Borderline Personality

by | Dec 12, 2018 | Emotions, Mental health problems, Personality | 0 comments

You likely know someone who has borderline personality disorder (BPD). You might have it yourself. A few of my pals have BPD or at least BPD characteristics.

This disorder involves being dramatic and erratic in emotions and relationships. Strong negative emotions sometimes lead to outbursts and sometimes to self-harm. The person may idealize another individual one day and loathe the individual the next. People with BPD may intensely fear abandonment.  Impulsive actions and substance abuse are common. The term “borderline” involved in BPD has traditionally been viewed as the line between neurosis and psychosis.

Family members and friends sometimes go through the wringer, especially if they take personally what BPD person says. They often describe their behavior around the person with BPD as walking on eggshells. 

BPD is not all bad though. Individuals with the disorder live a stimulating life. They can be highly entertaining to others, especially when they idealize a person.

Singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell has many characteristics of BPD, according to details in her authorized biography Reckless Daughter. When young, she had a child out of wedlock and gave the child up for adoption. She has never had a romantic relationship that worked out. She used a huge amount of cocaine. Singer Leonard Cohen described her as like a storm. Later in life, perhaps as a result of substance abuse, Joni developed an odd disorder, Morgellons disease, in which individuals think threads are coming out of their skin.

Along the way Joni wrote and sang some of the greatest songs of all time, including Both Sides Now and Woodstock. She has been loved both by her fans and by many male courters, including other celebrities

The most effective treatment for BPD is dialectical behavior therapy, developed by Marsha Linehan. Marsha knows about BPD from personal experience. In an interview, she said that she tried to kill herself as an adolescent with BPD. 

The treatment involves teaching methods of coping and methods of effectively interacting with others in emotionally charged situations. The treatment includes training in mindfulness, along with activities intended to change black-and-white thinking to shades of grey.

Marsha is now a professor of psychology at the University of Washington. She used her hard experiences to create a valuable treatment.  She also created an excellent list of reasons to live. I give that list to students to use with suicidal clients. 

Marsha’s model makes me wonder: How can I use my times of suffering to produce something of value? How can you?


[Photo by Autumn Goodman on Unsplash]


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