Living a chaotic life? Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Constant feelings of loneliness, insecurity, mood swings and unstable relationships plaguing you? Lisa Antao uncovers the perils of Borderline Personality Disorder

For most of us, life isn’t fair but on the other hand it’s not that bad either. Are you the type of person who sees others as totally good or bad? Do you constantly suffer from extreme mood swings and chaotic relationships? Do often get accused of shifting loyalty from one person or group to another? In order to combat loneliness, do you accept a stranger as a friend or behave promiscuously? Signs like chronic feelings of emptiness, extreme boredom and the lack of a consistent sense of identity steer towards having a Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Read on to find out more about this condition...

“BPD is a pervasive pattern of instability in interpersonal relationships and self-image, and marked impulsiveness. Often, there is a description of ‘a feeling of chronic emptiness’. It usually starts during early adulthood and is more common among females,” says psychiatrist Dr Kersi Chavda. Psychiatrist and psychotherapist Dr Anjali Chhabria explains, “In this disorder, mood swings are very common. Individuals can be argumentative at one moment, depressed the next and later complain of having no feelings. Their behaviour is highly unpredictable. The painful nature of their lives is reflected in repetitive selfdestructive acts. They may often slash their wrists and perform other self-mutations to elicit help from others, to express anger, or to numb themselves to overwhelming effect.”

Although social, genetic and biological factors are all responsible for the occurrence of BPD, an individual’s upbringing and inputs from parents and significant others in the early years of development plays a major role. Clinical psychologist and hypnotherapist Neha Patel says, “Disturbed family life, especially an abusive relationship between the parents and the child, sexual abuse or extremely strict parents play a role here — an ‘invalidating environment’ where the experiences of the child are not given importance. The child’s negative characteristics are always brought up without any acknowledgement for the positive. Such children tend to become emotionally vulnerable and react excessively to even low levels of stress.”

As with other mental disorders, the causes of BPD are complex and haven’t been completely understood. But research findings suggest certain factors such as genetic predisposition, brain abnormalities, etc.

Individuals suffering from BPD tend to have an unstable self-image and therefore unstable interpersonal relationships. As for personality, Dr Chavda says, “There are frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment, which then entails a pattern of unstable and intense relationships. There is impulsivity in areas that are potentially self-damaging.”
Such people tend to go through a lot of inner pain and turmoil and feelings of powerlessness. They get defensive about themselves in front of others but from within there is a lot of self-loathing, which leads to repetition of harmful behaviour. The fluctuation in behaviour, the impulsiveness, tend to form the impression of someone who is unstable. Sexual promiscuousness has its repercussions and relationships are seen as superficial, whereas the person is actually seeking acceptance and love from within. Their style of expressing it tends to be misinterpreted. Therefore the feeling of emptiness continues to exist even if things are going their way. This becomes a vicious circle, opines Patel.
The intense irritability, anxiety, anger and difficulty in controlling overreactions, self harm all add up to a person who others tend to avoid or are apprehensive about. Family and significant others tend to give up on them, adding to the feeling of abandonment.

Treatment of BPD includes psychotherapy and for better results, medication may be suggested. Chhabria recommends behaviour therapy to help the individual control his/her impulses, outbursts and to reduce his/her sensitivity to criticism and rejection. This helps the individual regain self-confidence and have a positive selfimage, which in turn helps the client feel more efficient and set priorities and goals in life. Also, it helps individuals change their distorted inter-personal relations to more healthy and stable relations, making them feel more secure and independent.

Significant and persistent unstable self-image or sense of self Pervasive pattern of instability in interpersonal relationships Impulsive and risky behaviour, such as risky driving, flings, unsafe sex, gambling sprees or illegal drug use Intense but short episodes of anxiety or depression Inappropriate anger, sometimes escalating into physical confrontations Difficulty controlling emotions or impulses Self-destructive or suicidal behaviour Chronic feelings of loneliness and insecurity.