Borderline personality disorder is a mental health condition with the potential to negatively impact relationships. However, people can manage this condition through a variety of means, and this can reduce the impact that the condition might have on relationships.
This article will discuss what borderline personality disorder is, how it can affect relationships, and some tips on managing the condition.
Personality disorders are conditions wherein people have a set way of thinking, of relating to others, and of processing emotions. Borderline personality disorder is one of the cluster B disorders.
Five out of the following nine symptoms must be present for a person to receive a borderline personality disorder diagnosis, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition:
- putting in immense effort to avoid real or imagined abandonment
- a pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships, alongside alternations between extreme idealization and devaluation
- a persistently unstable self-image or sense of self
- impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging, such as sex, substance use, reckless driving, or binge eating
- recurring suicidal behaviors and threats, or self-mutilating behavior
- affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood, such as intense episodic dysphoria, irritability, or anxiety usually lasting for a few hours and only rarely longer than a few days
- chronic feelings of emptiness
- inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger
- severe dissociative symptoms or transient, stress-related paranoid ideation
People with borderline personality disorder usually have a hypersensitive reaction to rejection. This means that they may not react to rejection as well as someone who does not have this condition. This can lead to unstable relationships, self-image, and behaviors.
Research suggests that there is a genetic component to borderline personality disorder. Studies in twins suggest that the impact of genetics is even greater for borderline personality disorders than it is for other mental health conditions, such as major depressive disorder.
However, environmental factors can also contribute to the development of this condition, such as:
- experiencing physical, emotional, or sexual abuse during childhood
- growing up without a mother, or with a distant mother
- growing up with parents who misuse substances, such as drugs or alcohol
People with borderline personality disorder often find it difficult to trust other people. This, along with their fear of abandonment and tendency to idealize or devalue relationships, may make it difficult to ensure that this condition does not negatively impact relationships.
People with borderline personality disorder are more likely to look for signs of rejection than those without this condition.
For example, a 2017 article suggests that people with this condition may experience stronger feelings of rejection when they feel that people do not respond to their feelings of sadness or hurt adequately. This may mean that people with borderline personality disorder are more likely to react to this perceived rejection with anger and fear than people without this condition.
The study also suggests that people with borderline personality disorder may react to rejection with anger in order to strengthen their fragile sense of self.
They may also feel that reacting with anger can make the person they feel rejected them admit their error. However, reacting to perceived rejection with anger may make the other person angry as well, leading to both people avoiding any further interaction.
The 2017 article suggests that there are three main interrelating factors that negatively impact relationships:
- fear of rejection
- sensitivity to perceived rejection
- anger that results from that perceived rejection
Social media is a large part of modern life, and people with borderline personality disorder may interact differently on social media than those who do not have this condition.
For example, one 2020 study found that people with this condition tend to engage more with others on social media and are more likely to regret posting on social media than people without this condition. This regret may come from not receiving the attention, or type of attention (positive or negative), that the poster wanted.
The person may also be more likely to regret an action because they did it impulsively.
The study also found that people with borderline personality disorder are more likely to friend then unfriend or block other social media users. However, it also notes that people with this condition are more likely to befriend people who are abusive, so this greater tendency to unfriend or block other users may be an attempt to distancing themselves from these people.
Despite having interpersonal challenges, people with borderline personality disorder are able to maintain a relationship network on social media.
The study suggests that this may be because social media offers a better chance of connecting with other people than outside of these websites, and that social media allows people to reconcile with others over the internet rather than face to face, which may feel less worrisome.
People can manage borderline personality disorder with psychotherapy. There are three types of therapy that are particularly effective in managing this condition.
These are as follows:
- Mentalizing-based therapy: This helps people manage their emotions by helping them feel understood. It also provides strategies to help them understand and make fewer assumptions about other people’s behaviors.
- Dialectical behavior therapy: This uses mindfulness techniques alongside teaching people interpersonal skills. This can help them understand and control their emotions.
- Transference-focused psychotherapy: This uses the relationship between therapist and client to make the latter aware of the interpersonal skills that need work. This technique teaches them strategies to better understand their condition.
Medications such as antipsychotics, antidepressants, and mood stabilizers are not very effective in treating the symptoms of borderline personality disorder.
Medications that doctors prescribe to treat anxiety may also not be effective, because usually, a person with this condition experiences anxiety about being alone. Traditional anxiety medication does not treat this type of anxiety.
People should see a doctor if they believe that they are experiencing symptoms of borderline personality disorder and the symptoms are significantly impacting their ability to work, enjoy their lives, and form relationships.
It is important to remember that seeking help for mental health conditions is just as important as seeking help for physical health conditions, as both can cause negative long-term effects.
It is important to seek immediate medical attention if a person is experiencing any suicidal thoughts or self-harming. These people may need inpatient hospitalization so that they can receive the care and support that they need.
If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:
- Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
- Listen to the person without judgment.
- Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
- Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
- Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours per day at 800-273-8255. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can call 800-799-4889.
Borderline personality disorder is a mental health condition that can negatively impact relationships, both over social media and in person.
Although people cannot prevent or avoid this condition, it is possible to manage borderline personality disorder.
Therapy can give people the tools they need to form healthy relationships and reduce the anxiety, fear, or anger that they may feel during interpersonal interactions.