Working with Borderline Personality Disorder

Over the years, I’ve worked long-term with a number of clients who presented as borderline personality disorder symptoms, and also short-term (i.e., unsuccessfully) with many more.  As a graduate student, early in my internship, the director of our clinic identified me as someone who could work with the more difficult and disturbed clients who came for treatment.  Even after I earned my license and went into private practice, my colleagues sent me such cases.  Low person on the totem pole often gets the least desirable referrals — that is, the ones who can’t afford to pay your full fee and at the same time make you work ten times as hard.

If I have a speciality, it is borderline personality disorder treatment; it’s the type of work I find most rewarding, despite its challenges, and where I do my best work.  I suspect that most therapists prefer to work with the YAVIS client (an acronym that stands for Young, Attractive, Verbal, Intelligent and Successful), but I find I don’t do as well with such people.  In part, it’s because their defenses work so much better at blocking out the really difficult emotions and conflicts (the sort of issues I usually address); it takes much longer to shed light on those feelings, even when I can detect them, and I often push too hard too soon.  I work in the transference, and with the YAVIS client, it usually takes much longer to develop.

With borderline personality disorder treatment, the transference begins when you open the door on the very first day you meet (it may also begin that way with other clients, but it’s less obvious and harder to detect).  For example, at the clinic where I first worked as an intern, I went out to greet a new client for her second or third session and she said, passing by me into the corridor that led to my office, “She’s back there waiting for you.”  As I understood it, she had instantly split off and expelled the needy party of herself and left her behind in the waiting room.  (The YAVIS client would never say such a thing!)  This client had developed an instant, intense and unbearable attachment to me though we’d met just once or twice before; after only a session or two, the breaks between sessions felt like unbearable abandonment.

Another client at the same clinic, a young man who balked at paying even $5 per session, began our third or fourth hour describing a book he was reading, about a girl and the wealthy man who “kept” her in exchange for sexual favors.  I suggested to him that he might have been having such fantasies in relation to me, given the financial difficulties of paying for therapy we’d been discussing last time; he said that yes, he wondered if I would be willing to give him treatment in exchange for blow-jobs.  (My supervisor criticized me for going “too deep too fast,” but to me, it wasn’t “deep” at all — it was just below the surface, obvious to my client and to me.)  This client attached very quickly; when I took a planned break for vacation, he found the abandonment intolerable and terminated.

The client with borderline personality disorder symptoms may also become hostile right at the outset, since intolerable anger and hatred are often core issues.  One such client came for an early session and when I said something that felt to her like a narcissistic injury, she began to scream and continued to scream at me for the rest of the hour.  She left a very polite phone message the following day, informing me that she had decided to seek treatment elsewhere.  I didn’t understand shame at that point in my career and couldn’t reach out to her; she no doubt felt so ashamed after losing her mind with rage in session that she had to terminate in order to escape that shame.  With other clients, I’ve been able to bear with their hostility, make them feel I could tolerate such violence; this often came as a huge relief and felt to them as if it was exactly what they needed.  I’m good at tolerating anger and hatred.

I believe this is because my own therapist was also good at tolerating hatred; he spent years helping me learn to understand and cope with my hostility, the part of me with several features of borderline personality disorder.  I’ve written about him before, referring to him as my inner brat; in my post on the kind of psychological transformation that is actually possible, I tried to describe what it’s like to cope with this part of myself.
Borderline Joe is easily wounded; he may become enraged when he feels slighted by a friend.  He may react to what feels like abandonment with a “I’m going to reject you first” kind of rage.  Borderline Joe doesn’t call the shots and rarely has access to my voice box.  He often makes his presence known but I usually know how to handle him.  I know how to stop his ranting and strive for quiet so that other feelings can emerge.  My long-term clients have a similar relationship with their inner borderlines.

More than anything else, I want this website to help people understand what it means to change in psychotherapy.  The self-help field offers hopelessly idealized “solutions”; even among my colleagues, we almost never talk honestly and freely about what it means to be “post-treatment”, what we’re really like “after psychotherapy.”   For me, for many people I know and clients I’ve worked with, what I’ve described about my own inner life is how
successful change appears.  Borderline personality disorder doesn’t disappear; it becomes manageable, a part of you that you must monitor and curtail so that the healthier parts of you that have grown in treatment can have their say.

Finding Your Own Way:

Do you have an inner borderline?  Does he at first over-react to minor slights before you realize no offense was intended?  Does she have abandonment issues and feels panicky without justiable cause? Maybe you attach very quickly and intensely to new acquaintances.

I’ve known many people (not clients) with these issues who pretend it isn’t true, try to act as if they were “normal” (whatever that means).  It’s difficult talking to such people because what they’re saying often has nothing to do with the emotions they convey — for example, using calm and reasonable language while emanating anger or resentment.  Do you feel ashamed of the borderline personality disorder inside of you?  Do you feel the need to hide him, make her appear “normal”?

If you’re a therapist, do you feel alone in your professional community (as I often do) because it doesn’t feel safe to reveal the truth about your post-therapeutic self?  Do you ever feel alienated by the “I’m so together” way your colleagues try to appear in public?

If you do, drop a comment, send me an email — maybe we’ll both feel less alone.

Joe is the author and the owner of AfterPsychotherapy.com, one of the leading online mental health resources on the internet. Be sure to connect with him on Google+ and Linkedin.

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245 Responses to Working with Borderline Personality Disorder

  1. Paul says:

    Hi Joseph. Great article – thanks. And thanks for your honesty. I’m a psychotherapist too. I grew up with a borderline mother, and a borderline sister who terrorised me. I also spent 8 years of my adult life in a relationship with someone with BPD, before realising what BPD was (“Stop Walking on Egshells” was an absolute lifeline), and realising what I was doing, and getting help. I don’t have full BPD, but I do (or certainly did) have BPD traits. I feel I really understand BPD very well now. But, I have to say that I prefer not to work with people with it, given my own history. So it’s great to hear from someone who works with it so well. Thanks again.

  2. Mary Bast says:

    Thank you. I believe the best therapists are those who are able to look at themselves. I’m not surprised you’re effective with clients others might find too difficult You’re doing your own work and you model that there’s always more to reveal. I look forward to your blog entries.

  3. Wendy says:

    Dr. Burgo,
    Thank you so much for this article. It really gave me some hope. I have been diagnosed with BPD. Early in therapy – I undiagnosed myself. The minute I heard the diagnosis, I read everything I could find. Nothing but negative, negative, negative. It was so disheartening. I even read one therapist who said they would rather work with someone who had schizophrenia than a BPD! Is there really a sliding scale of the worst of the worst? One therapist more or less pulled over and left me on the side of the road.
    My current therapist has made life worth living again. Yea, there have been those days of feeling like unbearable abandonment. But she has stuck with me. We had to go to very rigid boundaries. I hated them, I hated her, I hated the world. But the confidence of learning to live with the boundaries was the turning tide. I have learned to sit with those feelings. I have learned to respect that I know what is not going to help. We started with Marsha Linehan’s workbook. I could not understand it, no matter how hard I tried. I have an MBA; BS in Chemistry, and could not understand this book!! So my therapist told me to find something I could understand. I found it – “Out of Control” by Melanie Gordon Sheets, PhD. I love this book! I have breezed through it. I get it.
    There is hope for people with BPD, even those complicated with PTSD and complicated grief issues!
    Thank so much!!
    Wendy

  4. Evan says:

    Carl Jung (paraphrased from memory): Curing a neurosis is replacing false suffering with real suffering.

    I’m not comfortable with management language. I’m not sure I can come up with a better alternative though. Describing integration in language I find tricky.

