Defining Borderline Personality Disorder

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The defining criteria of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is: a pervasive pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, self-image, and affects, and marked impulsivity that begins by early adulthood and is present in a variety of contexts outlined in the traits identified as the hallmark criteria for defining Borderline Personality Disorder.

As researchers continue to investigate Borderline Personality Disorder, its causation, its roots and origin(s) the debate about what really causes borderline personality disorder, largely, still continues. While there are more studies with conclusions about the genetic or biological aspects of BPD -and that some are now calling it a “brain disorder” with pieces of evidence that certainly do not add up to any conclusive proof. Using the term, “brain disorder” can be somewhat confusing and perhaps even misleading, depending upon your opinion.

To date, despite all of the studies and speculation, many would agree that the cause of BPD still is largely put in the category of a combination of nurture versus nature – a combination of environmental influences compounded upon what is considered to be a neurological or biological component. What is not often mentioned when there is talk of the biological or neurological component with regard to the root cause of BPD is that even if one assumes this to be true there are mounting facts that the brain indeed can be change itself. That psychotherapy, specifically Cognitive Based Therapy (CBT) can and does effect changes in brain chemistry. Positive changes that are viewed by many professionals as being corrective to the negative effects on brain chemistry that may well be caused by, among other things, early childhood trauma.

It is important, if you have BPD, to not focus as much on what caused it as on what you can do to recover from it. Many find hearing about studies saying that BPD is caused by something wrong in their brains feel hopeless, and think that means that they can’t recover. Many also tend to think that this may mean they have to wait for some magical-cure-all pill to get better. This is simply not true.

Borderline Personality Disorder is defined “as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

  • frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment
  • a pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by
  • alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation
  • identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self; or sense of long-term goals; or career choices, types of friends desired or values preferred
  • impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging: for example; spending, sex, substance abuse, and binge eating.
  • recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behavior affective instability: marked shifts from baseline mood to depression, irritability, or anxiety, usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days
  • chronic feelings of emptiness
  • inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger; frequent displays of temper
  • transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms.

It should be noted that many of the traits associated as being BPD traits are commonly found in the general population as well. The line is drawn between the average and the borderline personality disorder person by the number of characteristics listed above that effect them along with the severity or intensity of that affect.

In borderline personality disorder, like DID (MPD), there is a likelihood of a trauma history: “Physical and sexual abuse, neglect, hostile conflict, and early parental loss or separation are more common in the childhood histories of those with Borderline Personality Disorder.”

Borderline Personality Disorder Expounded Upon

Borderline Personality Disorder is a very extensive and pervasive disorder in the lives of those who have it and the lives of those who care and or love them and in the lives of those who treat them.

I do feel, however, as a healing borderline, that borderline individuals are often looked at in as black and white a way by significant others and clinicians as is true of the view of the borderline toward them. Living with the pain and the cognitive distortions of borderline personality disorder, (BPD) does not have to be a life sentence. I have found through my own experience that growth, change and healing are very possible. They come with a high price though. One must be dedicated to this process in order to successfully journey through it. It is not a short or simple process but it is one that is fraught with much pain. I have often wondered and tried, though not too successfully, really, to compare what has been the most painful aspects of BPD for me:

  1. Having it,
  2. Living with it, or
  3. healing from it.

It is somewhat of a toss up really in that there is pain involved with all three aspects of experience.

I do firmly believe though that no matter how much pain one has to work through, endure and learn how to hold in healing, living with BPD, is by far much more painful when there is not active work and treatment to change, grow, heal and manage one’s symptoms.

BPD, no doubt needs to be better defined than it currently is. I also am very concerned that many clinicians do not think it is necessary or that it would be beneficial to tell their clients or patients that they, in fact, have been diagnosed with BPD. I know in my case, finding out the diagnosis was the beginning of a long process of slow learning about just what it meant and involved. It was this educational process, both on my own, and in therapy, that helped to me to, piece by piece, come to terms with what BPD is, what it means to me and for me in my life, its legacy in my life, and what was required in order for me to change my life.

I have experienced borderline personality disorder to be a nightmare riddled with pain and angst. For 35 years it controlled my life. In the last 11 years I have been taking that control back and reclaiming myself, the self that was lost to and through so much as a child. I have gradually been able to take the walls down and to among other things, learn that boundaries, while essential, do not have to be brick walls. I have also learned that I do not have to control or manipulate those around me, or the environment around me in order to feel and be safe. I have learned that I am indeed an adult and not a child. I have brought my emotional maturation process along which has enabled me to learn the many key concepts that are necessary to take one’s life back from this very profound, pervasive, and prolific personality disorder.

recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder is possible. BPD does not have to be a life sentence!

© Ms. A.J. Mahari – February 24, 1999 – with additions February 17, 2009 – all rights reserved.

A.J. Mahari lives in Ontario, Canada. She is an Author, Speaker, Counselor, Life Coach, BPD/Loved Ones Coach, NPD/Loved Ones Coach, Mental Health Coach, and Self-Improvement Coach. She has been described by many as an insightful and astute student of life’s ups and downs. A.J. is a Mental Health Professional. A.J. writes from her own life experience, education and over 20 years of experience working with clients with Personality Disorders or the Loved Ones of those with them. You can purchase any of A.J.'s 35+ Ebooks or Written and Narrated 45+ Audio Programs or work with her as a your Counselor or Life Coach. She is a sexual abuse survivor and recovered from Borderline Personality Disorder many years ago. She is also an adult living with (“high functioning”) Asperger's Syndrome.

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