Can a person with BPD really love? (Everything you need to know)

In this brief guide, we will start with the question “can a person with BPD really love?”, and go on to discuss other topics related to Borderline Personality disorder like How to handle someone with Borderline personality disorder and Borderline personality disorder relationship pattern.

Can a person with BPD really love?

The question “Can a person with BPD really love?” may be asked given the propensity of these individuals to be highly explosive and have dysfunctional interpersonal relationships, but at the core of their hearts people with borderline personality disorder simply have a deep-rooted fear of abandonment, and even though they are emotionally unstable, they are capable of love.

Borderline Personality disorder is a diagnosis that may make a person seem like someone who is just not capable of a long-term relationship or someone who will always keep getting to relationships without thinking and is not really capable of true love or lasting emotion.

This is a myth, however, because someone with a borderline personality disorder can feel the depth of emotion and they can also make it last, and if they also get treatment and necessary therapy for the condition, they can have relationships like anyone else.

That being said, even though the person with a borderline personality disorder can really love, the relationship itself may be fraught with stormy twists and turns, and they may often be rather volatile and hard to understand.

Threats of violence or self-harm may appear frequently, especially if they are not undergoing treatment of any kind, and borderline personality is also extremely susceptible to deep depression, so it may be very hard to be in love with and take care of such a person.

Borderline personality disorder can make the person confused about their own emotions too sometimes, and this may lead to a lot of problems in the interpersonal arena.

A person with a borderline personality disorder may often suffer from unstable emotional switchbacks, which can be difficult to handle. 

The situation may get exceptionally bad sometimes, even leading to some embarrassing and hard to handle public scenes. 

A borderline personality disorder may also cause a great deal or impulsive behavior in the person, and this puts them at risk for self-harm, but when they are involved with someone in a relationship, it can pose risk to the partner as well.

In some cases, when the couple gets lucky, the partner may be relatively stable or experienced with emotions in some way and they may have something of a positive effect on the emotional sensitivities people with BPD experience, and some of these relationships may also turn into happy, long-term marriages.

Borderline Personality Disorder

To understand the answers to questions like “Can a person with borderline personality disorder really love”, one needs to first understand what borderline personality disorder is.

Borderline perosnality disorder is characterized by emotionally unstable and vulnerable tendencies and impulsive behavior, risk-taking, and intentional self-harm tendencies.

Borderline perosnality disorder is the term given to the problem in the diagnostic and statistical manual, which is widely followed in the United States, while in the International classification of mental and behavioral disorders it is included as a subtype of Emotionally unstable Disorder, where the other subtype is simply known as Impulsive type.

The DSM 5 criteria of the disorder are given as the following:

“BPD is a pervasive pattern of instability in interpersonal relationships, self-image, and emotion, as well as marked impulsivity beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

  • Chronic feelings of emptiness
  • Emotional instability in reaction to day-to-day events (e.g., intense episodic sadness, irritability, or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days)
  • Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment
  • Identity disturbance with markedly or persistently unstable self-image or sense of self
  • Impulsive behavior in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating)
  • Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights)
  • Pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by extremes between idealization and devaluation (also known as “splitting”)
  • Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-harming behavior
  • Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms.”

According to ICD 10, the criteria for the Borderline subtype of the Emotionally Unstable personality disorder is the following:

Emotionally Unstable Personality:

“A personality disorder in which there is a marked tendency to act impulsively without consideration of the consequences, together with affective instability. The ability to plan ahead may be minimal, and outbursts of intense anger may often lead to violence or “behavioral explosions”; these are easily precipitated when impulsive acts are criticized or thwarted by others. Two variants of this personality disorder are specified, and both share this general theme of impulsiveness and lack of self-control.”

Impulsive type

“The predominant characteristics are emotional instability and lack of impulse control. Outbursts of violence or threatening behavior are common, particularly in response to criticism by others.”

Borderline type

“Several of the characteristics of emotional instability are present; in addition, the patient’s own self-image, aims, and internal preferences (including sexual) are often unclear or disturbed. There are usually chronic feelings of emptiness. A liability to become involved in intense and unstable relationships may cause repeated emotional crises and may be associated with excessive efforts to avoid abandonment and a series of suicidal threats or acts of self-harm (although these may occur without obvious precipitants).”

As might be noticed across the criteria given by both classificatory systems, the stress is on the impulsivity and the pattern of dysfunctional relationships, which is likely what leads people to believe that a person with borderline personality order is not able to really love someone.

Borderline Personality Disorder Relationship Pattern

The typical borderline personality disorder relationship pattern tends to go a certain way, and chances are that if someone has had this disorder for some time, they may suffer similarities across their interpersonal relationships no matter how much they love someone.