  5. Marla Estes says:

    Joe, thank you for walking the talk and continually using your own personal experience as a teaching tool. Among other things, it models vulnerability without shame. Keep going…

  6. Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

    One of the things I have found helpful is not to expect every friend to be an extremely close friend, to enjoy what the person has to offer. I honestly have a very few close friends that I feel I can tell anything, and a somewhat larger number with whom I can share certain areas of my life in depth. It sounds to me as if you are also beginning to enjoy your own company more (reading Shakespeare) — that’s a good thing. But I believe to be a person who explores the kinds of emotions and issues we’re talking about IS to feel lonely to a degree. Just the way it is.

  7. anon says:

    I think it is good that you are willing to make a person feel safe that you will tolerate their rage and hate. I have read online in recent months that there is more hope for Borderline Personalities Disorder than previously thought and that they have been given a bad wrap.

  8. anon says:

    Dr. Burgo, you say that you only have a few close friends. I’m not sure how many is normal but I thought that was the idea of a close friend. I too try not to expect too much out of any friendship. It is a good strategy. I have been blessed to get to know some people better. One of my friends has a blog so I was able to get closer to her that way in addition to our phone calls, and emails. I have seen her face to face twice, which a lot for me with my condition. Sorry to sound like a broken record about my condition. I don’t like to burden friends with it or with anything really. Once in a while I may vent a little. I don’t want to be a downer.

    I try to focus on the things I like about myself and I do put up some walls such as not inviting feedback that could hurt me. It is not that I think I would crumble. But why have something that will upset me if it can be avoided. I like myself in a lot of ways. I find that I like something about everybody that I get to know. I am not one of those black and white type of thinkers. I have heard that borderline personality types may only think of a person in light of their last visit. If it was positive, they like them if it was bad then they hate them. Even those who I am angry with, I can think of their good qualities. Somebody told me once that I know myself pretty well and maybe that helps me to know others. But I don’t know what it going below the surface always and as my life is going okay, I don’t want to rock the boat. The only thing that I desire that I don’t have is to live with my parents and have my own space such as bathroom etc. I don’t care if I don’t get over my mental problems. I am happy other than worrying about harming people or falling short of what I should do in life.

    I am a pretty accepting person when it comes to others. But in many ways it is more of a conscious choice now than when I was at a stage when I just liked everyone regardless.

    I don’t think I could stand it if I hated a therapist. That would be very hard to deal with for me. And I would not like to think of a therapist disliking me either.

    I don’t mind if people are neutral to me but I really do not like being disliked.

    I don’t think I am borderline. I have never been diagnosed. Then again, I have never been diagnosed bipolar as far as I know but the shoe seems to fit.

    • emma says:

      You sound like me before i accepted my diagnosis. i hoped i was bipolar for 14 years. maybe you are, but please dont rule out BPD until you have sound medical opinion, impartial and non judgemental. i do not behave like an abuser, i am not wilfully self centered and yet here i am, a full blown BPD sufferer. we arent all how negative press reports us to be. just be open to the possibility that you may have BPD, it doesnt make you a monster, in fact i have known some BPD sufferers to be the most empathic human beings, full of love alongside the anger and frustration. we get a very bad press, but there IS hope.

      • anon says:

        I don’t know if this will post but I just wanted to say to Emma that it was really nice of her to take the time to write this. Her reflection of people struggling with the disorder is a dignified one. I hope she is doing well with her recovery. I will certainly consider her words.

  9. Reiko Joseph says:

    Thank you for your wonderful post. You have a gift for conveying complex psychological concepts in ways that are so accessible. I really appreciate your insight about the nature of the work and your honesty about your subjective experience.

    I notice you often refer to your own self-states (e.g. Borderline Joe or Narcissistic Joe). I was curious if you felt psychological phenomena such as “narcissistic injury” and “Borderline rage” can also exist as part of ordinary (i.e. non-pathological) human experience. In other words, I know few people who do not feel injured when harshly criticized or furious in response to say, spousal infidelity. Do you make a distinction between “ordinary” injury and narcissistic injury? Are all perceived injuries to the self narcissistic? Is there such a thing as ordinary anger? Or even ordinary rage?

    Thanks again for an extremely helpful and interesting post. I look forward to the next one!

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Interesting questions. I guess I think it isn’t the injury that makes it different so much as the way you deal with it. Some people can tolerate a “narcissistic injury” better than others — feel the pain but not be swept away by it — while others can’t tolerate even the least bit of rejection or insensitivity. To my view, it all comes down to how well each of us can bear pain (of all different varieties) and the strategies we use to escape it when we can’t.

  10. Renee Segal says:

    Joe,
    Thanks for being so transparent. I understand the title of your blog better now, “After Psychology”. I always wanted to be a therapist but when I was young I thought my family was too messed up for me to be one. Once I went to grad school I realized that maybe my family wasn’t messed up enough. I was touched by your blog in many ways, the most relevant being the need to embrace our own wounds. If we don’t, then we “other” the client and can’t be completely compassionate. I understand the emotional deregulation of loving and idealizing a person completely and then suddenly experiencing deep anger at them the next moment. In fact, this happened to me very recently with someone in an authority position over me. The splitting I felt took me by surprise and gave me great compassion for my clients. It was an ugly and awful feeling to hate someone so deeply in that moment. Unfortunately, I am not great working with BPD and often I am not even sure that someone has features until I am in supervision or consultation trying to sort out my own confusion. I know that the community wants us to refer them to DBT, I am reluctant to give the diagnosis because “personality disorder” has such a nasty reputation. It takes a special person to be grounded and not swept up in the flurry of emotions working with people with these features. I am glad to know that there are people out there that are competent and can do it. I believe we heal in relation with our therapists, I know I have with mine. Joe, I really enjoy your postings. Thank you, I look forward to reading more of what you have to say.
    Renee

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Thanks, Renee. And I agree totally about the way we can “other” our clients. I don’t understand how anyone who hasn’t been through extensive therapy the way you have can really do the work. You can’t address something in your clients if you haven’t faced it in yourself.

  11. anon says:

    I was pretty close for years to someone who probably had borderline from what therapists told her. She also was an alcoholic and manic depressive. It was hard when she was suicidal but other than that and when she would say too much sexual stuff, I liked our friendship. She usually was pretty respectful of my time. She would give hints if I hadn’t called in too much time like it was too long. But she wasn’t overly dependent on me and used her long distance minutes with someone else mainly. What I liked about her is that she was honest about her shortcomings and didn’t try to act like something she wasn’t. It was very hard for her to open up and when her therapist was leaving, she didn’t feel like she could start with square one and confide in another. Plus, she lives in such a rural area. What was interesting to me is that I had just read something about how borderlines have magical thinking where they think their thoughts can harm others and then we talked and she brought up an incident that had just happened where she thought something bad about a person and something happened and wondered if it was her fault. I thought it was almost like a little kid how should would think that. On the other hand, I worry someone might be harmed if I sin or something but it is different, I think. I had not told what I read prior and I don’t think I did after other than to tell her that it couldn’t be her fault.

    She had good points such as having her children go to bed at a decent hour and makng sure they had square meals. Also, she was protective of them and did want them to do things with the opposite sex prematurely or anything.

    She had a fear of stairs but got very drunk at one point to be able to do laundry because she didn’t want someone else to do it. I think she also made herself go in a store because she said that she was over 30 and shouldn’t be taken care of like a baby. Although I don’t think drinking to the point of being drunk is good, I admired her for doing what she felt she needed to do for independence. This is coming from someone who is very dependent, of course.

