalize such views so that they form part of his/her set of core-beliefs. Such individuals are also likely to have profound, pent up feelings of shame and guilt which they seek to exculpate and atone for through self-punishment (both consciously and unconsciously) or by subjecting themselves to abuse, mistreatment and punishment by others.


Treatment :

Treatment for this disorder can be complex, not least because those suffering from it may well shun offers of help (a symptom of the condition – see above). However, treatment options include group therapy, family therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and counseling.




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





Signs of Borderline Personality Disorder in Adolescence

Signs of Borderline Personality Disorder in Adolescence

Borderline Personality Disorder And The Adolescent

Giving a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder (BPD) to an adolescent is problematic. However, given the emotional problems I had at that stage in my life, I wish, in retrospect, there had been professional intervention – for one thing, I was deeply depressed, and, in my teens, would cry with a regularity more commonly associated with toddlers (including even bursting into tears in lessons at secondary school). How I would have responded to the idea of such professional intervention at the time, however, is another matter.

How I might have reacted to being told I needed psychiatric help as a teenager.

Most professionals are reluctant to give an adolescent a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder (BPD) due largely to the fact that during teenage years personality traits such as rebelliousness, uncertainty regarding identity, fluctuating emotions, changeable relationships, poor decision making, anger and impulsiveness, are, to a degree, a normal part of the developmental stage the young person is at. ; this complicates and confuses the diagnostic process in relation to BPD.

Also, if the diagnosis is wrong, the adolescent may become unnecessarily stigmatized. Furthermore, young people often resent professional intervention in connection with such a sensitive issue as mental health and may regard such intervention as another stressor/problem. Indeed, if professional intervention is mishandled, it can do yet further substantial damage to the young person’s already rock-bottom self-esteem

How do we know if these the traits referred to above are just symptoms of being an adolescent or whether, instead, they are a sign of something more serious? In order to attempt to resolve this question, clinicians will usually focus on the following three factors :

1) PERSISTENCE OF SYMPTOMS eg are there long-standing emotional instability and chronic relationship problems which show no sign of abating or of being resolved?

2) SEVERITY OF SYMPTOMS eg is suicidal behavior/ideation present? Is self-harming/self-mutilating behavior present? Is anger so extreme that it puts the adolescent, or others, in danger? Is impulsiveness so extreme that it puts the adolescent, or others, in danger?

3) AMOUNT OF DISTRESS CAUSED BY THE SYMPTOMS eg is the adolescent in obvious significant emotional pain (perhaps due to loneliness, depression or anxiety)? This is likely to be the most important consideration of all.

Because of the problems entailed in diagnosing a young person with BPD, clinicians tend much to prefer making a diagnosis of the adolescent having ‘borderline personality traits.’ This means that the young person shows some behaviors similar to those found in adults with BPD (which go beyond the normal range of behaviors one typically finds in teenagers/young people), but it is too early to make a definite diagnosis of BPD.


It is important to point out that, despite the problems noted above, receiving professional intervention and a diagnosis can bring potentially tremendous, even life-saving ( ten per cent of BPD sufferers end up killing themselves), benefits.

There is strong evidence that making an early diagnosis reduces the risk of the development of full-blown BPD as an adult, as well as reducing the risk of the development of co-morbidities such as addictions and self-harm.

In short, then, early intervention can save the adolescent from an adulthood of profound emotional pain, despair and loss.



The symptoms to look out for are similar to the symptoms that an adult sufferer of BPD would display (click here to view a video on BPD). However, in adolescents the fluctuations in mood may be even more extreme and dramatic than those of an adult with BPD. Because of this, adolescents who are later diagnosed as having BPD have not infrequently initially been misdiagnosed as having bipolar disorder.

Click on image below to enlarge.

The connection between BPD and brain abnormalities

The connection between BPD and brain abnormalities




At present dialectical behavior therapy, or DBT (click here to read my article on DBT) is the main treatment provided to adolescents, though it is a form of DBT that has been specially adapted for young people.

The treatment given to adolescents with BPD traits differs from that given to adults with BPD. FAMILY INVOLVEMENT WITH THE TREATMENT IS CRUCIAL as adolescents are, in general, more psychologically enmeshed with their families than are adults. Also, the family may be the main source of the young person’s stress, or, indeed, paradoxically, his/her main source of support as well.

Furthermore, the social context in which an adolescent finds him/herself (friends, acquaintances, peers etc) is a vital part of his/her life and goes a long way towards molding the young person’s sense of his/her own identity. It is again crucial, therefore, that clinicians gain a good understanding of how this may be affecting the adolescent.

Another way in which DBT for young people differs from DBT given to adults is that, whilst adults are encouraged to take ‘full ownership’ of their illness, most adolescents will not realize that one of the main causes of their own problems is likely to stem from their more extreme behavior ; this can be because they have not yet had enough adverse as evidence for the connection (whereas an adult, for example, may have lost his/her home, family, job, friends etc as a consequence of his/her BPD).

Instead of seeing the link between their behaviors and their predicament, adolescents are far more likely to EXTERNALIZE their problems (eg blame them on others – although, of course, this may be partly or pretty much wholly correct in some circumstances).


It follows from the above that the adolescent should not be blamed for his/her behaviour as, for one thing, this is likely to have the effect of yet further diminishing his/her self-esteem which will, in turn, almost inevitably increase the level of problem behaviors. Instead, the focus should be on trying to understand the root causes of the problem behaviors and rectifying, as far as possible, these.

Parents need to attend the DBT sessions along with their child where they, too, will be informed and educated about BPD as well as trained in the skills that the young person is trained in to manage BPD symptoms.

It is important for the adolescent to understand that, if he/she is diagnosed with having BPD traits that its symptoms have, hitherto, been out of his/her control. It also needs to be acknowledged that it is the young person’s deeply painful and  distressing emotions which lie behind his/her behavior, not malice.




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