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Maybe you know with someone with borderline personality disorder (BPD), or perhaps you’ve seen it depicted in movies such as “Gone Girl” or “Girl, Interrupted.”
Unfortunately, BPD is an often misunderstood and under-diagnosed mental illness that many people don’t know about.
The term “borderline personality disorder” was originally coined because psychologists believed the disorder was an unusual (or “borderline”) version of other existing disorders.
BPD is now recognized as a distinct condition in the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,” (DSM) and it is sometimes referred to as “emotionally unstable personality disorder,” which seems to be a better-fitting name for the condition.
BPD affects 6 percent of the population, and although it can be genetic, it is often brought on as a result of child abuse or post-traumatic stress disorder. BPD can be difficult to diagnose, as the symptoms often overlap with other disorders, and symptoms may only flare up from time to time.
There is a list of symptoms for the disorder as provided by the DSM, but for someone to be diagnosed with the disorder, he or she must experience at least five of the symptoms. Here are five of the most common symptoms of someone who suffers from BPD.
1. Unstable Relationships
People with BPD often have tumultuous relationships, with extreme highs and lows. One second they are filled with admiration and love, but they can quickly switch to feeling anger and hatred. Relationships are black and white — someone with BPD might idealize you one second and then despise you the next.
2. Fear Of Abandonment
People with BPD tend to intensely fear abandonment, and they react extremely to this fear with panic, rage or depression. Unfortunately, their behavior can often drive people away, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy that only worsens their insecurity. Whether real or imagined, people with borderline personality disorder cannot fathom being alone.
3. Impulsive Behavior
Those with BPD often engage in extremely risky behaviors, such as impulsive spending, unsafe sex, substance abuse or gambling. These are thought to be related to their poor self-image and the need to escape their intense and volatile emotions.
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4. Inappropriate Anger
Because they have problems regulating their emotions, people with BPD often experience extreme anger disproportionate to the situation. This rage is often a result of their abandonment fears and the need to get back at people who they perceive have inflicted harm.
5. Distorted Self-Image
People with BPD have a hard time defining their identity, which can, in turn, affect their self-esteem. They have difficulties conceptualizing their values, opinions and goals, which can change with their mercurial emotions.
Although it can sometimes be difficult to treat, symptoms of BPD can be eased with psychotherapy, along with medication that can help reduce depression and anxiety.
As always, consult a licensed physician if you think you or someone you love is suffering from BPD or another mental illness.