Life in a Bind – BPD and me

Borderline Personality Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and my therapy journey. Listed in Top Ten Resources for BPD in 2016 by goodtherapy.org. I write for welldoing.org and for Muse Magazine Australia, under the name Clara Bridges.

Understanding a loved one with BPD – reblog-ish

13 Comments

A friend with BPD pointed me to this excellent article called ‘I can’t get it right’ – Understanding a loved one with Borderline Personality Disorder. She said that it painted a very accurate picture of how she felt much of the time, and the same is certainly true for me.

What I like about this article is that rather than focusing specifically on the DSM IV criteria as an aid to describing BPD symptoms, it highlights three key aspects of how many individuals with BPD experience the world. These aspects are: feelings are ‘too real’; out of sight is out of mind; and extreme sensitivity and rage. These three aspects describe how many individuals with BPD experience their thoughts and feelings as being ‘as real as reality’; that they may find it difficult to maintain object constancy and retain a sense of consistency about the people in their lives; and that at least partly because of lack of object constancy, they can be extremely sensitive to others’ words and actions, which can often be interpreted Β in isolation, without taking account of prior context or knowledge.

This article is aimed at those supporting individuals with BPD, and it provides a compassionate and thoughtful description and also reminds loved ones that the behaviour of someone with BPD is often motivated by attempts to shield themselves from pain, rather than a desire to hurt or manipulate. It describes behaviour and tries to show what lies behind it, and what may be going on in the mind of the individual with BPD. The article also emphasizes the important message of hope and the existence of effective treatments that can make a real difference to those with BPD, and to their families.

Finally, although aimed at loved ones, I hope this piece will be helpful for those with BPD as well. It certainly gave me a greater insight into and understanding of some of my difficulties, particularly with regard to the section on feelings – ‘what do you mean my thoughts and feelings may not be real being my gut reaction, the moment I read that paragraph…!

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13 thoughts on “Understanding a loved one with BPD – reblog-ish

  1. Reblogged this on emotionalgrace and commented:
    Excellent article! I can totally agree with the “out of sight, out of mind” issue. It’s hard for me to imagine that people who I am separated from still think of me and care for me. It makes sense why so many friendships I’ve had fail because the person has moved or for some reason we separated. Very interesting!

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  2. The tone of this article is positive and right. Hopefully more people will find information like this when they first look for help, rather than negative characterizations. I think it’s really useful for people to be able to understand that someone who’s undergone severe trauma will view the world in a different, childlike way, and not see other people or themselves as consistent or ambivalent (good and bad) figures. Having an attitude of compassion and understanding is so important.

    I still would make my normal point, that BPD is not a valid condition where one can draw a dividing line and say one has it or doesn’t have it (at least, not using the arbitrary DSM symptoms). Put differently, there is no strong evidence that BPD symptoms are an actual valid syndrome that occurs across a group of people at more than a chance level of correlation.I think the concretization or reification of BPD as being an “illness” is not beneficial for many people, so that’s why I repeat this. But, one has to start somewhere, and many people begin by finding out about “BPD”, and so it’s better that they read an article like this than a negative one.

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    • Hello – so good to hear from you again! I agree, I hope that this is the kind of information people will read or find first, as opposed to the large swathe of negative comment and prejudice out there on the internet. Like you, I also think having an understanding of the fact that people may have a very different world-view and way of interpreting the world and others’ words and actions, is crucial in terms of being compassionate and supportive. As for your ‘normal point’ – you know I have huge respect for your viewpoint, the extensive reading and investigation you’ve done, and your incredibly informative and interesting blog. I have to be honest and say I’m not sure where I stand on your point (i.e. whether BPD can be called a ‘condition’ as such), but perhaps more importantly, I’m not sure where I stand on the question of whether that is a crucial point to be definitive about. ‘Expert’ opinion is divided on whether diagnoses are helpful, or whether they can be made at all. Were we able to put societal stigma aside (impossible, I know), perhaps the crucial determinant here is the usefulness (or otherwise) of a diagnosis to an individual. As for you say, for many people, it is not helpful to them to think of BPD as an ‘illness’ or as a ‘label’ of any kind. Others, and I would include myself here, may like the ‘concrete’ nature of knowing they have a ‘named condition’ they can find out about and learn how to manage. You could argue that there is a negative aspect even for those who find the label useful – that is, that the label can be adopted as an identity, particularly in the case of BPD where many individuals would say they do not have a strong sense of identity. Again, I can relate to this and it came as quite a shock when I realised that I _have_ taken on the label somewhat as an identity, and that that makes ‘recovery’ an even scarier prospect as it involves a potential loss of identity. However, again speaking personally, that doesn’t mitigate against the usefulness of having the diagnosis, and feeling as though I’m getting to grips with understanding the manifestation of a ‘condition’ within myself. I also struggle hugely with feeling invalidated, and having a ‘diagnosis’ helps with those feelings too – it provides me with some ammunition to counteract the inner accuser who says that there’s nothing wrong and that I’m ‘making it up’.

      I agree that we need to be aware of the limits of the descriptors of any condition, and that the label is ‘concrete’ only in so far as relates to a set of descriptors considered to be valid at a particular point in time. More evidence, greater or different understanding, might shift those descriptors over time. And even for those of us who don’t mind the ‘label’, I think we still need to be aware of the fact that everyone manifests that ‘label’ differently, and the ‘label’ does not provide carte-blanche for putting people in boxes and making assumptions about their motives or characteristics.

      In so far as people research the nature and treatment of BPD, you need to be able to somehow identify groups of people who you think ‘have it’. This is not to say, however, that the experience of someone who meets 4 of the DSM IV criteria is vastly different to the experience of someone who meets 5 of the criteria, even though technically speaking, only one of those individuals would be diagnosed with BPD. I don’t think acknowledgement of the fact that there is a spectrum on which one might lie, invalidates the potential usefulness of drawing the line somewhere. Perhaps we simply need to recognise that every ‘condition’ has fuzzy edges, and look at the individual before us.

      It’s certainly a very interesting question, and apologies if I have misunderstood your position in any way, and or have said things that you have countered or addressed in your blog. Do keep in touch!

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      • This is a very articulate response – I agree with pretty much everything you say, especially that using a diagnosis or not should be about what works and is most helpful to the individual. Also, agree that looking at the individual is what is most important by far. However, one constructively critical comment – the experience of someone with only 4 DSM criteria might (or might not) be radically different from that of someone with 5 criteria – because, the first person might have criteria 1 through 4 of the diagnosis (only), and the second might have 5 through 9. So they might have no symptoms in common. Sorry, I have to be devil’s advocate on this! πŸ™‚

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      • Oh, so sorry, thought I’d replied to this! Don’t worry, I like you playing devil’s advocate πŸ™‚ And you’re quite right – it’s completely possible that they may have none, or only 1 or 2, criteria in common, and therefore that their experience might be quite different. I like being challenged – both inside and outside therapy, so thank you so much for reading and for feeding back! It’s always good to hear from you and to discuss with you πŸ™‚

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  3. Reblogged this on Lost in your own depression and commented:
    Information about Borderline Personality Disorder. I hope this is helpful!

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