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How To Recognize Signs Of Borderline Personality Disorder
A tell tale sign of borderline personality disorder is when a person has a fear of abandonment that subconsciously destroys their relationships. If you recognize that your fear of rejection is pushing away loved ones, you could be exhibiting the behavioural traits of borderline personality disorder (BPD).
If you constantly feel rejected in relationships and struggle to maintain relationships due to a pervasive fear of abandonment, then this can be a signal of borderline personality disorder.
A person with BPD displays frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment, depicted by clinging to relationships in order to avoid feeling abandoned, to distancing when the fear of rejection is imminent.
The hallmark of BPD is that you struggle with being alone, when you invest heavily in your relationships instead of investing in yourself. Therefore the person feels empty due to a lack of investment within themselves, and therefore looks for pleasure seeking ways to escape the empty void within themselves.
Those with BPD traits can range on a continuum from functioning highly, who may be the rescuers or martyr’s who live through everyone else’s problems , to low functioning borderlines who display destructive behaviours.
How do you know if you’re detecting signs of BPD?
According to psychoanalytic psychiatrist James Masterson, who pioneered the treatment and study of borderline personality disorder, the person who is borderline suffers from underlying feelings of abandonment, which are defended against with all kinds of acting out behaviors.
The borderline internalized a parent who was loving or rewarding when they focused on the care giver. They felt “good” for regressive behavior, such as pleasing, being compliant, being needy, clingy, helpless, or dependent. Whereas they felt bad and abandoned during efforts to self-activate, and explore themselves away from the parent as an attempt to individuate or separate, causing a developmental arrest in their emerging self.
The result is a real self that feels impaired due to attempts to avoid abandonment.
The person who is borderline can feel bad or guilty for not living according to the needs of others and feeling bad about themselves when they separate from others to live their own separate life.
If you notice signs of borderline personality traits, it’s likely you feel good and loved when you are focused on your relationships and investing in others. Whereas, you can feel bad and abandoned when you are alone, when you don’t focus on others or when you attempt to do your own thing to better yourself.
According to Masterson, in the borderline triad, efforts to self-activate or separate from others leads to feelings of abandonment. This leads to a defense, such as acting out or regressed behaviour in order to escape the abandonment feelings.
In other words, every time you do what is right for you, you feel abandoned for not meeting the needs of others, causing you to give up focusing on yourself or your needs, to avoid abandonment. So you end up doing things that work against yourself to appease others, as part of the false defensive self.
Here are 6 ways to detect BPD signs that could show you’re displaying signs of having borderline personality disorder:
1. You lack a reliable sense of “self”
Due to the developmental arrest in the emerging self, many with BPD can present as childlike, wanting someone to take care of them or function for them, appearing as if they can’t do things for themselves or quitting at the first sign of stress. They often hide how competent they can be, because they do not believe in themselves, seeking comfort in staying regressed or staying helpless.
In essence, they do not back themselves or believe in themselves, so they give up, take the pathway of least resistance, or find the easy way out to avoid taking responsibility for themselves.
Due to the impaired self, they lack stability in work, career and relationships.
They fill the empty self with instant pleasures or addictions in order to feel good momentarily, while denying the destructive impact on their life.
They can be impulsive or reckless in order to escape the emptiness of an impaired self.
They give up on themselves, live in perpetual chaos or crisis by acting needy, helpless, wanting to be rescued or being co-dependent in relationships. Often others can act as a life raft who support them in order to cope with the impaired self, often burning out their relationships.
They lack a stable sense of self and view of others. How they see themselves and others can change rapidly and can be distorted or disproportionate to the real situation.
They have a negative image of themselves, depicted by self-hatred, self-loathing, unworthiness or feelings of not being good enough. They have often internalized that they are not good enough, which distorts how they see themselves.
2. You struggle to regulate your feelings and moods
People with BPD suffer from a dysregulation of emotions, usually in the form of mood swings. This can range from feeling good to feeling bad, feeling loved, or feeling intense anger.
If you find yourself in extremes of feelings that range from feeling good to feeling bad, or feeling love to anger, then you could be exhibiting the emotional roller coaster of BPD.
