by Andrea M. Darcy
Emotionally unstable personality disorder can mean you struggle more when the world is going through difficult times. Or your life has suddenly become very challenging. How do you now if this is you?
Do you have emotionally unstable personality disorder?
Emotionally unstable personality disorder is a more accurate term for what is commonly called ‘borderline personality disorder‘, or BPD. (There is nothing ‘borderline’ about you if you have the disorder, this was a poorly chosen name that has unfortunately stuck around).
It’s main symptom is a constant fear of rejection and abandonment. These fears result in difficult, push pull relationships, a shifting sense of self, and impulsive behaviours that can include self-harm.
Another key factor of BPD is emotional dsyregulation. Unlike others, your emotions can go from hot to cold in an instant, and it’s like you can’t control the thermostat.
7 Stress responses that point to BPD
Don’t already have a diagnosis of an emotionally unstable personality? The following description of how it affects you during stress might help.
1. You respond more to stress than others.
Emotionally unstable personality disorder is often connected to childhood trauma. And childhood adversity affects the development of the brain.
This could be why if you have this disorder you are way more sensitive to stress. A neuro-imagining study found that participants with BPD exhibit hyper-responsiveness to stress compared to a control group.
2. You feel abandoned by friends who don’t contact you.
Photo by Zulmaury Saavedra
If you have EUPD, you are very sensitive to how othres treat you. If you don’t hear from friends, you can worry. The Covid pandemic made it clear how much this affects this subset of people.
The Asian Journal of Psychiatry recently published a case study on the psychological impact of coronavirus outbreak on a BPD client. It concludes that, “public health measures during coronavirus outbreak such as the social distancing and mass indoor quarantine could intensify the feeling of emptiness and aggravate the fear of abandonment among people with BPD”.
3. Stress makes you struggle to understand yourself and others.
When we have BPD, stress and anxiety have an additional affect of making us less able to ‘mentalise’, which means understanding the mental states of ourselves and others.
Our minds get caught in cycles of black and white, dramatic thinking, with little things getting blown out of proportion. One small comment from a partner that we didn’t do a good job on the dishes? And we wonder if they don’t like us anymore, or want to break up with us.
4. Your version of loneliness can feel very extreme.
The less people reach out to us, and the more we struggle to understand why they aren’t and overthink it all, the lonelier we can feel.
Loneliness also comes from feeling different, so we can feel lonely even if we are with family or those we know.
Others can then find us ‘too intense’ or ‘dramatic’.
5. You sabotage friendships right when you need to keep them strong.
Boredom can lead to being impulsive. And if we have BPD, then we are prone to being impulsive already.
We send that biting text, only to regret it the moment we realise what we have done Or post that comment declaring we feel we have no real friends on Facebook. Our impulsivity starts to create the very rejection we fear.
Or we might be sabotaging by withdrawing. Some people with emotionally unstable personality disorder have a ‘quiet’ version. You punish by going cold.
6. You create conflict out of nowhere sometimes.
It’s not that you want conflict. But somehow being bored or stressed sees you creating drama before you even realise what you are doing. And once you start, it’s like you can’t stop.
Before you know it you are suggesting a breakup, even if it’s not what you want. It’s just that deep down you worry that the fact they responded to you pushing them away must mean they are thinking of leaving you, and you are rejecting them first to protect yourself.
But then you find a way to draw them close again. And the BPD conflict cycle begins of push pull, push pull….
7. You have thoughts of hurting yourself.
If life all gets too much, you might be tempted to self-harm, another major symptom of BPD.
As the book Mentalisation-based Treatment for Personality Disorders by Batement and Fonagy points out, “Loss of mentalising [understanding yourself and others] lead to interpersonal and social problems, variability, impulsivity, self-destructive behaviours, and violence’.
Is it definitely emotionally unstable personality disorder?
Fit most of the above descriptions? Note that this disorder doesn’t appear out of nowhere. If you recently had a big life change or difficult experience, such as the loss of loved one, you might simply be experiencing emotional shock. Hence your unstable behaviours.
But if you have quite honestly engaged in the sort of behaviours described here since late adolescence, and these sorts of behaviours affect all areas of your life? Then it is worth seeking a diagnosis. You can book a session with a psychiatrist for a full assessment.
Or, if you don’t want to wait (psychiatrists often have waitlists) and want a cheaper option, you can work with a psychotherapist that specialises in one of the talk therapies known to be effective for BPD.
If your therapist thinks, after several sessions of working together, that you are a candidate for a diagnosis? They can then refer you on to a psychiatrist. Otherwise, you can work together to find healthy coping skills that see you manage your emotions and reactions and save your relationships.
Time to talk to someone about your emotional instability? We connect you with psychiatrists and with top London BPD talk therapists. Or find psychotherapists UK-wide on our booking platform now.
Andrea M. Darcy is a mental health and wellbeing expert. She often writes about trauma, relationships, and ADHD, and runs a consultancy advising people on how to plan their therapy journey. Find her on Instagram @am_darcy