Hal: “If you can see something and hear it and smell it, what keeps it from being real?”
Maurice: ”Third party perspective.”
— Shallow Hal
Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a tricky beast. According to the DSM-5, there are nine symptoms that contribute to this disorder. At this time, only four of the specified symptoms are required to receive an official BPD diagnosis.
Countless symptom variations are possible. Each person with BPD may present in their own unique way. The exact symptoms an individual experiences may morph throughout the recovery process.
This is why BPD is such a hard condition to recognize and diagnose. Often those with BPD are mislabeled bipolar, PTSD, or another personality disorder. It’s entirely possible these could be co-occurring conditions. The root of the problem is the depth of misunderstanding about BPD within the community of professionals attempting to treat it.
Each symptom presents a unique set of challenges. Based on my firsthand experiences, I believe the symptom of distorted reality and unstable self-image has the potential to cause the most harm.
There can be this belief of friendships, romance, and belonging that don’t really exist. A person with BPD may not understand their behaviors are alienating and offensive. That person may truly feel their interactions with others are positive and appropriate. Often, that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
One subset of this particular symptom is the inability to recognize social cues. What may be completely obvious to some can fly entirely under the radar for an individual with BPD. Someone may feel intimidated to directly address these negative behaviors. This is especially true if disproportionate anger is a co-occurring symptom.
More often than not, the behaviors of an individual with BPD can be distressing to those around them. Someone may choose to remove themselves from the situation entirely in an effort to avoid a possible ugly confrontation.
This is the perpetual cycle someone with BPD endures. I personally struggle with causing disharmonious environments. I am almost never aware that I am doing it. Those around me would rather not confront my behavior based on my inconsistent reactions. I can be receptive to constructive feedback or I can become volatile.
As my level of unawareness perpetuates, so do my negative behaviors. Sometimes I am not included in certain activities. Sometimes I am asked to stop participating in certain activities. Sometimes people walk out of my life entirely. I am left completely clueless as to why these things happened.
I feel blindsided because of my inability to recognize the countless signs telling me my behaviors are not acceptable. I honestly believed that what I was doing was fine. The majority of the time I think what I am doing is pretty positive. Even with the best intentions, my actions may not be well received.
This profound ignorance is a well versed downfall of those with BPD.
If a person with BPD sees, hears, and smells something, then how can it be untrue? Third party perspective.
People, for the most part, are social creatures. I would like to believe people with BPD don’t take great joy in their alienating behaviors. I would like to believe with a higher level of self-awareness great strides in recovery are possible.
Unfortunately, some things may never change. Therapy, medication, coping skills, support systems, and the inherent desire to do better can’t offset disjointed neuropathways. A lamp with faulty wiring just won’t light up the way it’s intended or expected to.
An individual with BPD needs to reach a level of acceptance to recognize their own limitations. Different doesn’t have to equate to less than. More often than not, different is just different.