What is Borderline Personality Disorder anyway?

Thinking back on it, it’s not easy to remember a time when I wasn’t struggling with my mental health. My teenage years were a turbulent mess of my parents divorce, coming out as gay, and dealing with the everyday pressures of successfully making my way through schooling. It wasn’t until my twenties that I recognised that I wasn’t exactly in the best mental health that I could be.

Over the last few years I’ve seen a number of GP’s, psychologists and psychiatrists who have all never really agreed on the exact nature of what I’m dealing with. I’ve been told that it’s just depression, anxiety, ADHD, adjustment disorder, general tiredness, a need for more exercise… These have all been well and good but they’ve never fully explained the nuances of my mental health and treatments based on these diagnoses had proven ineffective.

I’ve been seeing the same psychologist (E) for the past two years, and it wasn’t until recently that I was able to fully open up and discuss events in my formative teenage years that have shaped how I relate to the world. E prefers not to place labels on people but in an attempt to assist me with more clarity and understanding we discussed the diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Could this finally be the missing piece of the puzzle that I had been looking for?

Where does BPD fit in?

BPD is a personality disorder characterised by 5 or more of the following criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (ref):

    1. frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment.
    2. a pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterised by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation.
    3. identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self.
    4. impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g. spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating). This does not include suicidal or self-harming behaviour.
    5. recurrent suicidal behaviour, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behaviour.
    6. affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood – intense feelings that can last from a few hours to a few days.
    7. chronic feelings of emptiness.
    8. inappropriate intense anger or difficulty controlling anger.
    9. transient, stress-related paranoid ideas or severe dissociative symptoms.

The ones in bold relate to me specifically. although I could also bold number 5 or 9 as these behaviours do appear from time to time. People with BPD don’t have the exact same symptoms, as there are over 150 combinations of these which would result in a bpd diagnosis. It’s a common mental illness affecting 1-4% of the population (females more than males) that is often stigmatised due to people with bpd often being seen as “attention-seeking” or “manipulative” (ref).

Although it’s quite a misunderstood personality disorder, the outlook is pretty good. Most people with BPD can recover after diagnosis with effective treatment and therapy.

This is where I’m at now; I have only just begun in my understanding of BPD and my treatment to recover, so I hope that you’ll join me along the way.

About Kevin

Kevin is 30 and lives in Melbourne, Australia with his Border Collie Cynder and his Borderline Personality Disorder.

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