In this blog post, we will be discussing Borderline Personality disorder (BPD) and breakups, we will start off by getting an idea as to what BPD is, its causes, signs, and symptoms, and the effects of BPD on relationships. Then we move further into why, in a relationship involving a person with BPD, breakups are common and how to handle them in the right way.
What is the link between Borderline personality disorder (BPD) and Breakups?
Breakups are quite tough in any relationship but breakups in relationships where someone has BPD are extremely tricky business.
People with BPD experience intense emotions, extreme mood swings, and have a deep fear of being abandoned which can often compel a person with BPD to break up with the other person to protect themselves from being left and abandoned by the other person.
Sometimes, breakups can happen because the partner who does not have BPD feels overwhelmed, on the edge, and compelled to break up to protect their mental and physical health.
What is borderline personality disorder (BPD)?
People having Borderline personality disorder (BPD) tend to show a pattern of behavior that is characterized by impulsivity and instability around their self-image, their moods, and also in their interpersonal relationships. A central attribute is an affective instability.
Before getting into further details about the characteristic of people with BPD, let us get an idea about what personality disorders are; Characteristics of a person, coping styles, and forms of interaction in the social environment emerge in childhood and usually crystallize into established patterns in late adolescence or early adulthood.
These patterns form the personality of the individual: the set of unique traits and behaviors that characterize the person. Individually. For a personality disorder to be diagnosed, the person’s enduring pattern of behavior must be pervasive and inflexible, as well as stable and long-lasting. It must also cause clinically significant distress or impairment and be manifest in at least two of the following areas: cognition, affect, interpersonal functioning, or impulse control.
Coming back to BPD, American Psychological Association explains BPD as follows; People with BPD display great instability, including major shifts in mood, an unstable self-image, and impulsivity (APA, 2013).
These characteristics become the main roots of the instability and insecurity in their relationships. Their emotions always seem to be at war with the world around them. They are prone to fits of anger, which may sometimes result in physical harm and violence.
They also, however, direct their anger towards themselves due to their impulsivity and inflict physical harm on themselves. They often are very troubled over their prolonged feelings of deep emptiness. Their impulsive, self-destructive actions can range from substance and alcohol abuse to delinquency, unsafe sex, and reckless driving.
Many resort to self-mutilation, such as cutting themselves with sharp objects or burning themselves or hitting their heads onto hard surfaces., etc. Suicidal threats and actions are common among people with BPD.
Causes of BPD
There is no single known cause of BPD, rather a combination of several factors together might lead to BPD – genetics, environmental factors, problems with brain chemicals, and development.
There is no single known gene responsible for causing BPD, however, from a genetic point of view, people with parents suffering from personality disorders or any serious mental health disorders are more vulnerable than others.
Problems with neurotransmitters and their altered levels such as serotonin have been linked to depression and personality disorders such as BPD. Environmental factors also play a major role, being a victim of sexual, emotional, or physical abuse, neglected childhood, etc., are some examples.
Signs and symptoms of BDP
Now that we have a general idea about the characteristics of a person with BPD, let us now look at some signs and symptoms of BPD in simpler terms;
- Severe mood swings,
- an exaggerated fear of rejection and abandonment,
- rapid changes in thinking that oscillates between the perception that someone is perfect for a minute and see them as evil after sometime
- self-harm and suicide attempts,
- difficulty accepting another’s perspective and understanding their emotions,
- impulsive and risky behaviours (substance abuse, unprotected sex, gambling, etc.),
- sharp changes in self-image ranging from worthless to worthy of representation,
If you’re facing this, it may be a good idea to seek the help of a therapist or other mental health professional. You can find a therapist at BetterHelp who can help you learn how to cope and address it.
Borderline Personality Disorder and relationships
When it comes to relationships, people with a borderline personality disorder often enter into intense, conflicted relationships in which their feelings are not necessarily shared by the other person.
Just after a brief initial encounter, a person with BPD may come to idealize and love another person’s qualities and abilities. They can also frequently violate the boundaries of relationships. Because they think in a blank-and-white fashion, they feel rejected easily and get angry when their expectations are not met; yet they remain very attached to their relationships.
In fact, they have persistent fears of impending abandonment and often make desperate efforts to avoid real or imagined breakups with important people in their lives. Sometimes they cut themselves or perform other self-destructive acts to prevent partners from leaving. So, what exactly is it like to be in a relationship with someone having BPD? Given below are a few effects of BDP on relationships.
Effects of BPD on relationships
- Emotional rollercoaster ride
Since emotional instability is one of the critical traits, living with a person with BPD means expecting rapid changes in mood and emotions on a daily basis. Borderline personality disorder and relationships equals an emotional roller coaster ride. They alternate between feeling insecure about your love and feeling overwhelmed by it and withdrawing from themselves from you. But they also tend to keep coming back to you.