  12. What a great article, sensitively handled.

  13. I don’t know if I have BPD, but I participate in DBT. It has taken a long time for the skills to “sink in”. I have been participating in the group on and off for about ten years. If I am BPD no one has ever shared this diagnosis with me. Is this something therapist usually share with their clients? I’ve never been in a position where I had to diagnose patients, so I have never been in that situation.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      The only time I ever discuss a diagnosis with a client is when I have to provide one for an insurance company, and I would never submit BPD for that purpose — too much of a stigma. I don’t find much value in diagnosis anyway; to me, what matters is (at some point) for the client to understand the severity of their difficulties. So often, people with BPD symptoms struggle with shame about how ill they are and then defend massively against the awareness of it.

  14. Alisha says:

    I have been suffering with BPD for over 15 years; I am 29 years old right now. I had a good therapist that helped me much, but we kind of reached a wall where I didn’t feel he could help me any further.

    I have stopped the cutting sorts of self-injury, but continue to struggle with sabotaging other areas of my life (namely relationships, of course). I struggle with manipulating people (mostly my husband), and have gotten to a point where I am self-aware enough to notice it’s going on. It’s like I am watching it happen, screaming at myself, “NOOOOOOO! Why are you doing that?! Stop!” and I just can’t seem to stop it. It’s more frustrating than not knowing it’s even happening, in my opinion.

    I have tried CBT, DBT, and EMDR and none have been particularly helpful. I am also dealing with crippling depression that is not medication responsive. ECT has been suggested to me, but I am too terrified to even consider it.

    My husband is the best thing that has happened to me, and I just want to figure out how to stop manipulating him and pushing him away- I figure if I “let out enough of my crazy” he will finally leave me and have had enough. God only knows I would not have put up with the constant ups and downs that I have put him through.

    The worst, and hardest for him to understand, is my hypersensitivity- though it doesn’t come out in a crying sense; it comes out in a “freaking out”, angry sort of way. Things that would be a minor inconvenience to someone else are enough to make me freak out- it feels like the end of the world, and no amount of trying to reason with me, makes me get it emotionally, though intellectually I can grasp it.

    I have tried to explain to my husband that the best way he can help me is to stand his ground, no matter how much I push (and that it is inevitable that the more firm he is, the harder I will try to “break” him). I love him and I don’t want to mess up this relationship too.

    One thing you said in your article on empathy really struck home for me: “Often, this kind of empathy has developed as a survival mechanism when the parents were unstable: getting what you needed from them depended a lot on picking your moments, knowing when your mother or father was emotionally available and when you needed to stay clear. Sometimes such children rely on empathy in an attempt to “cure” their parents, hoping this will make them more available and able to provide what is needed emotionally.” I often didn’t know which mom I was going to be talking to- the “reasonable mom” or the mom who would bite my head off. I am worried I will end up like this with my own children, and I don’t want them to go through anything like what I went through in my childhood- my mother had alcoholic parents and was not really able to show me love and empathy because she was never shown it herself. She doesn’t “believe in depression” and is not at all understanding of my “conditions”.

    I don’t know if there’s any sort of advice you can offer me, but I’m simply laying it all out.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      What you have said to your husband is exactly right — that’s what you need, and clearly never got growing up. It’s a lot of responsibility for your husband, however; essentially, it puts him in the position of “re-parenting” you. In my work with borderline patients, what you’ve told your husband you need him to do is exactly what I have done. This kind of aggressive anger — pushing and pushing at the limits — constitutes the core of the work for a long time. Clients often want to see if I will “lose my mind”; they want to see just how far they can go and whether I can tolerate them. Sometimes, I’ve had to “lay down the law,” so to speak, and tell a client he can’t speak to me in that way — I mean, when she has been SCREAMING at me for a while and nothing I say seems to make any difference. (This is when I have reached my emotional limits.) As I’ve discussed elsewhere, there’s a lot of gratitude on the other side, after having rage and hatred tolerate by a therapist for years. By bearing with someone who has “lost his mind” with anger, by keeping my own mind, I help her to grow and develop her own mind and capacity to “hold” her experience and not be overwhelmed by it. This process takes a long time; it’s not for the faint of heart and requires dedication to the treatment on both sides.

      My advice would be not to lean too much on your husband for that kind of help; yes, he needs to do just what you told him in the context of your relationship. But I think you need to find a trained professional who can work in the way I’m describing. Let me know if there’s any way I can help you find someone.

  15. ACM says:

    Dear Wendy and Dr. Joseph Burgo:

    I have been dealing with BDP since 2000(or at least this is when I started to realize something was wrong with me). At the beginning I was diagnosed with severe depression. My psychiatrist never realized that my problem was another and more complex, eventhough he gave me some king of psychotherapy, it never had a possible effect on me.
    Since I was not able to see any improvement, I started to search on the web, and there it was. Every single symptom mentioned it was me. I am a borderline. I went and spoke with my doctor. I told him what I found and he told me that in fact I was a borderline, based on my research and all of those hours of “therapy” he gave me.
    He told me that unfortunately here in our country nobody treats persons like me, in fact it’s true.

    After almost eleven years suffering from this, several suicide attempts, lots of cutting, suffering, a life full of grief, pain, without one day knowing what happiness is, the only thing they can do for me is giving me medicines such as anti-depressants. I have been using all you can think of. Even psychotic medicines, Just name it.
    I do not know what to do at this point. I pray every single day God can take me with him, it’s too much pain. But when I read blogs like this one, I see there is a little hope. I truly believe my life can be better; the only thing is that in my country we have so much limitations. Any papers, sites, anything you can think off that can be of help, I will really appreciate it. I truly need some guidance.
    Thanks so much.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      There is definitely hope. You probably want to keep searching for a therapist who knows how to work with BPD. It is simply not true that nobody here in this country treats people like you. I do, and I know there are others like me.

      • ACM says:

        Yes, I know in the USA there is help. But I am from Honduras, Central America. That is why It has been so hard for me to cope with this disease. If you have any documents, sites, anything, is more than welcome. Regards Dr. Burgo

        • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

          Given your location, I think the best thing you can do for the time being is to try to develop a practice of mindfulness meditation. It won’t address the core issues as psychotherapy might but it should help you develop some skills for better containing your more difficult feelings so they don’t just overwhelm and take you over. I wish I had books to recommend but I don’t know of anything that will give you what you need.

        • Dear Friend,
          I hope that you will look at two internet sites. The website above which provides some self-help options in case you cannot find a therapist and johnofgod.com in Abadiania, Brazil.
          All the best,
          Maria J

    • emma says:

      there are DBT self help sites online, with excercises you can try to follow, try searching for “DBT self help” these may help you understand how you can make some improvements on how you cope with emotions. there are also workbooks on DBT that you can buy but im not sure about price or availability in your country. the full name is Dialectical Behavioural Therapy, and its considered one of the best ways to deal with BPD. good luck.

  16. allison says:

    I’m a recovering borderline and I find your article to be insulting. I don’t like it when therapists or doctors put all of us borderlines into a category, like we all behave the same and exhibit the same symptoms. Not all borderlines are difficult to work with. I did DBT and I see a therapist regularly. We get along very well. I’ve maintained a positive attitude since the beginning. I know there are a lot of borderlines who have difficulty controlling their anger and who don’t make much of an effort to get better. But haven’t you heard the saying Marsha Linehan said.. that the client doesn’t fail therapy. the therapy fails the client.
    Please don’t categorize us all and imply that we are all the same.
    I think I am actually different than a lot of borderlines. I found DBT to be life-changing. But I’ve always done a lot of research and read all the books out there, because I want to be fully informed about my illness. I take responsibility for it because I want to get better. I can go to therapy for years but without a positive attitude, I’ll never get better.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      If you had spent any time on my site, you wouldn’t have accused me of categorizing people in the way you describe; I am fiercely opposed to diagnostic labels and putting people into groups that end all inquiry about meaning. At the same time, there are, in my experience with a number of patients who would likely be considered “borderline”, some common features. One of them is to take offense where none is intended, to become indignant and accusatory in the face of an imagined insult that feels to them like a narcissistic injury. This hostile comment feels very familiar to me from my practice.

