Borderline Personality Disorder – Introduction to Symptoms & Causes

Introduction to This Blog Series

I was 27 years old when I entered into the realization that there was something wrong with me and one of the original diagnosis was Borderline Personality Disorder, BPD. 

But, not a lot was known about this horribly stigmatized disorder because BPD patients were considered impossible to treat or wrongly diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. 

Along with BPD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) and Dissociative Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (DDNOS) were also added to my diagnostic mix.

ADHD was quickly debunked and over the past two decades most professionals leaned towards my having PTSD or a Dissociative Disorder – but something about these disorders never seemed to fit.

Add menopause to the mix and the confusion became even more confusing.

Anxiety

Here are past blogs I’ve written about my struggles with anxiety and what felt like PTSD or DDNOS:

Alcohol Addiction

As well, I have a history of alcohol addiction.

On February 17th, 2022 I celebrate my second year living an alcohol-free life.

My Struggles With Alcohol Can be Read in These Blogs:

Present Day

And now, at 52 years old, and after a thorough assessment by a seasoned psychiatrist – I am finally properly diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and Histrionic Personality Disorder.

This blog series called Owning and Unraveling Borderline Personality Disorder & Histrionic Personality Disorder is my way of processing and understanding these complex personality disorders and how they manifest, interfere with and enhance my life.

And, as it has been said to me from friends who have family members with Borderline Personality Disorder, perhaps I can help dispel misconceptions and stigmas associated with these mental illnesses.

As well, perhaps I can shed some light and more personal information on what living with Histrionic Personality Disorder is like, for those who are also walking this path.

With hope,

Stephanie, 💛

December 22nd, 2015 - Cairo, Egypt - Cairo Museum - Statue of Anubis
December 22nd, 2015 – Cairo, Egypt – Cairo Museum

Mixed Emotions and Foggy Brain

I’m 6 days into my diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Histrionic Personality Disorder (HPD).

As of right now, it seems my therapist is focusing on BPD.

I do not know very much about HPD, yet.

I’ve the good fortune of a Monday snow day, turning the regular 2-day weekend into a 3-day weekend.

Another day to process.

I find myself swirling with a thousand different feelings.

Happy because now my behavior makes sense.

Shame because I am flawed with an illness that no one can see that causes me to act and think in certain ways. Today, I am finding this very embarrassing. Thing is – is that I struggle to “see myself” so I have no idea how people see me. My usual conclusion doesn’t end well for me.

I’m disappointed the diagnosis wasn’t PTSD, because this disorder is more socially acceptable as really bad things happen to good people. It’s not their fault. Somebody did something horrible to them and now they are suffering with PTSD.

BPD and HPD have different origins. I will discuss more about what causes BPD later in this blog.

Back to how I am feeling…

One minute I think I have a handle on this, I feel good about it and can see the BPD in me.

The next minute I feel unsure and foggy because my memory is so bad.

But, in this foggy way, I can see how BPD manifests in me. But, because it is foggy – it does not feel real.

Sometimes I do not feel real.

Very difficult to explain.

Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder

The symptoms of BPD, as described on an information sheet published by Mental Illness Fellowship Victoria & Mental Illness Fellowship of Australia Inc, and given to me by my therapist is as follows:

  • Poorly regulated and excessive emotional responses
  • Harmful impulsive actions
  • Distorted perceptions and impaired reasoning including problems with real or perceived abandonment
  • Markedly disturbed relationships
  • People with BPD believe that their distress is to be taken care of by others; they cannot self-comfort and will flee into disappointment. Other people are alternatively idealized and hated.
  • People with BPD have high rates of drug and alcohol abuse

According to Borderline Personality Disorder for Dummies by Charles H. Elliott and Laura L. Smith the Nine Symptoms of BPD are:

  1. Sensation seeking (impulsivity)
  2. Self-harm
  3. Roller coaster emotions
  4. Explosiveness
  5. Worries about abandonment
  6. Unclear and unstable self-concept
  7. Emptiness
  8. Up-and-down relationships
  9. Dissociation: Feeling out of touch with reality

What Causes Borderline Personality Disorder?

The causes of BPD have been difficult for experts to determine.

