Borderline personality disorder affects an average of 1.6% of the population and severely disables the lives of those who suffer from it. The overrepresentation of this personality disorder in the clinical population is the reason for our focus today. Moreover, existing many fantasies and clichés around this disorder, it seems important to us to clarify this subject. Therefore, this article is dedicated to the presentation and explanation of borderline personality disorder.

What is ?

As previously stated, this disorder is one of the most represented in the clinical population. It usually develops in early adulthood and primarily affects women. It leads to a deterioration in quality of life, interpersonal relationships and well-being.
According to the DSM-V, which is a classification of mental disorders, borderline personality disorder is defined by a ” general pattern of unstable relationships and affects with marked impulsivity, which emerges in early adulthood and is present in a variety of contexts ” This characteristic is essential to establish a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder. To better understand this definition, we will begin by detailing each of the characteristics. We will also explain what symptoms and consequences are related to them.

Relationship instability

The borderline becomes strongly attached to the loved one and quickly becomes dependent. However, the quality of the relationship is deteriorated by the borderline’s conduct. Indeed, if the loved one is strongly idealized by the subject, he or she is often devalued afterwards. We mainly note two relational phases :

  • The idealization phase : At the beginning of the relationship, trust and agreement are established very quickly. The borderline invests a lot of energy and time in the relationship. He is ready to share everything with the idealized person.
  • The devaluation phase : After this first period of illusion, the borderline uses a mechanism of devaluation following the disappointment of a too strong expectation of attention that the loved one cannot give.

The succession of idealization and devaluation phases leads to great relational difficulties. This attitude is linked to another characteristic of the borderline subject : the fear of  abandonment, rejection or separation. This fear is the reason why they give themselves up body and soul in their relationships. Indeed, they need to be surrounded, to feel appreciated and supported. If this support structure is absent, they may feel abandoned and alone. Affect instability and self-image are also affected. This brings us to our next point.

The instability of affect :

Instability results in a rapid alternation of mood and emotion. A borderline subject may experience a multitude of emotional states that occur in succession during the course of a single day.
We note two main typical states :

  • State of well-being and fulfillment
  • State of anger and despair

The succession of these emotional states induces specific affective reactions. To discharge their unmanageable emotions, they repress or express them in extreme ways. Among the extreme reactions are intense or inappropriate anger.This anger can turn into aggression. Typically, aggression comes through sarcasm or devaluation.

In addition, instability is often generated by the presence of high environmental anxiety. Indeed, situations of intense stress disrupt the affectivity of borderlines. In some cases they induce symptoms of severe dissociation or persecutory ideations. Nevertheless, these phenomena are transient. This means that they occur for a very short time.

The instability also affects the sphere of identity. This disruption of the notion of self is characterized by changes in identity positions toward the self. The borderline may sometimes feel good about himself, in tune with his plans and values. However, he or she may also see himself or herself as a bad person. The last possibility is thefeeling of emptiness, the feeling of not having an identity and feeling devoid of affects. His or her self-image varies depending on his or her environment, events, and mood, among other things.

The impulsiveness

Another pillar of this definition is marked impulsivity. Impulsive acts are intended to neutralize affects that are difficult to bear.  This impulsivity is characterized by behaviors that can be disabling or even dangerous. These behaviors are repetitive and dangerous. The acting out can take place in different forms :

  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Excessive buying
  • Theft
  • Pathological gambling

Self-destructive behaviorssuch as suicide and self-harm are also included.  Among the disabling behaviors, one can find those that affect theoccupational domain. Namely, conflicts and disagreements with colleagues or superiors. The purpose of these practices is to relieve the internal tension in the moment. Evacuate the pain, negative emotions through a hetero or self aggressive attack.

As we have seen, the borderline personality disorder affects both the emotional, relational and behavioral sphere. These three dimensions make it complex. This article was intended to shed light on this topic. However, in order to explore it further, we will discuss in a future article how this disorder evolves and how it is treated.

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