      • Anon says:

        Very well said!

      • Snow says:

        It doesn’t feel good to have imagined insults or narcissistic injuries. It doesn’t feel good to be constantly reevaluating ones behavior because of being in pain and having coping strategies or default defense mechanisms which cause chaos in their lives. I think few would want to behave in ways that alienate themselves from others, we are already alone in our pain. We BPD individuals are not looking to be called hostile or indignant, our pain is so intense it at times over powers our deep longing desire to connect with people. I think BPD individuals are needing compassion and empathy, two character traits themselves are difficult, even for the non-personality disordered individuals to have. Challenged as we are, I admire those BPD individuals who are willing to seek help to change. I am thankful for therapists like JB who are willing to not take the easy road and actually using and applying the human behavior knowledge they have.

    • emma says:

      positive attitude does not only extend to yourself, but to others also. hostility is bad for anyone, but it is poison to me as a BPD sufferer. i dont judge you for being offended, but i do disagree with your perception of the above article. i find the article insightful and refreshing in that its tone is hopeful and objective whilst being compassionate. extremely unusual considering the subject. we are not all the same, and the above article doesnt portray us to be…us being BPD sufferers. for me, an important thing to remember about my reactions and perceptions is basically, it aint what i read, its the way that i read it. my perception can be affected, negatively or positively, due to my BPD.

    • Anon says:

      Allison,
      You are clearly not recovering well.

    • Snow says:

      I understand what you are saying Allison.

      The first time I read your response I got it. The second time, I too thought hostile, BUT the third time, I thought hmmm, that is strange that I would feel differently the second time. I then thought, wait, if I wrote this, what tone would I have, because I relate to working my therapy like Allison!

      And you what, my tone, would be this : I am working on my BPD and am proud of my success; I am struggling with what this article says, but I am actively working on being better, so let me share with readers that change is possible, change is making me thrive. I want other BPD people to know they too can be different than the label or category. I would be typing your response with a smile on my face, thinking in a soft, caring, compassionate voice. I would be scared too. Scared sharing with strangers the peace I have learned.

      Unfortunately, all that can’t immediately be seen from the written word. And because people at most times are not at their best, we are burdened with the BPD stigmatism. I am glad you are working your therapy. You are an encouragement for me to continue to work mine.

  17. EXCELLENT BLOG ENTRY!

    In my personal opinion (and coming from my own experience of having BPD), you’ve definitely touched on some major points that define an individual with Borderline. As I was reading it, I felt as I could relate to what you had said, and in a way, that was comforting… kind of like feeling relieved because someone else in the world understands the hell I have to deal with, if that makes any sense.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      It IS hell, and I do understand. I realize not everyone will have the same experience, but I have definitely seen people suffer in ways that have a common thread.

  18. Ross Avery says:

    It was borderline joe that struck a chord here.I was diagnosed with bpd in 2006
    after 40 years of mental and physical agony.I completed intensive group therapy over
    two years ago.Six months out and life became almost intolerable with daily anxiety
    attacks lasting 4-6 hours and a myriad psychosomatic changing symptoms.I was
    grateful for a diagnosis as it led me to seek help and ignore narcissistic Nick,and in
    therapy i was able to identify the other dozen or so individuals that have driven my life
    since childhood body trauma trapped me age 7.I read very little about therapy and
    despise self-help books as infantile(hello,Nick)What I do read confirms that
    psychiatry seems to be stuck in the middle ages,and that nobody seems to have the
    bigger picture of life after therapy,even my therapists,from whom I am waiting for
    more help as I feel unable to progress alone.Yes,therapy helps the daily fight for
    release,but only the patient will feel that time,and that time comes at a price-
    continuing to realize that we are all more than a diagnosis,and that the multiple
    functions of our personality are capable of being re-trained.

  19. emma says:

    thank you for a fantastic article. i sincerely hope that you share the insight into BPD that you have with as many professionals as possible. this disorder needs to be taken seriously, considering the sheer prevalence of the illness. and the professional community needs to take more responsibility when it comes to dealing with and treating BPD. we are expensive, we are a drain on medical resources…yes these stigma can be very true however the biggest reason for them is improper care in the first place. if more professionals become aware, this can and will change. you can help so many people, please continue spreading the word and it will make a difference.

  20. ryan says:

    Thank you for your well-written, inviting info, self-awarness/disclosures about bpd. I have worked with three cases over my four year career, and this current client being the third. I will now sleep better knowing I am not alone in this fight to help people, so emotionally exhausting. Really hope we can have an open correspondence regarding ?s regarding bpd. In addition, maybe my supervisor would be willing to pay u to have a skype session w us. Thanks again :)

  21. rie says:

    well thank you all for working with borderlines. i grew up with a clinical psychiatrist mother telling horror stories every night at the dinner table about the borderlines and how she will never treat them. then surprise! i was diagnosed at 34. it was so funny because she kept saying, “are you sure it’s not ocd? the therapist must have gotten it wrong. try someone else.” but it was the only diagnosis that has truly helped lead to me to root issues. bless all practitioners and linnehan.
    i have made so much progress in just one year because of one open clinical psychologist familiar with dbt. we are not so terrible. just misunderstood and understreated.

  22. Sally says:

    I was first attracted to your articles a few months ago and as I read more, then to your site. This is the first I have read anything about your BPD stuff….wow! It is so interesting to me because I am a high-functioning BPD, self-diagnosed about 15 years ago. I had already had 20+ years of therapy (Transactional Analysis, group therapy, hypnotherapy, just “regular?” therapy) prior to my finding out about BPD in 1997 by chance from an article shared by a friend. None of those therapists had ever mentioned BPD. I had improved through therapy, but there was always still something missing. Finding out about BPD was like finding the last key to open the last door. I’ve not had professional treatment for BPD but have done “self-treatment” online. I got lucky and found a great online group where I was an active member for about seven years, and in combination with my previous therapy and my active recovery program (27-1/2 years clean and sober), I do pretty well these days. I really look forward to reading the wisdom you share, as I’m still always intrested in improving myself. Thank you!

  23. Julie says:

    I have been seeing a client for 3 years now. She is diagnosed as Borderline. When she comes into my office she presents as a five year old child. She does things totally out of character of the client. There are other personalities who present themselves in emails and in the office. Some are timid and scared. The situation if further complicated as there is a lot of past trauma in the clients life.

    Additionally, this female client was allegedly sexually abused by a female therapist she had for 6 years. The therapist was reported and found guilty of counter transference and boundry issues. The sexual assault was not put in the complaint by the client as she thought it would make her not credible.

    The client also presents with huge trust issues, constantly is mind reading and paranoid.

    Your thoughts would be welcomed

    Julie

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Your client is the sort of person who can be best helped in the context of the transference — attempting to understand the interactions that go on between you during the session is the only way I know how to make sense of this kind of confusion/boundary issues/projections. CBT or any other kind of behavioral technique will be useless. Meds really can’t address her profound pain and confusion.

      • Julie says:

        You do not think she suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder but rather she is transferring on to me and she misuses boundaries and projections?

        • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

          I wouldn’t bother with a diagnosis nor do I think she’s “misusing” anything. She’s communicating with you in a very primitive fashion, via projection, and she’s bringing all the confusion she feels about her own identity and boundaries into the room. Your job is to try to understand what she’s telling you.