Once again, according to information sheets given to me by my therapist, published by Mental Illness Fellowship Victoria & Mental Illness Fellowship of Australia Inc, “The current hypothesis (theory) suggests that individuals may be genetically prone to developing BPD and that certain stressful events may trigger the onset.”

As well, the article states these risk factors for the development of Borderline Personality Disorder:

  • Childhood temperament or predisposition
  • Autonomic Nervous System arousal and reactivity
  • Neurotransmitter responsively
  • Brain structure and functioning
  • Perinatal factors
  • Hormones
  • Environmental toxins
  • Cognitive and other neuropsychological factors
  • Prior childhood or adolescent psychopathology
  • Personality structure of traits
  • Faulty or inadequate parenting approaches
  • Child abuse or neglect
  • Peer influences
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Family & community disintegration
  • Being female. 75% of people with BPD are female. (Gunderson & Hoffman, 2005)

According to Borderline Personality Disorder for Dummies by Charles H. Elliott and Laura L. Smith the causes of BPD are outlined in an entire chapter and here are the subheadings:

  • Beginning with Biology
    • Genetics
    • Brain Chemistry and Functioning
      • Brain Chemistry
      • Brain Functioning
  • Psychological Factors
    • Problematic Parenting
    • Abuse and Trauma
    • Separation and Loss
    • Disorganized and Disrupted Families
  • Social and Cultural Influences
    • The Neighborhood
    • Friends and Peers
    • The Teen Years
    • Social Media
    • Cultural Factors
      • Individualism: Me vs We
      • Entitlement and Feeling Too Good
      • Rumination and Self-Absorption
  • Mixing and Matching Risk Factors – Basically one size does not fit all – BPD could happen from:
    • Biological and Psychological Factors
    • Biological and Social Influences
    • Psychological and Social Causes
    • A Full Biopsychosocial Mix

So How Did BPD and HPD Happen to Me?

How did I get these personality disorders?

I have no idea.

A good starting point is to understand my past.

I will be creating a timeline of my chaotic life with my therapist.

This feels promising.

I do not have a lot of memory, and with the help of medically prescribed CBD and THC – the more I talk about my past with my therapist to create my timeline – the more glimpses I am starting to see of it.

What BPD Symptoms Are Responsible For My Diagnosis?

One of the challenges of diagnosing BPD is that each person who is diagnosed may be done so with a completely different set of symptoms than the next person with BPD.

What do I mean by that?

According to Borderline Personality Disorder for Dummies by Charles H. Elliott and Laura L. Smith, diagnosing BPD is like ordering from a Chinese menu.

Why?

Because a diagnosis of BPD requires five of nine major symptoms, and you can come up with dozens of combinations using different sets of symptoms.

Again, the symptoms are:

  1. Sensation seeking (impulsivity)
  2. Self-harm
  3. Roller coaster emotions
  4. Explosiveness
  5. Worries about abandonment
  6. Unclear and unstable self-concept
  7. Emptiness
  8. Up-and-down relationships
  9. Dissociation: Feeling out of touch with reality

So, for example, a person can have symptoms 1, 4, 5, 6, and 9, while another has 1, 2, 3, 7 and 8.

For me, I identify with: 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9

Medically prescribed CBD and THC have helped manage my explosive emotions (the most) because they keep me calm and clear. Explosive emotions were (I think) a late arrival in my BPD symptoms – and now that I think about it – I wonder if hormones (menopause) play a part in that? I don’t think of myself as an angry person. I am typically known as a positive person.

This is confusing for me.

Fear, I’ve always had.

Rage, seems newer.

If someone or something triggers me, I feel intense fear, and yes at times I feel intense rage surge through me. As mentioned, with the help of CBD and THC, I am now better able to implement mindfulness techniques to breathe through these intense emotions until it passes.

Running also helps.

A lot.

As well as weekly therapy sessions.

Writing this blog series also helps as a way for me to “see” myself and understand myself.

I still feel in a fog, but reading my blogs actually helps me see my thinking. I see my processing.

It takes about two weeks for the psychiatrist’s formal assessment letter to be delivered to my doctor and therapist.

I wonder if my assessment of what BPD symptoms I identify with will match her set of symptoms she diagnosed me with.

S, ☀️

Owning and Unraveling Borderline Personality Disorder & Histrionic Personality Disorder

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Sending you hugs. Maggie

    1. Received! 🤗🤗🤗💛🌼

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