BPD and Me: Managing Borderline Personality Disorder


Layla Team

March 22, 2023

What is Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)?

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a mental health diagnosis that affects the way people think and feel about themselves and the world around them. BPD is a complex mental health challenge - people living with the disorder struggle with emotional regulation, and often have other mental health diagnoses. 

Symptoms for BPD may include:

  • Strong emotions (ex. anger, fear, happiness, or shame)
  • Intense mood swings
  • Impulsive and “risky” behaviours (ex. unsafe sex, gambling, or drug use)
  • Fear of abandonment
  • Suicidal thoughts 

People with BPD tend to experience emotions and events in extremes (either all good or all bad). A BPD adult diagnosis can make it difficult to maintain stable employment and healthy relationships without the right supports in place.

What causes BPD?

We don’t know exactly what causes borderline personality disorder, but research suggests a mix of genetic and environmental factors. Possible causes of BPD include:

  1. Genetics: BPD is sometimes seen to run in families, suggesting that there is a genetic component to the disorder.
  2. Early life experiences: People with BPD may have grown up in unstable environments where their emotions were dismissed or ignored, contributing to challenges with healthy emotional regulation. A diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), particularly due to childhood trauma or abuse, also increases the risk of developing BPD later in life.
  3. Brain structure: Some research suggests that BPD may be related to abnormalities in parts of the brain's limbic system, which controls emotions.

How does BPD affect relationships? 

The symptoms of BPD can make romantic, friendship and family relationships difficult to manage. Understanding BPD in relationships can be challenging for both the person with BPD and those around them. Common issues that may arise in a relationship with someone with BPD can include the following: 

  1. Frequent arguments and conflict. Intense emotions associated with BPD, like anger, anxiety, sadness and fear, can be overwhelming for all parties. These strong emotions can contribute to arguments and ongoing conflict.
  2. Jealousy and possessiveness. People with BPD often have a strong fear of abandonment. This can cause them to be overly dependent on their partner or friends. They may also be jealous and possessive, which can hurt the relationship over time.
  3. Unrealistic expectations. People with BPD often see things in black-and-white, which can make it tricky to understand the nuances in a relationship. This can lead to unrealistic expectations of what a relationship should be like. This can also lead to disappointment when people don’t live up to these expectations.
  4. Relationship stress due to impulsivity. It’s common for people with BPD to engage in impulsive behaviours like substance abuse, drinking, reckless driving, or spending sprees. These behaviours can be harmful for the individual with BPD, and can cause stress and strain in their close relationships.

How does BPD affect work?

While it is possible for someone with BPD to work and succeed in their career, BPD can make it harder to get and maintain employment. Emotional instability and impulsive behaviours in people with BPD can interfere with their reliability, professionalism and achievement in the workplace. The following behaviours may show up in people with BPD in the workplace:

  1. Tension and conflict with colleagues. Individuals with BPD often struggle with interpersonal relationships due to intense feelings, mood swings and abandonment issues. This can make working in a team setting or receiving constructive feedback from others very challenging. 
  2. Impulsivity. People with BPD may be more likely to quit a job on the spot or make other quick decisions without considering the consequences. This can impact their ability to maintain employment for long periods of time.
  3. Absenteeism. Individuals with BPD or more likely to have comorbid conditions, like anxiety disorders or mood disorders. These overlapping challenges may increase the likelihood of them missing work or showing up late. 
  4. Self-sabotaging behavior. People with BPD may struggle with self-sabotaging behaviour, such as missing deadlines or underperforming even if they are capable of doing better. This can impact their ability to advance in their careers.

BPD Treatment and Management

It is important to remember that borderline personality disorder is manageable. People with BPD can be very successful in their relationships and careers with the appropriate treatment and support. 

Treatment for BPD usually involves a combination of psychotherapy and medication. Specifically, DBT, or Dialectical Behavior Therapy, is one type of therapy that has been found to be very effective in treating BPD. DBT is a form of psychotherapy that combines elements of mindfulness, acceptance, and strategies for change in order to help people manage their symptoms and create the life they want. DBT can be effective in treating BPD because it specifically addresses the following areas:

Developing mindfulness skills. Mindfulness is the intentional practice of focusing our minds on the present moment and working to accept our thoughts and emotions without judgment. Mindfulness helps us avoid dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. Developing stronger mindfulness skills can be helpful for managing the strong emotional responses often experienced by people with BPD. 

Learning emotional regulation skills. Emotion regulation skills increase our ability to ride the wave of our emotions and better navigate emotionally escalated situations in a value-aligned manner. 

Exploring distress tolerance skills. Distress tolerance skills are a central component of DBT. These skills focus on the ability to tolerate and get through crisis situations without making things worse and to accept reality as it is in this Moment.

Improving interpersonal skills. People with BPD sometimes struggle with maintaining positive, healthy relationships. Learning skills for improving interpersonal interactions through DBT can provide a roadmap for more stable and happier relationships with loved ones. 

Living with borderline personality disorder can be challenging, but it is possible for people with BPD to lead happy, meaningful and fulfilling lives. With the right support systems in place, people living with BPD can manage their symptoms and control the impacts of the disorder on their daily lives. 

If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of BPD or another mental health condition, it is important to seek help from a mental health professional. A psychologist or psychiatrist can help you understand the problem and access an appropriate treatment plan. Learn more here about our psychological diagnosis services.