  24. Cath says:

    Thank you for this article. I have complex PTSD (DESNOS), not borderline – although my new therapist says I got a “borderline personality structure” – I think this means that my lack of out-of-control-rages combined with preferring no relationships to intense but short ones prevents me from getting a borderline diagnosis, but that my basic personality style is borderline. That’s at least what I think. My therapist is doing Schema therapy with me, that’s a relatively new thing, don’t know if you’ve heard about it. It’s supposed to be very helpful in both c-PTSD and BPD, since this is my third try at therapy I guess it should better work this time. I also started attaching myself to her very early, I think I cried in our very first session. And I think I’m messing up her session planning (I think Schema therapy is supposed to be very structured), eg. last time I told her cooly about some events in my life – only to suddenly start crying again towards the end because abruptly all my coolness was replaced with fear and lonelieness… Well, maybe you know all this :-}

    Cath

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I don’t know much about Schema therapy, but if it doesn’t work out, drop me a line and I’ll try to help you find someone who might be prepared to work in a psychodynamic way with you.

      • Cath says:

        Thank you for your offer! I think this therapy should better work out though, since I ended my last one very abruptly. And at least currently I think my therapist is brilliant – I know I do black-or-white-thinking, but I really hope I’ll be able to still talk to her when things go wrong in my eyes.

  25. Sherrye says:

    Dr. Burgo
    I’m looking for a therapist for my nephew in the WinterPark/Orlando, Florida area. Any recommendations?

  26. Xanthe Wyse says:

    Recently I wrote about the dysfunction in my family – I am scapegoat in my dysfunctional family. Quite a few people contacted me and said they thought my mother sounded like BPD.
    I have looked up BPD and while it generally fits, my mother doesn’t do cutting etc (she does eat to excess and is obese, as is my older sister).
    I am diagnosed Asperger’s and so is my son. My son is very black-and-white in his thinking. I’m not quite so extreme (I used to be because of religious upbringing which I eventually discarded). There are lots of rigid view points in family members and obsessive-compulsive type personality traits.

  27. I am a 79 year old widower with an unmarried daughter living 650 miles away diagnosed as bipolar/borderline ten years ago…because she is unemployed and bankupt she has been attending a free clinic that has screwed up her meds and caused a major relapse…complicating is her never married brother who lives near me and disowned her years ago and thinks I should…I feel pressured to choose which one to support and it is stressful trying to maintain relationships with both of them separately…what is there for me to get help in the mental health business/?…thanks….lt

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I’m not sure I understand your question. Are you asking for guidance in getting help for yourself, about how to cope with stressful relationships with your children?

  28. Jay says:

    I have one BPD patient . Just one and the stress is starting to get to me. It is becoming a nightmare. She cuts, threatens suicide, hits her peers, urinates on the floor and yells at the top of her lungs when she does not get her way. She pulled the fire alarm during her tour of the building because she wanted to be let in the music room. That room was under construction. I explained to her why she could not go in there , her answer was ” how do you know “. I pointed to the ” under construction keep out ” sign. She replied ” well you still don’t know that” . She then proceded to yell at me for not taking her side.

    Another example, she ordered cereal for breakfast the night before. She woke up and asked for oatmeal and bananas . We did not have any oatmeal. We offered cereal and bananas. She flipped a few chairs, threw her tray at the kitchen staff, threatned to kill herself and burn the place down. That lasted 3 hours. There was no talking with her, no pacifyng her. Finaly she was placed in restraints and medicated. She sleeps 10 hours.

    Emphaty does not work, group therapy, one on one, drawing, meditating, bribery, nothing . Yes, I brided her with snacks, tried a few reward systems.

    She’s in her early 20s , as I am. I can not reach that girl. She hates me one day and can not live without me the next. My colleagues are all sick of her. Being the youngest of the staff , she’s is mine until she leaves.

    I am seriously considering switching to hospice care. She has no bounderies and does not respect mine. For example, I stated that I am uncomfortable with kissing on the cheeks, hugging , holding hands and such . However I do shake hands. She will try to hug me every time I see her, or touch my clothes, hair , to touch my papers. I’d say “please don’t “, she ‘d say ” but I want to see what it is” or ” they are just papers”. Yes papers that are on my lap . That make my blood boil.

    Any advice ?
    Thank you for your time.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      With this kind of client, you have to be clear on what “empathy” actually means. In this case, it means empathizing with her hatred and murderous rage. You need to let her know you understand what she’s feeling; beneath that, I’m sure she’s terrified that no one can help her master these feelings and set limits for her.

      So, in addition to setting some very firm limits with her and the staff, I would be saying things to her like: “I think when you don’t get you way and I won’t do what I want, you hate my fucking guts and you want to kill me.” Or I would say: “You will stop at nothing to control me and everyone else and make us do what you want. If we don’t, you’ll shit and pee all over everything, which you feel is a murderous attack on people who won’t comply.” When I see the evidence for it, I’d also say: “I think you’re terrified of the violence of your feelings, and scared that you actually will destroy everything that matters to you in your world.”

      On the days when she loves you and behaves in an affectionate way, I’d say: “You’d like to forget all about yesterday, when you screamed at me and hit me. You want to pretend that all that destructive rage you felt yesterday has disappeared, and now you’re full of loving feelings. But it won’t last. The minute I don’t comply with your expectations, you’ll turn on me.”

      You asked for my advice. These are the kinds of things I say to my borderline clients. Although you won’t see it on the surface, it comes as a huge relief to them. Plus the staff needs to be very clear on the limits and the consequences. Iron-clad and unrelenting. Her rages and omnipotence needs to be contained. You’re right, she has no boundaries, and for right now, you have to enforce them for her until she can internalize them.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I decided to write a detailed post about these issues, Jay. You can find it here.

  29. Jules says:

    I am still a bit confused about what constitutes BPD. It seems like such a vague diagnosis. It sounds like a “catch all” for all the negative aspects of the human race, all the defense mechanisms possible, put in a box, tied up with a neat little bow. If one sees a few symptoms, does that mean we have BPD?

    I was excited not only to find this page, but Cath’s response. I tend to avoid relationships, push people away, think in black and white, and find most people irritating and sometimes offensive. I also get depressed, but I know I play a large role in that. It also doesn’t help that in this day and age it is very difficult to connect with people- everyone is so busy, prefers texting and superfical contact to in-depth relationships, etc. I literally have nobody I can confide in, because I don’t want to dump my stuff on anyone. Calling people just to talk just seems so inappropriate these days. So…

    …I tend to avoid, but now that I have done some research, there seems to be avoidant behavior woven into BPD. I’m starting to wonder if most people that are not perfectly well-adjusted have some form or degree of BPD. I prefer not to put that label on myself- do I need MORE black and white thinking? ;)

    I did appreciate the comment about “Borderline Joe”- it may be more useful to many of us, we can acknowledge those parts of ourselves without having to deal with such a negative label.

    I have a question about anger but will bring it up at another time. Thanks!

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Jules, I’m not big on diagnosis, first of all, but speaking as a clinician, the borderline personality is something you immediately know when you see it — it’s not subtle. From your description of yourself, you don’t sound as if you’re borderline, although you may have a part of you, “Borderline Jules”, that’s a lot like that side of me.

  30. Jules says:

    And dear god, I don’t want to be diagnosed with the same disorder that Jay’s client has!!!

  31. Jules says:

    That helped more than you know! I feel some peace now. :)

  32. elsie says:

    I am very impressed with the articles I have been reading on here. Not having much of an understanding of BPD I have found this very helpful and also the comments that are left from sufferers have helped a lot. They should be proud of themselves that they can open up and talk about their own experiences. The reason I have taken an interest in this page is to give me some guidance on how to deal with somebody who has BPD as I am having trouble from a sufferer. All I can say is that they are very angry and the threats have now gone beyond a joke. What can I do?…..I want to understand them ?

