Borderline Personality Disorder

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General Description of Borderline Personality Disorder

People with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) are frequently emotionally chaotic. Their moods may change rapidly, over the course of minutes or hours. They may exhibit “splitting” which is black-and-white thinking that can switch their thinking of a person (generally close friends or family of the BPD victim) from being “all good” to “all bad” without any cause obvious to a casual observer.

They may exhibit long-term dissatisfaction and unhappiness with relationships, jobs, education, and nearly every other aspect of their lives. They may seem to be unsure of who they are and be constantly re-inventing themselves or trying to “find themselves” via their predictably unpredictable shifting of activities, friends, and jobs. They may “act in” by self-harm methods including cutting, burning, self-mutilation, and suicide. They may “act out” by rages, threats, false accusations, and other methods to control and manipulate the people around them in an attempt to soothe their chaotic emotions.

“High functioning” Borderlines may be virtually undetectable to casual acquaintances, coworkers, and even long-term friends. They can be highly capable and successful in their field of work. But their close interpersonal relationships tend to be a disaster. Family members may be the only ones who see the destructive behaviors. This can be particularly troublesome for them as they may encounter disbelief from others when they explain how their family member behaves in private.

“Low functioning” Borderlines are much easier to detect. They may appear unstable or “crazy” even to people who don’t know them well.

The American Psychiatric Association describes the behavioral patterns that identify BPD as follows:

The latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR), the widely-used American Psychiatric Association guide for clinicians seeking to diagnose mental illnesses, defines Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) as: “a pervasive pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, self-image and affects, as well as marked impulsivity, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts.”

BPD is classed on “Axis II”, as an underlying pervasive or personality condition, rather than “Axis I” for more circumscribed mental disorders.

A DSM diagnosis of BPD requires any five out of nine listed criteria to be present for a significant period of time. There are thus 256 different combinations of symptoms that could result in a diagnosis, of which 136 have been found in practice in one study.

The criteria are:

  1. Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment. [Not including suicidal or self-mutilating behavior covered in Criterion 5]

  2. A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation.

  3. Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self.

  4. Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., promiscuous sex, eating disorders, binge eating, substance abuse, reckless driving). [Again, not including suicidal or self-mutilating behavior covered in Criterion 5]

  5. Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, threats, or self-mutilating behavior such as cutting, interfering with the healing of scars (excoriation) or picking at oneself.

  6. Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability, or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days).

  7. Chronic feelings of emptiness, worthlessness.

  8. Inappropriate anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights).

  9. Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation, delusions or severe dissociative symptoms

BPD is often misdiagnosed. As an Axis II disorder, many insurance companies will not pay for treatment for BPD because they classify it as an incurable disorder, even though this is probably not accurate in many cases. Sometimes it is diagnosed as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Borderlines may also be scared out of therapy by the diagnosis, therefore therapists may refuse to disclose the diagnosis.

Further, BPD is often accompanied by numerous other mental illnesses ranging from anxiety disorders, mood disorders such as depression and Bipolar Disorder, eating disorders, and even other personality disorders such as Narcissistic Personality Disorder. So it is no surprise that sorting out this mess of problems takes time. The National Alliance on Mental Illness has published estimates that it typically takes five years of therapy to arrive at the BPD diagnosis:

Why is BPD so misunderstood?

(excerpt from Borderline Personality Disorder: A Most Misunderstood Illness)

Borderline personality disorder, historically and even presently, is a disorder that has met with widespread misunderstanding. There are many reasons for the confusion. With the nine possible symptoms there exist over 200 different ways for the disorder to present itself, and this heterogeneity is further complicated by the fact that BPD rarely stands alone. A high rate of co-occurrence exists with other disorders, which typically include major depression, bi-polar disorder, substance abuse, eating disorders, and anxiety disorders.

To compound the problems, unfortunately another diagnosis is often assessed instead, BPD is often missed or ignored. Data indicate, on average, that five years elapse before BPD is accurately diagnosed in a patient. Lastly, medications are often a source of confusion. It is not uncommon for an individual with BPD to be on three, four, five, six or more medications. To date, no one medication has been specifically researched and approved for BPD.

