Welcome to the blog for Free Your Mind mental health anti-stigma campaign

This is the blog for the Free Your Mind campaign which aims to battle stigma towards mental illness through the use of music, art, film, and culture.
The blog consists of informative and, hopefully, entertaining articles/posts.
Enjoy! :-)

Friday, 27 April 2012

Understanding BPD and other Personality Disorders (Part Two)

Understanding BPD and other Personality Disorders (Part Two)

This blog post is a continuation of 'Understanding BPD and other Personality Disorders (Part One)'

Within this blog post (and throughout this blog-series) I wish to further explore the thought processes, and behaviours, related to BPD (and other personality disorders); and how these relate to our rapidly changing states of mind, feelings and emotions.

(The mental health diagnosis I have been given is that of borderline personality disorder. ~ Nicola Edwards)

People with BPD, and other personality disorders, are often - mistakenly - thought of as "trouble-makers", due to behaviours which could be misconceived as being "anti-social."  Misconceptions of the behavioural traits displayed in those with a PD diagnosis include seeing people with these types of diagnosis' as manipulative, attention seeking, demanding, and obstructive.

I have been accused of displaying all of these behaviours at one time or another.

To say that those of us with personality disorder diagnosis' are "manipulative" is an extremely harsh statement to make.

I'll put it this way:
I constantly find I am at odds with both myself (internal - thoughts and emotions), as well as, the world around me; often unsure of the appropriate
behaviour for (many) situations; and, when past actions or behaviours have produced the desired outcome, it can seem that in order to produce the same desired outcome in similar future situations it would be "appropriate" to conduct myself in the same manner as in the past.

Another personal example of behaviour that could be thought of as "manipulative", is the way in which I often find it hard to address a subject, or concern, head-on; I tend to skirt around my needs, wants, desires, and/or concerns - behaviour which is due to difficulties with communicating my thoughts and feelings.

A highly relevant point to note, here, is that those of us with personality disorders have often had our behaviours reinforced on many different occasions.

To say that our behaviour is purely "attention seeking" is also an unfair  statement to make.

Living with BPD can be extremely painful on a daily basis; personally, I often feel in turmoil, which can feel like my own personal hell. The way in which I tend to communicate these feelings is through screaming, shouting, and/or aggressive behaviour.

Personality disorders are long-term (life-long) mental illnesses with which its associated problems persist for many years, without real hope for a cure; although, symptoms are likely to lessen as a person ages. So, surely, it is understandable why this would make a person quite demanding, and impatient.

People with personality disorders are likely to be involved with mental health services for a lot longer from adolescence right into the late adult years. After years of being offered so many different services and treatments, a person can start to feel like a guinea pig, and then become reluctant to engage / continue with another service or treatment.

This is one of the reasons for why I have found myself to be reluctant to receive treatments on offer (particularly drug-based treatments). Behaviour which could be seen as being "obstructive"; in other words, this behaviour could be seen as me obstructing my own recovery by refusing services and treatments on offer.

However; there have been times when, because of my borderline personality disorder diagnosis, and the behaviours which come with it, the mental health services have been the ones to cease attempts to engage with myself, as opposed to the other way round.

Diagnoses of personality disorders, including BPD, are largely stigmatised particularly among mental health professionals with many of those with PD diagnoses being seen as "trouble makers". It is for this reason that mental health services can sometimes disengage with patients, which, in turn, can cause patients (or "service users") - like myself - to disengage with current, and future, treatment.

BPD and other personality disorders diagnosis' tend to carry more stigma than most other mental health diagnosis', and not just within everyday encounters with other people (i.e. those who aren't mental health professionals), but also with those whom work within the mental health services.

This blog series on BPD and other personality disorders will continue in Part-Three, coming (very) soon.

Related previous blog posts:

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Understanding BPD and other Personality Disorders (Part One)

Understanding BPD and Other Personality Disorders

This is Part One of a series of blog posts which will explore borderline personality disorder (BPD) and other personality disorders.

I have explored borderline personality disorder in a previous blog post (posted in August 2010) titled, "What is BPD?"

Within this blog post (and throughout this blog-series) I wish to further explore the thought processes, and behaviours, related to BPD (and other personality disorders); and how these relate to our rapidly changing states of mind, feelings and emotions.

(The mental health diagnosis I have been given is that of borderline personality disorder. ~ Nicola Edwards)

The fluctuation of moods is one of the main characteristics shared by those with a  borderline personality disorder diagnosis.

The rapidity with which our thoughts and feeling change is often extremely overwhelming and often can make a person with BPD feel confused. Which can, therefore, make it harder for that person to communicate their true thoughts and feelings clearly to not only others, but sometimes to themselves also.