Sadly, the average length of relationship for a patient of borderline personality disorder tends to be around 2.35 years in a long-term or committed relationship, and chances of their relationship breaking off are fairly high, which only worsens their emotional state.

Usually, the relationships people with borderline personality disorder get into are a result of some risky behavior or impulsive thinking, rather than planned action or attraction and love alone.

It has also been seen that a lot of these relationships may start because they have an intense fear of abandonment, and they need to seek out things that will alleviate this fear.

Going by this theory, there are some stages or phases which may be seen in a lot of borderline personality disorder related relationships, but this is by no means an evidenced generalization, and it certainly does not mean that the person with a borderline personality disorder cannot love.

  • The person panics about possible (real or imaginary), abandonment, and feels the need to seek reassurance and affection.
  • The person may get into unsteady and intense relationships that may go from anywhere between fondness and affection to intense love or idealization, to even dislike or anger or devaluation.
  • During the relationship, the person may display an increasingly unstable sense of self as they get more and more attached to the person and therefore more insecure bout being abandoned.
  • Impulsive and dangerous behaviors, like spending money or sexual recklessness.
  • Self-harm or suicidal behavior/threats, especially when there is a fight or the fear of abandonment gets too much for the person to bear.
  • Extreme mood shifts that may even last for a few hours
  • Feeling empty and hollow.
  • Anger control issues and possible physical and emotional violence towards the partner
  • Feeling cut off from oneself or reality; derealization

How to handle someone with Borderline Personality Disorder?

It may be very hard for someone with no experience to handle someone with a borderline personality disorder, especially if you are in love with this person because their emotional outbursts can be very draining on their partners, even though they don’t mean to do it.

First of all, handling someone with borderline personality disorder should not be a partner’s prerogative in the first place, if someone is suffering from intense and severe borderline personality disorder they need to seek therapy, as being handled by their partner is neither good for them nor the partner.

If the partner does find them in a situation where they absolutely need to handle someone with a borderline personality disorder, they may try some of these tips from professionals:

  • Make sure you take care of yourself too, it can be exhausting on anyone to deal with such intense emotions.
  • Don’t engage with them when they are being violent and aggressive, but don’t walk out on them either.
  • When they get angry with you or get too unstable, don’t appease them by trying to remind them of your love, just be as calm as possible.
  • Take some time off once in a while without letting them think you are leaving them.
  • Try to get them to see a therapist.
  • Try to figure out what their triggers are and if they are avoidable.
  • If they are depressed or threatening self-harm, seek help, and don’t take it as empty threats.
  • Educate yourself as much as possible and you can talk to someone too, see what you may be able to do in your position.

Conclusion

In this brief guide, we started with the question “can a person with BPD really love?”, and went on to discuss other topics related to Borderline Personality disorder like How to handle someone with Borderline personality disorder and Borderline personality disorder relationship pattern. Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions or comments you may have.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Can a person with BPD really love?

Can I trust someone with BPD?

Yes, you can trust someone with borderline personality disorder, as they are simply emotionally unstable and have difficult patterns in their interpersonal relationships, but otherwise, they are good people, and they are certainly the most trustworthy ones in the cluster B category of the personality disorders.

Do borderlines cheat?

Some people with Borderline personality disorder may cheat, but usually, it has been seen that there is a negative association between borderline personality disorder and cheating.

What triggers a person with Borderline personality disorder?

Relationship related problems may trigger a person with Borderline personality disorder.

Relationship related issues may trigger a person with a borderline personality disorder as they have high sensitivity to abandonment and when they feel that they are at risk for abandonment or other negative interpersonal experiences, they may get triggered by it.

Do borderlines have empathy?

Yes, people with Borderline personality disorder can have empathy, and they may be some of the most empathetic of the cluster B personality types.

Research has indicated that patients with borderline personality disorder (BPD) are more sensitive to negative emotions and even though they may have lower levels of cognitive empathy, their levels of emotional empathy are well above average.

Citations

https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/913575-overview#a1

https://icd.codes/icd10cm/F603

https://www.self.com/story/borderline-personality-disorder-facts

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/toxic-relationships/201909/the-drama-loving-borderline

Divya is currently a Clinical Psychology Trainee in a Master of Philosophy program and holds a Master’s in clinical psychology. She has a special interest in Personality studies and disorders, having researched the subject before, and Neuropsychology; with an additional interest being Mood disorders. She likes to write about Psychiatric issues, having worked in multiple specialty setups during her time as a clinical psychology student, and in her free time she likes to cook and read.

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