- Impulsive behaviours
People with BPD may struggle with sexuality and, in some cases, have been observed to have more negative attitudes toward sex. They are often sexually stressed. Also, one of the key symptoms is sexual arousal during emotional turmoil. This means that borderline personality disorder relationships and cheating can occur at the same time, although not always. Other than cheating, other forms of impulsivities include overspending or substance abuse in. This causes a lot of stress for the partner since, at times they tend to be more unpredictable and impulsive
- Frequent testing of loyalty
Because of their deep-seated fear of rejection and abandonment, they will keep testing you to see if you are going to leave them. Usually, this means they expect you to accept them at worst, while at the same time telling you to leave.
Being married to a man or woman with borderline personality disorder can feel like they want you and at the same time, they act as if they do not.
As mentioned before, they tend to keep coming back even after they break up with you. They can even simply mention breakup because they want to see how you react and if you will try and ask them to stay.
Breaking up with people with BPD
In any kind of relationships, breaking up is tough. More often than not a breakup carries heavy emotions. In the first place, being in a relationship can be tough. Even though there are happy moments and love, there are also moments which are hard to handle.
However, when a relationship involves a person having a borderline personality disorder, things can be more hard than usual. As mentioned above, people with borderline personality disorder can prove to be overly-demanding, erratic, and needy.
For a partner who is not prepared for this, things can go south quite soon. It becomes increasingly stressful to keep continuing in the relationship and hence, may want to breakup. So, if break up is on your mind but you are not sure how to proceed with it, here are some things to keep in mind while breaking up with someone who has borderline personality disorder.
Tips on how to handle a breakup with someone with BPD
- Never yell at them
If you allow your anger to be a justified reaction to the “war” they have waged upon you, someone with BPD will feel more hurt and victimized, become more isolated and might be more likely to strike out further.
- Simply Abandoning a partner with BPD must be avoided if possible
Slowly separate and detach with love and compassion. Sudden quitting can lead to self-harm behaviour or worse. Try to move from a significant partner to a “supporting partner” whenever possible. This is often easier to do when there is independence between the partners (i.e., unmarried or not cohabiting or having no children, etc.).
- Be honest with the person you’re breaking up with.
Don’t tiptoe around your plans to put distance between the two of you. Don’t mislead them, don’t give them false hopes, and don’t show weakness. Be firm, be soft and very clear that there cannot be a reconciliation.
- Take suicidal threats seriously
Try to inform their caretakers or people your partner trusts and cares about. There are also chances that at times, your partner who has BPD might try to use the idea of “suicide” as a form of manipulating or holding you emotionally bound and hostage.
This becomes a complicated scene since there is no way for you to know whether or not the threat is real and for a good reason because most times, these threats do turn out to be real.
The fear of abandonment your partner holds might be too much for them and it prompts them to take dangerous steps completely on impulse. You will need help from outer sources when you are threatened in this way.
We discussed what is BPD, the symptoms of BPD, the causes of BPD, how BPD affects relationships, the effects of BPD on a relationship, and how to handle breaking up with someone with BPD.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): What is the link between Borderline personality disorder (BPD) and Breakups?
What happens when you break up with someone who has BPD?
Because people with BPD have a strong fear of abandonment, separation can leave them feeling desperate and empty. That’s why it’s good to have a support network for you and your partner, especially if a breakup is about to happen. This network often includes mental health professionals.
Should you leave someone with BPD?
Empower the person with BPD by protecting them from the consequences of their actions. If your loved one doesn’t respect your boundaries and you continue to feel insecure, you may need to leave. That doesn’t mean you don’t love and respect them, but if it comes to it, then your self-care should always come first.
How do you help someone with BPD in life?
Try to learn more about BPD and how it works, try to understand and listen to them even if it might tire you, try and encourage them to take help but do not force them. Do not break their trust as this might devastate them. Undergo counselling yourself as caring or staying with a person who has BPD can be stressful. Make sure you seek proper support.
Can people with BPD have friends?
It requires confident communication skills and enough self-awareness to know when to back off a bit. However, if you work on it, it is possible to form long-term, rewarding friendships with people with BPD.
What can trigger a person with BPD?
Separations/breakup, rejections, and disagreements, (actual or perceived) are the most common triggers of symptoms. People with BPD are very sensitive to being abandoned and alone, which causes fear, self-harm, suicidal ideation, anger, and intense emotions of very impulsive decisions.
What happens when you break up with a BPD?
Breaking up with someone with BPD is quite tricky. People with BPD have a deep fear of abandonment and rejection, the breakup can make them feel extremely insecure and their fears coming true that no one really stays or loves them.
It is really important to have a support system to help you and your partner to navigate through the breakup. You can even seek counselling/psychotherapy to help you both better individually and even as a couple.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.).
Gunderson, J. G., Zanarini, M. C., & Kisiel, C. L. (1995). Borderline personality disorder. In W. J. Livesley (Ed.), The DSM-IV personality disorders (pp. 141–57). New York: Guilford Press.
Hooley, J., Cole, S., & Gironde, S. (2012). Borderline personality disorder. In T. Widiger (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of personality disorders (pp. 409–36). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.