Borderline Personality Disorder: What is it?

Borderline Personality disorder is sometimes referred to as complex PTSD. People often refer to borderline personality disorder in shorthand as BPD. BPD impacts self-concept or image, how one feels about themselves and others in their life, patterns of unstable relationships and may find it difficult to manage emotions and behavior. It usually begins in early adulthood and can be worse at first and has the potential to get better with age. BPD shows up as intense fear of abandonment or instability, difficulty being alone, mood swings that are intense and can at times push others away even though individuals with BPD truly desire to have loving and lasting relationships. There is an aspect of self-sabotage that often occurs inadvertently at times in relationships with those with BPD as they may attempt to seek reassurance that everything is well. It is important to understand how BPD functions to love and maintain a relationship with someone who experiences BPD.

Per Mayo Clinic, characteristics of BPD can include: intense fear of rejection/abandonment and efforts to avoid it, unstable relationship patters of idealization and devaluation, unstable sense of self/self-image, at times self-damaging impulsive behavior, recurrent self-harm/suicide attempts or ideation, unstable mood, chronic feeling of emptiness, inappropriate anger responses, and dissociation.

Just like any other diagnosis, BPD looks different for everyone. Individual differences definitely happen and this description of the BPD experience is in no way conclusive. It also doesn’t mean that people living with BPD are the only ones who fear rejection or abandonment. These feelings can exist in relationships without BPD presence. We all deserve lasting and fulfilling relationships regardless of challenges and obstacles different relationships encounter as long as they are safe, loving, and striving to be healthy.

If you are friends, a family member, or a partner of someone with BPD, it’s important to keep in mind how this may impact your relationship. It is imperative, as in every relationship, to set boundaries and recognize limits of relationship since it cannot be 50/50 all the time but a relationship is not healthy if one person’s time and energy is constantly zapped. Communicating clearly about wants and needs by establishing what you desire from your relationship and respecting what the other person needs as well. Going to therapy for individuals with BPD is important to manage symptoms and learn coping skills, dialectical behavioral therapy is especially helpful. Fear of abandonment is very present in those with BPD, so it is even more important to understand how each of you give and receive love (love languages) and remember that small gestures can mean a lot in relationships. Support and self-care is as crucial as ever to balance ones needs and care.

There is a cycle that can occur in relationships with those with BPD. There is limited research on this cycle and no set timeline, it can occur over days, months, or even years. It also does not always occur in the same order of these six stages (Gillette & Lawrenz, 2021). It is very dependent on one’s coping skills and social support system. Stage one involves prioritizing that partner over other things, often happens in the beginning stages of a relationship and may be demanding of one’s time and be fully invested in relationship. Stage two is when feelings of anxiety and fear of abandonment may occur, becoming hypersensitive to innocuous incidents like a missed text or postponed date, often having paranoid thoughts. Stage three, in reaction to their fear of abandonment one may begin testing or pushing the other in small ways and can often breed conflict. Stage four occurs when someone with BPD does not feel satisfied or secure in their efforts to test the other and may incur emotional distance, may fixate on thoughts that one is going to leave, or repeatedly ask to confirm feelings and interest. Stage five is where the relationship with someone with BPD may deteriorate, one may feel confused by the other one’s attitude and the person living with BPD may try to suddenly over explain to save the relationship. Stage six can occur inside of or outside of the relationship either restarting the cycle within the relationship or increase in negative feelings about self-worth and increase in depression symptoms due to the relationships end.

All relationships have their challenges and require effort, compassion, and understanding to be fulfilling and long lasting. Living with BPD or loving someone with BPD in no way means you cannot have a stable and healthy relationship. People with BPD can be exceptionally caring, compassionate, and affectionate. If the cycle or characteristics above remind you of yourself of someone you love, talking to someone is a good first step. Prioritizing care of each other and yourselves in any relationship is important. If you love someone with BPD, have BPD, or want to learn more about bettering your relationships please contact Life Enhancement Counseling Services at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment with one of our knowledgeable and skilled mental health counselors.


– https://counselingwellnesspgh.com/loving-someone-with-borderline-personalitydisorder/

– https://psychcentral.com/disorders/borderline-personality-relationships-cycle

– https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/borderline-personalitydisorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20370237


Arielle Teets