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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.
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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!




4 comments:

  1. BPD is a terrible disorder and I hope that we can raise awareness and thank you for writing about it and creating your blog.

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