Borderline personality sufferers may also have poor impulse control, be emotional, have poor frustration tolerance or impatience, mood swings, and anger plus a lack of boundaries
Those who suffer from symptoms of borderline personality disorder are characterized as having a pattern of instability in relationships, ranging from intense, to volatile or ending abruptly.
If you have BPD, you may often end up jumping from one relationship to another, sometimes not thinking about the choice of partner, in order to escape feelings of abandonment or being alone.
Often, you’ll end up in relationships that aren’t good for you because you feel undeserving, worthless, or not good enough.
Your relationships start off with you feeling good, and end with you burning bridges.
Those with borderline personality disorder can be extremely loving, caring, and kind — until they feel abandoned. Then, they may switch to inflicting abuse on loved ones or cut off from that person, in order to discharge the feelings.
Those with BPD can subconsciously destroy their relationships when they feel they will be abandoned. You may reject others to avoid being abandoned.
You might end up renacting the same behaviour that was done to you, by treating others in the same way you were abused. Masterson calls this the “Talionic Impulse,” which boils down to “an eye for an eye.” In other words, you’ll give what you get.
This can mean lashing out verbally by taking out your pain on loved ones; as if they caused it. The person who is borderline can become hostile or accusatory when they perceive abandonment.
4. You are terrified of the idea that you’ll be abandoned
Extreme separation distress, due to jealousy or a relationship breakup, can trigger these abandonment feelings.
This can lead to suicidal ideation, anxiety, emptiness, loneliness, panic attacks, or depression, which is known as “abandonment depression.” This will make you act out in order to escape these feelings.
5. You display “primitive defenses” when threatened with rejection
Symptoms of BPD include a person displaying primitive defenses to avoid dealing with aspects of reality or to avoid their feelings.
“Splitting” causes the borderline person to love someone one moment, then hate them the next. They will either feel “good” or feel “bad.”
This is because you can’t tolerate the good and bad aspects at the time. You’ll feel like the “victim,” while your partner is the “villain.”
Other times, you’ll blame yourself when someone is abusive toward you.
“Splitting” prevents you from seeing the shades of gray or looking at the whole perspective. Often, you’ll get a one-sided account of what is really going on, blown out of proportion to the real situation.
This means your partner or spouse is either idealized or devalued; no in-between.
6. You act out with behaviors you know are inappropriate
Those with a borderline disorder of self will act out or use risk-taking behaviors to alleviate intolerable feelings. This can include sexual promiscuity as well as reckless or impulsive behaviors such as drug and alcohol abuse.
According to Masterson, the acting out behaviors keep your real self stuck and will not allow you to grow unless you work through your abandonment depression and give up your investment in focusing on others instead of yourself.
The hallmark of BPD stems from abandonment. If you recognize signs of BPD, you may perceive others as abandoning you when they’re not focused on you, but focused on their own lives.
You may feel abandoned if your partner forgets to call, comes home late, or goes out with friends. This can cause you to cling to your relationships or want re-assurance if your insecurities take over. You may accuse your partner of abandoning you when they trigger your abandonment feelings, causing you to feel unwanted. This is one sure way to push them away
Those with BPD can present as warm, empathetic, or engaging when feeling close. Whereas they can also cut off from relationships or become angry when feeling abandoned or not good enough
Usually, these abandonment feelings get triggered in relationships, which causes them to blame their partner for making them feel this way.
So they focus on changing their partner or finding fault in them for not caring about them, when they may misperceive them as not loving them. No matter what their partner says, it might not be enough to prove their love. So the person with BPD will often test their love or put them through hoops to see how far they will go to prove their love. This often causes them to push loved ones away.
What to do if you spot these borderline personality disorder signs
If you identify these signs of BPD within yourself, its the first step towards change. The real antidote for change stems from working through the abandonment feelings in therapy by addressing the acting out behaviours and regressive behaviours, in order to rebuild the real self that feels impaired. This assists the person with borderline personality disorder to function fully for themselves and maintain healthier relationships, without pushing loved ones away.