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Without knowing more, all I can say is — be careful. It’s good that you want to understand this person, but you need to protect yourself from emotional abuse. Working with bpd means you need special conditions and training. There’s is nothing you can do to help that person and you need to look after yourself first.

  33. elsie says:

    Thank you very much for your response. I feel that if the abuse does not stop soon I will have to report it as my family and I do come first. Although I am on the understanding that the person has been to and is still having therapy I am not sure what can be done. still again I thank you and I look forward to reading more posts as my son and I are finding the topics mentioned on this site very interesting. My son is in his second year of college studying Psychology and looking towards the clinical side of it.

  34. Hello,
    I have just come out of 18 months DBT, finished sessions with my individual therapist less than a month ago. I am suffering transference issues, whereas I am very infatuated with anything to do with my therapist, and would need to know whether this is anything I need to go back to him for or whether time and distance will do the trick.
    Bets wishes
    Wickie

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      If your therapist works in the DBT mode, I’d be surprised if he’d be prepared to take up transference issues with you. Therapists who work in the cognitive-behavioral mode don’t usually take up the transference as a therapeutic tool for understanding a client’s issues.

  35. AOT says:

    thank you for being so real and reading this really enlightens me. I am therapist and i have borderline and I cant agree more with what you wrote, Borderline disorder does not go away, it just becomes manageable.
    In therapy sessions with clients, there are so many pros that this disorder has brought me. Also with the recovery work that I have been working on myself, it made me less fearful of my own overwhelming emotions and hence the emotions of others. I am able to recognise emotions of others in a jiffy, simply because I am accustomed to feeling tenfold of what they are feeling. More often than not, i go deep really fast and i have been struggling with that because I was taught that there are processes to go through and I managed to skip all that and get to the crux of it really fast and that its good for some clients and not for others and I would know when they dont show up the next session.
    There are days when I struggle- when i am not centered during sessions. The emotions of others will trigger me and I could feel the intensity of emotions. Thats when I feel the borderline in me surface during sessions.
    Days like that i tend to avoid therapists who seems that they have got everything together and i bring myself to a corner and dissect everything, not before i calm myself down. These are the days when i feel terribly alone. My spouse, a fellow therapist understands that I am a borderline but sometimes the look in his face during my borderline moments speaks a thousand words. I have since accepted that there is only so much that one can understand and also I trigger lot of his unresolved issues.
    I am glad that i read what you wrote. it brings me comfort knowing that i am not the only borderline in the profession.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Thanks so much for a talking about your experience. Given your honesty in facing those difficult emotions, I’m hopeful that, over time, you’ll learn to manage them better, to recognize them quicker and to be overcome by them less often. And I relate to what you say about sometimes going too deeply too fast with clients. I have the same issue and have to rein myself in a lot of the time.

  36. Ms Leftie says:

    I have found this post to be very interesting as someone who has BPD. I am currently in an 18-month therapy programme, where I have a 121 with a male therapist and take part in a group session with both him, a female therapist and six other patients.

    I feel anger, hate and more often care for my male therapist. I was terrified of working with him in 121’s in this new group when I was aware he was running it because we have a history that goes back a few years. Whilst it is a long story, the end comes when I walked out of a previous group he use to co-run because he pressurised me into talking about my suicidal thoughts. This happened six weeks after the death of my mum and was for me the first time I have ever been suicidal and making plans. I consider myself to be someone who is not a typical Borderline, I am quiet and find it very difficult to show my feelings or talk about what is going on inside my head.

    I did not see him for 18 months, although I communicated via letter once to inform him and the remainder of the group how life was going, I recovered and signed up to college and was planning on starting university.

    The other issue is a lot of what I have been wanting to talk about has been about death, bereavement and coping without my mum. However this therapist lost a loved one just before the group I am in started and initially our first four 121’s were cancelled because of his bereavement and being off work, I feel incredibly wary about talking about death with someone who has had their own recent bereavement.

    The biggest problem I have though is an ex-colleague of his. He ran the old group with a female colleague whom I developed feelings for, my feelings came out in the group, and I found it difficult to work with him and her. Part of me walking out of the old group was because of things he said that day I found offensive and because she had failed to turn up.

    Initially in the first six weeks of working with him, I have coped and on occasions, we have referred to our previous work in the old group. More recently (and this may tie in with the fact I have hit a period of depression) I find myself thinking of him as the therapist I use to hate, and also about the female therapist – it is not helped by the fact his room was formally her’s where our 121 sessions take place.

    I am not sure how I can survive 18-months of therapy with him, I do not want to quit, because I want to be better and I feel he can help me in this matter, but I am scared I am developing feelings for him like I did his colleague, and it scares me.

    I feel we need to have a frank and open discussion about my feelings for his old colleague, because currently this is something I have not wished to talk about with anybody (unless I have been drunk with the crisis team on the phone and then I have regretted it). Initially in the assessment phase of this new group, I told him “I no longer think about her, and it is part of my life I have dealt with” but I do not think this is the case, the feelings for her come back more often when my mood drops and I get depressed. I still long to see her again, but I know this will not happen because she no longer works in the same town. This is indeed more complicated, but she moved to a new hospital, new town and at the same time by mere twist of fate, I was planning to move to the same town to start university, but when I found out about her relocation I abandoned all plans to move there. This was a decision that was incredibly hard for me to make because I was for the first time moving away to create a new life for myself, I chose an alternative university which meant I did not need to move, but in the end declined the place because it was not want I wanted. Despite my feelings for this female therapist, I hate her because I feel she took my chance from me to start afresh and move away.

    I did talk to another psychotherapist for four initial sessions six months after I walked from that group (another colleague of the one I liked, and she is still actively working in the same department as my new therapist). At the same time of seeing her, I was seeing a private psychiatrist and they knew each other so communicated via the phone several times. The main link I have in understanding why I developed feelings for this female therapist is because she reminded me of an old school friend I had feelings for from a young age. How am I suppose to move on in dealing with this.

    I am restricted to therapy, I am extremely lucky and if not grateful to be offered a place in this therapy group (I am in the UK and this is the NHS) and I want to make the most of it in order to move on and perhaps even consider university in a year or two. Do you think it is possible for us to work together again in a therapeutic relationship?

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I would think it would depend on the nature of the group setting and the type of therapy they do. If your therapists are comfortable working with the transference — that is, if they understand that the feelings you develop for your therapist, past and present, are helpful in understanding your particular issues, then yes, I don’t see why you shouldn’t be able to work together. In my experience, all clients develop feelings for their therapist; in the work that I do, those feelings become one of the primary tools for understanding.

