Mental illness is incredibly hard to live with as it causes a great deal of pain not just to the person who has it but also to their loved ones. On this blog we wrote about many mental illnesses and their effect on interpersonal relationships, including narcissism, sociopathy, psychopathy and pathological lying (here and here). However there is another disorder not any less debilitating and dangerous — Borderline Personality Disorder or BPD.
Just like many other mental illnesses, BPD is a mystery in a sense that its causes are not completely understood. It is believed that certain traumatic events during childhood (physical, emotional or sexual abuse) may play a role in this, however the research is still in its early stages as BPD was officially recognized only in 1980. With 5.9 percent of adult population affected, we certainly hope for more research and solutions in the near future [source].
Having a BPD feels awful: There is a very real fear of abandonment, conflicted feelings about relationships with friends, partners and relatives, a certain degree of identity crisis, mood swings, impulsive behavior, self-harm and suicidal thoughts, inappropriate and intense anger and chronic feeling of emptiness among other symptoms. BPD often goes undiagnosed, and people with this mental illness have no idea that their intense and contradicting feelings aren’t a part of normal human experience.
Relationships with people who have Borderline Personality Disorder can be very chaotic, intense and full of conflict. When the disorder goes undiagnosed, as it’s often the case, healthy partners and family members may begin to question their own sanity. You may feel trapped, manipulated, used and abused. Although people with BPD don’t necessarily lie, they may see things very differently under different circumstances; they may misrepresent things and accuse you of crimes you didn’t commit.
Even if all borderline personality traits are present, BPD should be diagnosed by a mental health professional experienced in treating mental health disorders, such as a psychiatrist or a psychologist. It is not something that can be diagnosed by a general practitioner and certainly not something we can diagnose ourselves by reading articles on the Internet. Yet, it all begins with awareness — if you don’t know that BPD exists, chances of you or your loved one getting professional help are pretty slim. The following questions are signs your loved one might have BPD. Put a check next to statements that describe your relationship. The more “yes” answers, the higher the likelihood.
Your relationship feels very intense.
Your loved one causes you a great deal of pain.
You feel as if you are being held a hostage.
You find it necessary to conceal your true feelings and thoughts because you are afraid of how your loved one might react.
Your loved one often switches between intense irrational rages and perfectly normal behavior.
Your needs aren’t satisfied but you avoid mentioning it because you are afraid to provoke your loved one.
Anything you say or do may be twisted and used against you.
You can’t leave the relationship because your partner threatens to harm himself or herself.
Your partner constantly changes his or her expectations of you so you can never do anything right.
Your loved one thinks in terms of black and white: They either love you or hate you. It’s either all good or all bad, with nothing in between.
You feel controlled and manipulated.
They act like your feelings aren’t important.
They accuse you of things you didn’t do or didn’t say.
Their moods change by the second.
They get mad at you even when you do everything exactly as they ask.
They constantly criticize you.
You aren’t the only person they have a problem with.
Your partner is irrationally jealous.
You should only click the button once or else the result will be inaccurate.
Your result will appear here.
If you answered “yes” to many of these questions, it is likely that your loved one suffers from BPD or another personality disorder. You may want to talk about your experience of living with someone with mental illness with a professional therapist — not only for the sake of your loved one, but also for your own sake. At this point you must be exhausted, suffering from low self-esteem, feeling trapped and possibly questioning your own sanity. A counselor can help you understand what you are dealing with, provide you with a necessary emotional and professional support, as well as advise you on how to talk to your partner or family member about possible diagnosis.