What You Need to Know About Borderline Personality Disorder this Holiday Season

 In Articles, Family, Mental Health

Borderline personality disorder is widely misunderstood. For a moment, consider how it feels to walk, or even run on sand. As you are moving along, the shifting sands and the ground underneath your feet changes continually and leads to a sense of unbalance. Your unsure footing may make you nervous and defensive. You may be less likely to trust the intentions of others, and more likely to fall prey to the chattering and incessant worries of your own mind. 

This is the way it often feels when you are suffering from borderline personality disorder (BPD). Virtually everything about you feels unstable: your relationships, your thought process, your moods, your behaviors, all culminating in what feels like an unstable identity. 

This is a disparaging and isolated way to live. However, there is a way out. There are some treatments available that teach coping skills for the management of BPD that can reduce symptoms, and return individuals to more effective ways of thinking, feeling, and acting.

If you have a loved one who suffers from BPD, or if you suspect as much, there are some important things to remember that will help you survive this holiday season. As with any guide, we begin with gathering information and educating ourselves on the pervasiveness of the symptoms associated with this personality disorder. 

What do we understand about borderline personality disorder?

There is an estimation that almost 1.5 percent of adults in the United States have been diagnosed with BPD. Unless you have been diagnosed personally or have a loved one with this disorder, you may not be acquainted with the truth about borderline personality disorder (BPD). This is a psychiatric disorder that is characterized by emotional imbalance and instability, suicidal preoccupation, and self-injury. 

Having borderline personality disorder (BPD), makes you susceptible to giant mood swings, not only because of your unstable emotions or relationships, but also the vulnerable feeling of not knowing who you are. The way you look, the goals you have for yourself, and how you imagine your future to be relies on the habitual and regular overhaul of your likes and dislikes.

People with BPD also have a propensity towards being very sensitive. They experience the world with an emotional imbalance that results in difficulties with impulsivity, relationship problems, suicidal ideation, self-injury, and general irritability. Little things can elicit deep reactions. As soon as someone with BPD gets upset, it is increasingly difficult to return them to a state of calm. Consider how this emotional instability leads to relationship chaos and impetuous, even rash behavior. 

Signs and Symptoms

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) can be expressed in various ways. Below are some signs that people with BPD may experience:

Fear of Rejection

 People that have this disorder are often scared of being rejected or left alone to fend for themselves. Even a harmless situation such as their loved one coming home late from work or spending the weekend away may initiate strong fear. This can cause hasty panicky efforts to keep the other person close. This can lead to some particularly undesirable behaviors like begging, clinging, or fighting (in order to keep your attention), and escalate to incidences of them tracking other’s movements or even physically disallowing them from leaving. It is unfortunate that this conduct seems to have a contrasting effect in that it usually ends up chasing others away.

Wobbly Relationships

People with BPD often appear to prioritize newfound relationships that are deep, albeit short-term. They may quickly fall in love, feeling hopeful about the new person to “complete them”, only to be hurriedly let down at the first inkling of trouble.  They operate in extremes and will describe their relationships as either perfect or awful, without any middle ground between them. This can make their friends, lovers, or family members feel confused and upset due to rapid fluctuations from idealization to depreciation and hate.

Indistinct or Unstable Self-image

People with BPD, have an unstable sense of self. Occasionally they may appear to love themselves, and other times display behaviors that allow you to believe that they hate themselves. They may even spend energy dramatizing the situation to view themselves as the “root of all evil”. What is clear is a lack of understanding of who they are, and what their needs are. This may result in frequent changes in jobs, lovers, friends, values, religion, or even sexual personality.

Self-destructive Behaviors

Those who suffer from this disorder often engage in harmful, impulsive behaviors, particularly when upset. They may recklessly spend their money, careless driving, involve themselves in risky sex, or get mixed up with alcohol or drugs. 

 Suicidal actions and deliberate self-injury are also popular in people with BPD. Suicidal ideation includes spending a good amount of time thinking about suicide, making suicidal gestures or threats, or securing means to complete the act. Self-inflicted injury comprises all other attempts to injure yourself without suicidal intent.  Cutting and burning are common forms of this particular type of self-destructive behavior.

Coping with loved ones with BPD

The holiday season is often strife with challenges for typically-functioning families, and even more so for those with family members who suffer from mental illness. While it is not always possible, entering the holiday season with a game plan can help to ease the inevitable tensions that may arise when families and friends gather together. 

Calm and Relaxing Atmosphere – As much as possible, make a concerted effort to keep those holiday vibes tranquil and relaxing. 

Know When to Quit – Make sure to avoid discussing emotionally-laden topics while your loved one may be escalated or emotionally reactive. Keep a finger on the pulse of the room, and discuss beforehand with all attendees the exit strategy for a conversation gone awry. Take a moment yourself to breathe, and offer up an alternative activity for the family to engage in. 

Work on Your Listening Skills – Perhaps the best thing that you can do for your loved one is to listen without hesitation or judgment, especially when they’re in crisis mode. Acknowledge their point, even if you disagree, and take the time to value their input. 

Self Care – Make sure that you take plenty of time for yourself to keep yourself healthy and well. Don’t overbook yourself this holiday season, and instead make sure to schedule time with friends and to engage in leisure activities. You may even find it helpful to attend your own psychotherapy or find membership in a support group for others living with someone with mental illness, or with BPD in their family. Make sure to take the time that you need to prepare yourself for the times ahead, and to call in the support of others who can step in and help out. 

Above all, perhaps an alternative route you may need to consider is connecting your loved one with the support of a treatment program meant to help them overcome the debilitating aspects of their illness. The end of the year may actually be the perfect time for them to pursue treatment, just in time for them to learn helpful strategies of their own, and to ring in the new year with the hope of a better future. 

Get in touch with us today to learn more!


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