I cannot tell you how many times close friends and family become frustrated with me because they feel I am "not making any sense" - which, in turn, frustrates myself because I feel "misunderstood" by them.

Other characteristics of this mental illness include; distorting reality, depression, a tendency to see things in "black and white" terms, and impulsiveness (a trait which I covered extensively in "What is BPD?")

Probably the most common trait shared by those with a borderline personality disorder is an overwhelming feeling of "emptiness" along with a chronic fear of abandonment.

I often feel as if I am being forced to live within a world in which I do not fit into, nor belong to; as well as it being a world in which, I feel, I am not wanted.

As is the same with many others with BPD, I have a damaged view of myself; often believing there is "something wrong with me" (i.e. that I am "defective"), and I would sometimes even go as far as to regard myself as "evil". Despite whether or not there is actually any real truth to this sort of "faulty thinking".

More often than not, this type of faulty thinking and damaged view of oneself is due to abuse during childhood, frequently sexual abuse, but it can sometimes also result from more subtle forces, such as a mismatch between the extremes in temperament, common among people with borderline personality disorder, and a not-so-accommodating parenting style (particularly during the BPD-sufferers childhood).

This negative perception of myself, or (to phrase it better) lack of self-worth, can make it very difficult for a person with a personality disorder diagnosis, like myself, to form and maintain relationships (of any kind); as well as, participate in social interaction at an "acceptable" and/or "appropriate" level. Feelings of "emptiness" and "not belonging" are also more-than a huge hindrance on day-to-day life; as are also the constantly changing thoughts, feelings, and/or states of mind towards real, or imagined, current life circumstances.

The thought processes, associated with personality disorders, are thought to generally manifest in a person's behavioural patterns in two different ways; either a person will either externalise their thoughts and feelings, or they will internalise them.

A person whom internalises tends to turn their anger inwards; even if their anger is directed at another person, they will not confront this person or behave in an aggressive manner towards them. Instead they direct their anger at themselves; for example, by blaming oneself, or through self-harm, or self-deprecation.

On the other hand, a person whom externalises tends to turn their anger outwards; which can manifest itself in aggression, angry outbursts, law-breaking and hyperactivity.

It is quite possibly true to say that either sets of actions, whether that be internalisation or externalision, are consistent with BPD; and that both can possibly occur in the same person, on the same day!

It is believed (particularly within personality disorder support groups and communities) that there are those with borderline personality disorder whom are "high-functioning", and these are those whom are "low-functioning". (Although some experts would dispute the existence of either of theses modes in the context of BPD.)

A person whom is "high-functioning" is thought to be able to present a stable and calm image when within social and professional circumstances and situations. In other words, they are able to "normalise" their behaviour when they are "in public" - and hide their illness from the outside world. However, when that same person is with close friends or family (i.e. behind closed doors), that "need" to hide their mental health problems, or to "normalise" their behaviour, no longer feels necessary. Often in situations involving close family and friends the traits generally associated with that person's diagnosis can become much more apparent.

A person whom thought to be "low-functioning" in relation to their personality disorder diagnosis is believed to lack control, or have no control, over the way in which their mental illness affects their outward behaviour when either in public or at home behind closed doors.

Again, both of these behavioural patterns are consistent in a person with a BPD diagnosis. In other words, it is possible for those with borderline personality disorder to fall into both the "high-functioning" and "low-functioning" modes.

When I am confronted with social situations where I feel uncomfortable or anxious, and where I feel I may not have made a good impression (regardless of whether this is true or not), I find myself "switching" from blaming myself for having what I feel are poor social skills, to blaming other people for people for not being wholly accommodating towards my lack of social skills and interaction.

I have a tendency to internalise when in social, and professional, circumstances or situations - i.e., blame myself for lacking in social and/or problem-solving skills - I tend to keep any bad thoughts of feelings to myself. I tend not to externalise my distress in those situations - I don't show aggression or lash out.

However, with close friends and family my tendency is to externalise my anger and/or distress by becoming aggressive or defensive. Behaviours which are often due to myself misinterpreting an off-hand comment from a loved one, as a thought-out personal attack on myself.

The constant fluctuation of moods (commonly known as Affective Lability), as  characterised by the borderline personality diagnosis, often causes distress in those with the mental illness, and can be very confusing, making it hard for that person to communicate their feelings clearly to the people around them.

In Part Two of this series I shall be further exploring personality disorders - focusing, as I have in this post, on borderline personality disorders - and the way in which people with these mental health diagnoses interact directly with other people, as well as the world around them.

Thank-you for reading; and I look forward to, hopefully, seeing you again in Part Two!