Tag Archives: Ego

Do BPD Sufferers Have A ‘Split Personality’?

do BPD sufferers have a split personality?

do people with BPD have a split personality?

In terms of symptoms, there exists a clear overlap between the psychiatric conditions of borderline personality disorder (BPD) and dissociative identity disorder (DID). DID used to be referred to multiple-personality disorder.

Borderline Personality Disorder, Dissociative Identity Disorder And ‘Splitting’

‘Splitting’ is a psychological defense mechanism in which one ‘part’ of the personality becomes separated / un-integrated with / isolated from another ‘part’ of the personality. In the case of individuals suffering from BPD, these two parts can, in simple terms, be described as PART ONE and PART TWO, where :

PART ONE represents the part of the person’s personality which is relatively accepting of him/herself and others

whereas :

PART TWO represents the part of the person’s personality which is full of self-hatred, as well as anger and hostility (and, underlying the latter two emotions, fear of being psychologically harmed) in relation to others.

When PART ONE is ‘operational’, it tends to enter a state of denial about the existence of PART TWO.

This may be because when PART ONE is ‘in charge’, the individual develops a state of mind similar to amnesia regarding  the existence PART TWO ; alternatively, the denial may be underpinned by feelings of profound shame. However, more research needs to be conducted in relation to these possibilities.

‘Splitting’ and amnesia (when one part of the personality is unaware of how another part of the personality has manifested itself) are also symptoms of dissociative identity disorder.

do BPD sufferers have a split personality?

Borderline Personality Disorder And ‘Switching’ Between ‘Part One’ And ‘Part Two’

As stated above, ‘PART ONE’ and ‘PART TWO’ have become un-intergrated in the personality of individuals suffering from BPD (the BPD sufferers personality, in this respect, may be described as having ‘disintegrated’). A more formal way to put this would be to describe the BPD sufferer as having an un-integrated ego-state (in contrast to the relatively integrated ego-state that psychologically ‘healthy’ individuals enjoy).

Those with BPD ‘switch’ between ‘PART ONE’ and ‘PART TWO’ and this can occur quite suddenly (but is not usually dramatically instantaneous).

Furthermore, these un-integrated ego-states interfere with each other (because they are not completely separate from one another) and this may cause symptoms such as the following :


How ‘Splitting’ Affects The BPD Sufferer’s Relationships With Others :

When ‘PART ONE’ is ‘in charge’, the BPD sufferer desires emotional attachments with others. However, when ‘PART TWO’ is dominant, s/he becomes hostile towards others and withdraws from them – this leads to the classic ‘love-hate’ scenario.


Why Does This Unintegrated Ego-State Arise In Those Suffering From BPD?

The two separate parts can develop in a person who has suffered severe and prolonged abuse as a child.

When the abused child becomes an adult, PART TWO (hostility etc) can be kept in abeyance for much of the time to allow daily social functioning. However, PART ONE makes itself apparent when the BPD sufferer is reminded of the abuse s/he suffered as a child (such a reminder is called a ‘trigger’).

This reminder/trigger may be detected by the BPD sufferer consciously or unconsciously and occurs as a defense mechanism against real or perceived psychological threat (especially the treat of betrayal, rejection or abandonment as occurred in the individual’s childhood).

If the individual had not developed this defense mechanism as a child, s/he faced what may reasonably be termed as ‘psychological destruction.’ In other words, the development of the ‘splitting’ defense mechanism makes complete evolutionary sense as it allowed the individual to survive childhood – it is a normal, predictable, adaptive response to childhood loss, fear, distress and betrayal.


Conclusion ;

There is an overlap between symptoms of borderline personality disorder and dissociative identity disorder in as far as they both involve ‘splitting’ and ‘dissociating‘. However, in the case of DID, the separation between the different PARTS of personality are MORE DISTINCT AND CLEAR CUT THAN THEY ARE IN THE CASE BPD. Those suffering from DID may have more than two un-integrated / separate PARTS of their personality / ego-state ; however, arguably, this can also be the case in those suffering from BPD (although this is beyond the scope of this article).

In conclusion, though, we can say, with some confidence, that BPD sufferers do have a ‘split personality’, but the division between these two parts is more nebulous than in the case of DID sufferers.


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

Early Trauma’s Effect On Development Of Id And Ego


early trauma id ego

According to psychodynamic theory, originally associated with Sigmund Freud (but modernized by various psychologists since), the most crucial part of our psychological development takes place in the earliest years of our lives, between birth and about five years old (this is why very early trauma is especially damaging). A central concept of psychodynamic theory is that our minds comprise three parts, namely the id,  the ego and the superego, which I briefly describe below:

THE ID : According to Freud, the id can be viewed as the primitive part of the mind, driven by biological needs (such as for food and sex), which demand instant gratification ; it is completely unsocialized and its operations are unconscious. It is also described as acting according to the ‘pleasure principle‘ which means it is constantly and potently urging us to gain pleasure, irrespective of consequences (including harmful effects on others and harmful effects on ourselves).

THE SUPEREGO : Basically, the superego represents our conscience which we form by internalizing a sense of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ (or morality) derived from the influence of our parents, education, social environment and culture. Freud stated that whilst some of the operation of the superego is conscious, much of it also occurs on an unconscious level. Our ‘punishment’ for transgressing the superego’s exacting moral standards is guilt.

THE EGO : Freud said that whilst the id operates according to the ‘pleasure principle’, the ego operates according to the ‘reality principle’. Essentially, its task is to mediate between the deeply conflicting demands of the id, the superego and the outside world (and it is this constant need to mediate and reach an unending series of compromises that contributes much to the inner turmoil, tension and anxiety being human must necessarily entail, Freud helpfully informs us). It acts according to reason and will try to inhibit impulses that, if acted upon, would lead to harm; in other words, it takes into account the possible consequences of our actions.

I remember, as a first year psychology undergraduate, our lecturer telling us that the ego’s job could, perhaps not wholly inaccurately, be compared to that of a referee who finds himself constantly obliged to oversee a fight between a ‘crazed chimpanzee’ and ‘a puritanical, pious and forbidding grandmother.’

early trauma id ego superego


Above : The perpetual battle between the id and superego, with the ego always having to act mediator.

It is theorized that if the infant is traumatized in early life, through lack of adequate care, s/he will fail to learn to control his/her basic drives and impulses and the development of his/her ego will be impaired. This can lead to various problems including :

  • poor ability to tolerate frustration
  • poor ability to inhibit impulses that may lead to harm (too likely to act in accordance with the dictates of the id due to deficits in ego development)
  • lack of consideration concerning the possible effects of one’s actions upon others / not taking into account the needs of others (including, as an infant, impaired ability to pick up on verbal and visual cues of the mother / primary care-giver)
  • impaired judgment
  • impaired ability to think logically and with clarity

It is thought that these problems occur as inadequate care that traumatizes the infant can damage the actual physical development of certain vital brain regions.

The infant who experiences satisfactory care, attention and nurturing, on the other hand, will learn to better control his drives and impulses, having learned from the mother to keep him/herself relatively calm and not exhibit unwarranted distress if his/her biological needs happen to not be instantaneously met (this ability is known as the competence to ‘self-regulate’).

Many of the symptoms of borderline personality disorder (BPD), which is linked to childhood trauma, reflect some the symptoms listed above.




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Traumatic childhoodCONTROL YOUR EMOTIONS



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