Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a complex and often misunderstood psychiatric disorder. BPD behaviors can be absolutely baffling to those who witness them. People who do not suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder often have a difficult time grasping just how hard it is to communicate effectively with a loved one with the disorder.
It can be frustrating, painful, and exhausting to traverse the unpredictable terrain of a relationship with a person who has BPD. In this article, we will attempt to shed some light on what makes people with BPD think and act as they do.
Fear of Abandonment
Let us first note that almost all behaviors associated with Borderline Personality Disorder can be attributed to a deep and unceasing fear of abandonment. People living with BPD have often experienced childhoods fraught with trauma of one kind or another: abuse either physical or psychological, loss of one or both parents, or perhaps they were adopted and struggle with feelings of abandonment by their biological parents.
No matter the origin of the fear, it persists long past childhood and becomes the driving force behind all kinds of damaging behavior. We may feel that our reassurance and commitment to our loved one with Borderline Personality Disorder speak for themselves and should be enough to assuage their fears, but applying these kinds of logical assumptions simply doesn’t address the fact that it is not possible for the person suffering with BPD to feel or act any differently than they do, no matter what amount of effort you put into trying to make it so.
People with Borderline Personality Disorder are so convinced that they will inevitably be abandoned by loved ones that their behavior can swing in disparate directions in desperate attempts to avoid the pain of loss. Frequently, loved ones are subjected to intense rage and blame attacks. This is not how we might expect a person to behave if they fear being left alone. After all, wouldn’t excessive rage and anger drive people away faster?
For a person with BPD, unconscious choices are made in attempts to avoid unpleasant feelings. Rage can be a way to preemptively strike out against a person who they believe will leave them anyway. It can provide a temporary restoration of their sense of control over their emotions. When rage is directed outward, it can mask the inner pain that is driving it.
Depression, Self-Harm, and Suicidal Gestures
Loved ones with Borderline Personality Disorder may have debilitating depression, engage in self- harmful behaviors such as cutting or eating disorders, or they may even make attempts to kill themselves. All of these are distress signals that can be seen as attempts to gain the attention and love that they feel is missing in their lives.
By behaving in ways that often alarm and frighten loved ones, the person with BPD unconsciously seeks to pull people closer to them by demonstrating helplessness and fragility that must be attended to by family members. If they cannot be left alone for fear that they will hurt themselves, they have successfully avoided abandonment.
A Final Thought
The truth is that for those of us who do not suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder, absorbing all the information in the world about the disorder may never fill the gap that we experience in trying to understand their mindset. If you have never felt an utterly debilitating fear of abandonment or the loss of all control emotionally, you simply cannot imagine what it is like.
Until a person with Borderline Personality Disorder becomes an active participant in their own recovery, developing skills to help them self-soothe and communicate effectively, they will continue to exhibit BPD symptoms.