  37. doesn't matter says:

    For a long time I thought I had BPD. I use “long term” loosely as I’m only 25. I first heard of it while watching Girl Interrupted. And then later it was on discharge papers from residential treatment as a teenager “R/O Borderline Personality Disorder” because I was only 15. When I was 22 I was officially diagnosed with it during another hospitalization. (I’ve been hospitalized 13 times total, all in the past 10 years) My therapist however disagrees with it and when he explained it to me, I kind of disagreed too. I get angry but don’t yell or scream or have outbursts. All my anger stays inside. I don’t really know where it goes actually. He made the comment that someone with BPD would just be “firing” him eventually anyways and well I’ve been with him 3 years now. Actually I first started seeing him when I was 17 but I stopped for awhile when I was 19 because I was supposed to be moving. So he’s actually known me for quite awhile now. In a way I trust his opinion. If he doesn’t think I’m borderline then I must not be. And I don’t want to be!!! But I just got out of the hospital Dec 31st after another 2 week hospitalization and I’m still struggling with whether or not I want to live. This depression just isn’t going away. I guess loneliness too. I don’t even know what I feel…. I decided to research again tonight because the diagnosis is still there despite my disagreement and I’m afraid too much of it sounds like me. Apart from the outbursts. I’m actually a very quiet and shy person. I have a bunker that I’ve built to keep people out. I don’t want to embrace this diagnosis. I was already feeling hopeless and thinking I might actually have BPD…well it makes me want to end my life now. My future already seemed bleak and now I don’t think I even want one. After every thing I’ve already been through, what is the point to keep going knowing my chances of recovery are unlikely? Staying committed to therapy or even to one therapist clearly isn’t my issue. But it doesn’t seem to be helping either. I’m just lost here. What is the point?

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Do not embrace the diagnosis; it’s just a convenient category anyway, and no one corresponds perfectly to it. Think instead about the meaning of your suffering and what defenses you use to ward off pain. You’re obviously in a lot of pain and struggle to manage it; that’s the paint, and whether you fit some diagnostic label is irrelevant.

  38. n says:

    Thank you for your blog and for your honesty. I’m so glad that someone like you is a therapist !
    I diagnosed myself after reading Get Me Out of Here by Rachel Rieland. When I asked my psychotherapist if she thought that fit me, she agreed. She also doesn’t offer a diagnosis and particularly did not want to bombard me with a diagnosis after having just left a therapist who diagnosed me very abruptly which didn’t feel so good (not BPD diagnosis).

    Even after 5 years of therapy, I can’t get past the shame from my own self-assigned blame so that I can be honest about what I feel, my inner world. I’m really worried that I’m going to stay in this stagnant place so long, my therapist will give up on me.

  39. Angel says:

    My mother has a full-blown borderline personality disorder, so I have a lot of interesting yet frightening stories to share. So I have been blogging about it through my website (http://borderlinemother919.com). If you are interested, please check it out. Anyways I was raised by a mother who suffers from severe borderline personality disorder. My childhood was filled with fear and anxiety, and even after I left home after high school and moved to another country to start a new life, I am still struggling with anxiety and negative voices. During college, I started to experience intense unstable relationships because of extreme fear of abandonment. In short I have borderline traits, which are not under control thanks to my therapist. Whatever you suffer, BPD is a treatable condition. I hope to connect with others through this website.

  40. Anna Maria says:

    I was pronounced as a borderline about ten years ago while in a psych hospital. The experience was cruel and I was told I was incurable. I had a therapist for almost ten years who had the top reputation for trauma in my area. She was very good at keeping me at a far away distance. I have been hospitalized many times and have had many psychiatrists, therapists, nurses and aides say terrible things to me about who I was as a borderline. And in general, I am a very “nice” borderline. I typically beat up myself, not others.
    I have cried at times and think about how cruel the situation is – I have BPD because I was horribly abused, and now I am abused again because I have it.
    I am writing because I am so touched by the way you write about us and your willingness to dive into our very complex worlds. Rarely have I come across a compassionate professional willing to treat us at all. It helps me to feel like I am a worthwhile person despite my diagnosis and struggle with overwhelming emotions. It gives me hope.
    (I do have a new therapist. I believe that both of us are working hard to develop a good therapeutic relationship and I am hopeful that he may be able to help me.)
    Thank you so much. I appreciate your website. This may sound funny, but instead of feeling anxious when I read it, like I do with many sites, I find it soothing. Hmmm.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      That’s a good thing! I’m glad. I think it’s very hard for most therapists to enter into the kind of world you describe. It’s painful and scary, and if you haven’t dealt with your own anger/rage, you may want very much to keep the client (and your own feelings) at a safe distance.

  41. Nia says:

    Well, I’ve been in a quandary for some time with someone I’ve been working with and “walking on eggshells.” We are both teachers and this lady was someone I thought of as a friend somewhat, although I had been warned about her by others. Anyway, this woman would be great, simply wonderful, then take weird twists and turns and I would be floored with her behavior. So I’m thrilled to find this website and begin putting these puzzle pieces together. This helps my own sanity!

    I met this woman at our former school. She was my immediate superior then, extremely smart, helpful, and capable one minute, and the next exhibiting some sort of what I would think of as pure rage, usually over nothing. I can remember her calling me to her office ~ I was a busy teacher with a self-contained classroom, exhausting work. I brought an apple to the room as we were going to talk informally over a student. She flew into a rage when I began to eat my apple as it was during my 30 minute lunch period. Became just nasty with me. The next day, nice and contrite. She would go through very helpful periods, then the other side would kick in. Dr. J/Mr. H. Apparently this was a pattern with her, as it had happened at other jobs where she would be asked to leave. And so this happened with enough people at our old school that eventually she was demoted and given an undesirable classroom. She was enraged with this situation even though she had been running down administration for the whole year before and very non-discretely. I was a newish teacher and appreciated her sometimes help such as it was and being a loyal person, I tried to hang in there with her and all her many ups and downs. Big mistake I see now.

    She called me one weekend and told me of 2 openings at the school we’re at now. I jumped at the chance to save a lot of gas money as it was so close to my home. We both got the positions and she started out in the position I now have. Another person had the position she had held at our former school and she lost no time in running this woman down constantly. There is always someone who doesn’t measure up somehow, in every situation it seems. At first I tried to help her by listening to her, but it is like the black hole I’ve heard described, there is no filling it up or solving the problem. Anyway, eventually she was able to prove to administration that she was the one for the job as she is very smart (and very manipulative). She managed to push that person out of the job she wanted and she now was back in power by the end of the first half of the school year. And, she was also back to being my immediate supervisor.

    So things changed at our school and my old self-contained classroom became her new office with her secretary and she “allowed” me to keep my old desk there ~ I co-teach and now go with my students to mainstream classes. Eventually the same old patterns began to emerge: reputations destroyed, non-stop complaints, inexplicable rages, then the pendulum would swing, and she would be charming, outgoing, a real problem solver. However, now I have a front row seat and the view is very disturbing from this nearby vantage.

    If I could pick my desk and belongings up and move them I would, but like most schools in this budget busting time, it’s like a rabbit warren of desks, several people to each office and no available space. She has launched into me in front of others (usually she does this behind other’s backs, so I guess I should be grateful?) twice now since the new semester started and we began to share this office with her secretary. First time I didn’t see it coming, and today’s I didn’t either, but I was more prepared and less shell-shocked.

    She has had teachers fired, 2 so far, and I need my health insurance, so I must be savvy myself on how to react. For every teaching job there are hundreds of applicants. So I absented myself for the rest of today until I was more emotionally ready to handle her. When I was leaving and we met on the sidewalk, she said something about how she was worried about a relative she conveniently uses when she’s been in a rage to explain her behavior. I told her I would like to discuss what happened ~ she had started in on me in front of the secretary over a student who was responding positively to my help. She seemed to think I was rewarding her too much, although the student had improved from an F to a solid C. There was more, she falsely accused me of not keeping up with other students, said they were failing when they weren’t, etc., etc. This was done in front of the secretary, and loudly, almost yelling, and again that ranting and rage. I’ve seen her fits against others where she’s thrown things and yelled f this and f that, so it escalates pretty quickly.

    When I tried to talk with her about it directly at the end of the day, she kept changing the subject and not wanting to respond, talking about other things. After several attempts I said good bye and went home to examine more closely what was happening. I had tried every strategy I knew of and this was definitely a pattern for her so I began my web search. I am relieved to find out about bpd as this and some narcissistic/histrionic tendencies seem to fit her. I feel more at peace now and glad to be able to put things where they belong, squarely with her. I plan to do more reading about bpd and I appreciate being able to vent about what had been a very upsetting day. Sorry I’m long winded, but this has been very helpful to blog about and hopefully others might identify.

