The workplace can be an excellent source of consistency for someone with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), but it can also present a unique set of challenges.
An employee with BPD tends to see others (especially authority figures, such as supervisors) in black-and-white terms – either all good (over-idealization) or all bad (devaluation). This difficulty in the ability to maintain both positive and negative feelings and thoughts about something is known as “splitting.” This is a common symptom of BPD and can be very confusing. Employees with BPD may idealize their boss until their work performance is criticized, at which point they may become angry or reactive.
In some cases, employees with BPD may play co-workers against each other or spread gossip without considering the effects they have on their colleagues.
Another symptom of BPD is the tendency to be more sensitive to rejection or abandonment (real or perceived), and some work situations can heighten this sensitivity. Criticism by a co-worker or supervisor, professional detachment, or moodiness can trigger these feelings of abandonment or rejection. This can lead to outbursts of rage, self-injury, or other impulsive behaviors commonly associated with BPD.
Managing the Symptoms of BPD
Here are some ways for a person with Borderline Personality Disorder to control these feelings before they get out of hand:
- Breathe deeply. At the first sign of hurt feelings, inhale slowly and concentrate on your breathing. Imagine the physical and emotional discomfort coming out on the exhale.
- Distance yourself. If possible, go to the restroom or physically get away from the person causing the hurt feelings. The situation doesn’t need to be addressed right away.
- Maintain professionalism. Focus on the fact that you’re at work. Keep in mind that the relationship with the person who hurt you is a professional one.
- Express your feelings. Write down your feelings in a private journal so that they don’t stay pent up.
- Think about your options. Take a look at the situation and decide what you can do, if anything, to address the situation. Think about what might make you feel better instead of just reacting.
- Think about your purpose. Before reacting, consider what you honestly hope to achieve through your actions.
- Decide on a plan of action. Be realistic and think about the outcome of each action you may take and what might be accomplished.
Seeking Professional BPD Help
If you are suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder and your symptoms are affecting your work, you may need to seek professional help in the form of therapy or a residential BPD treatment center.
Two of the most effective therapies for Borderline Personality Disorder are Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and Mentalization-based Therapy (MBT). These treatment modalities can help you learn better ways to control your BPD symptoms and have a more thriving career.
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