Borderline Personality Disorder Books

These books are good starting points to understanding the illness, regardless of whom is affected by it.

Stop Walking on Eggshells: Taking Your Life Back When Someone You Care about Has Borderline Personality Disorder
by Paul T. Mason & Randi Kreger
Excellent introductory book on BPD and how to protect yourself from some of the damage that can be done in a relationship with a BPD victim.
I Hate You, Don’t Leave Me: Understanding the Borderline Personality
by Jerold J. Kreisman
One of the earliest books to discuss BPD in terms that everybody can understand, and still highly informative.
Sometimes I Act Crazy: Living with Borderline Personality Disorder
by Jerold J., M.D. Kreisman
This is a well-reviewed follow-up to the classic “I Hate You, Don’t Leave Me”.
Biological Unhappiness
by Dr. Leland Heller
Dr. Leland Heller discusses various mental disorders including BPD and the psychiatric treatments he advocates for them.

Protecting Your Family and You

These are books that may help you protect yourself and your family from an abusive and vindictive ex, particularly those with a personality disorder.

Divorce Poison: Protecting the Parent-Child Bond from a Vindictive Ex
by Richard A. Warshak
Excellent book on fighting the parental alienation that is so commonly inflicted upon children by BPD parents. This applies to hostile parents who don’t have BPD, also.
Understanding the Borderline Mother: Helping Her Children Transcend the Intense, Unpredictable, and Volatile Relationship
by Christine Ann Lawson
Extensive discussion on variations in BPD among mothers with the illness and how they are likely to harm their children.
Take Back Your Life: Recovering from Cults and Abusive Relationships
by Janja Lalich
Tobias and Lalich spent a combined total of 24 years in “restrictive groups” (i.e., cults), and both are currently involved in providing post-cult counseling and therapy. This work also applies to recovering from relationships with BPs.
High Conflict People In Legal Disputes: Third Printing
by Bill Eddy
Excellent book for judges, lawyers, and litigants to help understand why some people are willing to harass with litigation and fight to the bitter end over even minor disputes. This book discusses all four DSM-IV Axis 2 Cluster B personality disorders.
Adult Children of Parental Alienation Syndrome: Breaking the Ties that Bind (Norton Professional Book)
by Amy J. Baker
PAS (Parental Alienation Syndrome) is a hotly debated topic. Whether it is a syndrome or not, parental alienation is real and does great damage to children and the targeted parent. This book delves into the adult aftermath of parental alienation.

Our Recent BPD Articles

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Borderline Personality Disorder From the Inside Out

How a Borderline Relationship Evolves

Wikipedia: Borderline Personality Disorder 

American Journal of Psychiatry collection of articles on BPD

Borderline Personality Disorder Videos

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  1. June 1st, 2010 at 19:15 | #1

    Great blog! I liked this post on Divorcing someone with BPD, it is nice to see someone focus on the victims that have been abused by people with Borderline Personality Disorder.

    Separate yourself emotionally from your BPD ex and don’t be lured back in. There is going to be times when your phone is going to ring or you’ll receive a e-mail in your inbox and it will be your BPD ex in the midst of some sort of crisis begging for your help.

  2. Michele
    October 9th, 2011 at 00:23 | #2

    Hi Rob,

    I just found your website and all the wonderful yet very disturbing and scary information. I married a man 2 years ago whose ex-wife has filed for sole custody claiming my 10 year old son sexually abused her 7 year old daughter. Forensic psychologists have said this did not happen as has the child many times. Reporting she was told she had to say certain things or she would lose her mother.

    Have you ever seen/heard someone using a new spouse’s young child as the pawn in a case like this? We are into year 2 now and her behavior patterns are being documented very well to show the court.

    After reading information on your site I wonder if I should move somewhere else for the safety of my family. We are at the point nearing a full hearing and I feel we are pushing her against the wall and I am concerned that she might ‘lose it”. How does a female with BPD traits react when backed into a corner with absolute evidence of multiple felonies (computer fraud, criminal conspiracy… ). Any feedback is appreciated.

    My husband told me his ex-wife was crazy before we married but I did not realize just how crazy is crazy. This has taken a huge toll on me personally.


