What is Borderline Personality Disorder?
By: Beth McHugh 2006
Although this disorder has a high profile, particularly in the media, there is often confusion about what this condition really is. As it is one of the most common of the personality disorders, manifesting in roughly 15% of the population, let’s firstly investigate some of the classic symptoms of borderline personality disorder.
We’ll start by having a look at the typical lifestyle of Lila, aged 39, who was diagnosed in her late teens with Borderline Personality Disorder. Lila leads a tumultuous life. There always seems to be some drama happening that is causing her distress, but on closer inspection, an observer can see that the majority of the dramas are caused directly or indirectly by the way Lila lives her life.
Lila is very impulsive, spending her fortnightly income within days of receiving it and having to borrow money to cover herself for the rest of the pay period. She most commonly borrows from her mother, who is an aged pensioner. Although Lila reports that she feels guilty about taking this money, she persists in doing so and has never been able to either repay the money or change her saving habits to minimize her money problems.
Even as she approaches her 40s, her ability to control her impulses in many areas has not improved over time. Her relationships with men are invariably stormy and passionate. Yet every single man that Lila has chosen for a partner is unsuitable; they either have drug issues, abuse issues, or commitment issues.
Although Lila moans that she cannot find a decent man, she goes about finding “suitable” men in bars when she is either drunk or affected by drugs. Sex generally occurs within hours of meeting a man, often at great personal risk, as she will accompany the male concerned into the seamier areas of town to either score a drug deal or initiate sex. Consequently the males she chooses for a partner already come with so much baggage themselves that the likelihood of the relationship being a success is minimized right from the very beginning.
When each of these relationships breaks up, Lila is absolutely distraught and inconsolable, often for months. If she isn’t on medication at the time, her doctor will be obliged to place her on a regime of antidepressants and/or antipsychotics in order for her to cope with the grief.
Even her relationships with females are tainted by the same feelings of both idealization and devaluation. With persons of both genders, Lila either loves them at any one time, or rejects them. She has been unable to sustain a long term relationship with a person of either gender for any considerable period of time.
Not surprisingly, Lila describes herself as feeling “empty” and has low self-esteem. This of course assists in driving her erratic behaviors with both men and money, desperately looking for a new fix.
Drugs figure largely in Lila’s life from time to time. Yet in her typical erratic fashion, Lila will either be completely addicted to nicotine, alcohol or marijuana, or will go through a period of total abstinence. Often during these times, she may also become a strict vegetarian and shun all junk foods. Yet with uncanny predictability, all this can change overnight and Lila will go on a rampage of drinking, drugs and sex that can lead to another brief, unstable relationship.
Holding down employment has also been another problematic issue for Lila. Although a qualified nurse aid, Lila has been unable to maintain a long-term job for more than one or two years at a time. Often this has been achieved with the aid of antidepressant medication.
Lila has many interests but cannot commit to any of them. She will begin one project, and then abandon it to commence another. Often she merely talks about all the things she is going to do, yet nothing concrete comes of these plans. She is also unreliable and many of her former friends have abandoned her in frustration as she has a record of not keeping promises or failing to turn up at important social functions after giving minimal notice of her inability to attend.
Lila also has a history of intermittent self harm. It will surprise
no-one to hear that Lila is a very unhappy woman.