For people with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), abandonment is something to be avoided at all costs. When a person with BPD feels abandoned, it can have a serious effect on their self-image and behavior, as well as their ability to maintain relationships.
People with Borderline Personality Disorder often experience intense fears of abandonment, which can result in inappropriate anger even when faced with a realistic short-term separation or when there are unavoidable changes in plans. They may believe that this “abandonment” is because they have done something wrong.
These fears of abandonment are usually related to an intolerance of being alone and a need to have other people with them. Because they desperately want to avoid being alone, people with BPD quickly latch onto new people and idealize them, making them the center of their lives.
At the first sign they see as abandonment, these feelings will turn to hatred and distrust. If someone has to go out of town for work or decides to spend time with other friends, the person with Borderline Personality Disorder will become convinced that the other person no longer cares about them. Impulsive, self-destructive behavior is often a response to anxiety related to their fear of being left alone.
The fear of abandonment is at the core of Borderline Personality Disorder, and the additional symptoms often are related to that paralyzing fear:
- Unstable, intense and difficult relationships
- Poor self-image
- Self-destructive, impulsive behavior
- Suicidal threats or attempts
- Extreme mood reactions, including intense, inappropriate anger
- Feeling empty or alone
- Short-lived psychotic distortions of perception or belief, especially under stress
The fears of abandonment in people with Borderline Personality Disorder may come from difficulties feeling emotionally connected to people when they are physically absent, leaving the person with BPD feeling lost and perhaps worthless. Once they feel abandoned, suicide threats and attempts may occur, along with anger at perceived abandonment and disappointments.
Many people with Borderline Personality Disorder feel they are unworthy of love, yet are constantly seeking approval from the people around them. They often feel they’ve been unfairly judged.
Difficulties Treating Borderline Personality Disorder
Providing therapy for someone with Borderline Personality Disorder can be a challenge. The therapist-patient relationship may experience the same inappropriate and unrealistic expectations that people with BPD place on all of their significant relationships.
People with Borderline Personality Disorder may be chronic “treatment seekers” who become easily frustrated with their therapist if they feel they are not receiving adequate attention or empathy. The resulting anger, impulsivity, and self-destructive behavior can sabotage the therapist-patient relationship. Their fear of abandonment, and of ending the therapy relationship, may actually cause them to discontinue treatment as soon as progress is made.
Despite the often difficult nature of a therapist-patient relationship for people with Borderline Personality Disorder, a successful course of therapy can help someone with BPD to overcome their abandonment issues and learn to have more trusting and long-lasting relationships of all types.