    • October 11th, 2011 at 23:52 | #3


      I do vaguely recall reading about cases in which the personality disordered ex uses the ex-spouse’s new spouse’s kids as weapons via lying. I don’t think it is as common as lying against the ex or his or new spouse, however. Nor it is as common as teaching the children to lie against the other parent. For an example of a case where both have been used to create a tremendous amount of damage and yet the abuser was never prosecuted for her many crimes, read about what Cindy Dumas did to her ex and children via false child sexual abuse allegations.

      In my view, your husband’s ex-wife should be prosecuted for filing false reports, defamation, malicious prosecution, and emotional child abuse against both your son and her daughter. Unless people like her are held accountable for their crimes, they will continue to violate the law and abuse other people.

      Often the family law courts reward such tactics, and seldom do they ever punish the abuser. The ex-wife realizes she has a “can’t lose” situation in which she can lie all she wants and if it sticks, even only temporarily, then she hurts other people and gets what she wants. If not, nothing happens to her to force her to stop the psychological violence. And I do mean violence. What she is doing is destroying other people’s lives and is most definitely child abuse against both the 10 year old and 7 year old not to mention against you and your husband.

      When they are backed into corners with absolute evidence, they usually either make up more lies or find some way to spin what they have done as being somebody else’s fault. They are adept at endlessly playing the victim and lying against and scapegoating everybody around them.

      These people are particularly dangerous when they dupe employees of the government such as police and CPS social workers. These government employees will then likely start committing their own violations of the law to “protect” the supposedly victimized children and aid the abuser. Eventually when it comes out that they were in the wrong, they will act much like the personality disordered abuser and lie, threaten, and violate the law to cover their own tails and justify their crimes. The government people are often even more dangerous than the personality disordered abuser because they have government resources and authority to use to abuse you and your kids and are generally given absolute immunity for anything short of killing somebody in cold blood.

      You simply must do all you can to prevent the government from starting to abuse your family. Once it happens, they will skewer you and harm your children and then try to blame it all on you even if you have absolute evidence that they lied, fabricated “evidence”, violated your due process rights, and so forth. This kind of abuse is epidemic and is part of why I personally believe that the government is doing far more damage to families than any help they are providing.

      For a case in which this happened in which there’s not even an “evil ex” in sight, read about what the government of San Diego County did to the Wade family and how NONE of the government employees involved in this abuse were ever punished. The taxpayers paid millions and a private therapist was stripped of her license to practice, but none of the government employees who should have been fired and prosecuted were punished in the least. Many of them still work for the government in similar roles, likely still busy abusing children and families and violating the law since it builds job security for them to do so. Demands were made for reforms. Mostly what happened is some government agency names were changed and some scapegoats who were in fact in the wrong but were not the worse offenders were blamed to help the government employees evade responsibility. Two decades later, despite repeated investigations of the local CPS agency, the San Diego government is still busy abusing children and parents and violating the same laws with impunity.

      Such cops and social workers should be fired, black-listed from all future government employment, and prosecuted. Instead, they are often promoted because they helped earn more revenue for the local government from the Federal government via its destructive child-abuse rewarding Title IV funding programs. In case you don’t know, these programs pay out money to local governments to “help” supposedly abused children. False child abuse accusers are big assets to local governments. They generate a huge number of referrals and thus significant Federal funding. In the perverse reality of this system, government jobs and funding are more important than the Constitution (due process rights, innocent until proven guilty, etc.), protecting children from actual child abuse such as being taken from a good parent and/or made to lie against the parent, etc. Very seldom is any of this punished because the government has immense resources and its victims have few or none to fight back.

      As for the idea of moving, I do believe that living as far away as you can from sociopathic parents is generally in your best interests. However, you have to balance that against the impact on the kids. As bad as the ex-wife sounds, she is still the 7 year old’s mother and there is probably some emotional bond there that if contact is cut completely then it may do more damage to the child. And do you really think the court will totally cut contact or even put the lying abuser on supervised visitation? It sometimes does happen, but far more frequent is that the court enables more abuse by failing to put in adequate safeguards and doing nothing to punish serious crimes.


  3. SivaAddilia
    February 23rd, 2012 at 15:22 | #4

    Your site is very helpful…

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