    It’s very hard when you seem to be stuck with someone like this and it’s your supervisor and you’re in the same small office. What she has done to others might be done to you so it’s good to proceed with caution and eyes wide open. Administration and HR are jokes when it comes to turning to them about things, if there’s a problem, they simply move on to the next person in line and you’re out the door. I’ve seen it happen to too many of my friends, esp. at this stage of our lives. They feel it’s easier to get rid of someone than to have them as a problem. So I must solve my own problem and that will be to not be there as often (usually before and after school and during my planning period and lunch). I’ll think of alternatives to get out of there for lunch and bring more work home instead of being a sitting duck after hours for her rampages. So this is the start of a new way to approach this person and I feel better. Thank you.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      That’s quite a story. Your co-worker sounds like she definitely struggles with borderline issues. And I think your plan is right. You’ll never be able to change her, or help her to be “sane” when she flies into a rage. Best thing you can do is take care of yourself and keep your distance.

      • Nia says:

        Dr. B, do you have any suggestions for those times I’m stuck in the small office with her trying to complete work? That’s about 2-3 times a day for about 50 minutes at a time. These are times that I need to be at my desk working on things for my students. I really appreciate your help :)

    • OMG, I wonder if this is my step-mother. I often wonder what how her co-workers and students experience her rages…

      • Nia says:

        Hi :) The good news that I can tell you is it isn’t your step mother as my co-worked never married or had any children. But thanks for replying! Nia

  42. liz says:

    Your article makes me hopeful and sad at the same time. I have recently been diagnosed with bpd. I struggled in my teens and twenties but managed to somehow live a productive and succesful life since. Until a few years ago, I was disabled in an accident and mentally I cant seem to recover. I was fired by a therapist for overdosing and wanting to harm myself. Now, I am trying to pick up the pieces and figure out what to do. I am still functioning, but am dying inside. I lead two lives, one of success and another of constant wanting to die. I dont know how long I can keep this up. I wish I could find a therapist with the experience and patience you seem to have.

  43. liz says:

    I’ve read about “high functioning” bpd’s, but i honestly dont feel very high functioning. i dont give in to my illness, i push myself, but i am suffering so much. i am successful in my profession and have a number of close friends. i can teach a class, but then i go home and want nothing more than to cut my arms up. i feel like two completely different people and am ashamed of the mental problems. i just dont get how i can function so well and feel so broken inside. there really is help? i am so tired of fighting and looking for someone to teach me real coping skills. bpd feels like torture or a mental prison. i believe there has got to be a solution or relief, i just am at a loss and very frustrated.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      In my experience, you don’t need to be taught “coping skills” per se; what you need is a relationship with a therapist where you can explore all that rage and shame, to feel that another person can “bear with” you through all of it; in the process, over a long period of time, you will learn to cope better with all those confusing emotions. But it’s not a question of “skills” … more a matter of enlarging your emotional capacity.

  44. liz says:

    thanks. enlarging my emotional capacity. as in the ability to tolerate and process my emotions to a larger degree, more productively and effectively? i was looking at it as a cognitive or analytic skill i needed to acquire in order to “control” my reactions more constructively. your right, no skill will allow me to control them, as a human i need to learn to sit with them. i believe if i find the right therapist i can begin down this road. thanks for your encouragement and advice. your patients are very lucky. and your writing on borderlines is beautiful. compassionate.

    • Dolma Beck says:

      Hi Liz, sorry I’m a yr late..
      Just wanted to throw something
      In the mix. In Buddhism, anger/ rage
      Ect Can be transformed thru what is called
      Mind training. I have been a student/ client
      Of Psychodynamic therapies for many yrs.( reader
      Of many books/ not structured study. Though I have a BA in Psychology)
      Coupled with being a Buddhist( Tibetan).
      I have used both disciplines( of course, Buddhism
      Is also a spiritual Path)…. Thru many traumas
      In my life.

  45. Zoe says:

    My therapist says I am not borderline, but she doesn’t like to operate with labels and such, so I am not really so sure how she has me pegged…she is not talking about it. I think I have a lot of the traits of BPD, but I am pretty high-functioning. I am somewhat deteriorating lately, however, and I am not sure if it may have to do with the intense emotions surfacing for me in therapy. I am acknowledging a neediness that I have not acknowledged before, and it scares the crap out of me. I really appreciate your honesty about your own BPD traits, especially the inner brat you speak of….I have one of those, too! In fact , I just typed out some thoughts I will hand to my therapist tomorrow:
    I feel like a grown-up who got invited to a dinner party, and my babysitter cancelled at the last minute, and the hostess told me to go ahead and bring my kid…But when I get there, my child is behaving so poorly, being super-bratty, crying when the attention is not on her, following the hostess around like a puppy-dog, getting upset when she talks to the other guests, it is so embarrassing, and instead of me the adult forging a connection with the hostess and other guests, I spend all my time and energy trying to hide my kid from creating a scene and saying something we will all regret. I take my child into the back room, and I reassure her but to no avail. I pretty much hide out back there with my kid, avoiding real conversation, until it’s time to go. I go home at the end of the party feeling lonely and resentful of this little demon-child, this snot-nosed brat whose emotions are so crazy and who I constantly have to “talk down”.

    That is how I feel when I am in session or around other people in social situations. I am the needy child that I need to talk down…and I spend so much time trying to convince myself that so and so really does like me, she just had to go do XYZ or tend to ABC… I am usually not present in conversation because I have analyzed the smirk on someone’s face, or the way their legs are turned away from me, or that so and so seemed curt with me today, etc, so that I am constantly having to process this information and then downplay it to my inner self, so that I may go on pretending all this is not coursing through my head. It is exhausting and confusing and this insecurity prevents me from believing in any good emotion that someone may throw my way. Ugh,I am tired of this. But I usually do manage to prevent the child in me from having a tantrum…I behave decently.

    Anyway, my point being, thanks for talking about your inner brat, it is reassuring to me that you have learned to live with yours and be functional. Maybe there is hope for me.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I really appreciate that you took the time to write such a detailed description of your experience (and I do relate). I think there will be other readers who will resonate with your description, too. From my experience, it does get better with therapy — and it sounds like you have a good therapist. For most of us who struggle with these issues, it’s in part about managing all those feelings you describe so well, but then developing other, more adult aspects of yourself that lead to genuine feelings of self-esteem independent of other people and whether or not they “like”. This preoccupation with other people’s reactions and how they view us comes from our struggles with unbearable shame, as I’ve written about in so many other posts.

  46. Lisa says:

    Wow it is so refreshing to hear the honesty from you. I could have been reading about me( well almost) I am 43, three children, one grandchild(newborn) some not so good relationships that I should have given up on (I put that down to attachment issues!), a trained counsellor who loves working with survivors of sexual abuse( the recovery process is amazing) and currently a support worker for young people 16-25 ( some of whom have mental health issues) I did work for the NHS as a counsellor but left after three years of hypocrisy( a whole other chapter) I love your attitude, thinking and understanding of BPD. I get quite angry when I hear professionals deep intake of breath at the mention of BPD and the lack of understanding there is. Its almost like a hot potato that no one wants to hold which only reinforces the abandonment that a person with BPD fears. In fact it is a very clever process that the mind creates to protect the person from emotional damage. When I hear some of the traumas that a person has suffered I am not surprised and can easily understand the persons reasons for their behaviours. I also have a part of me that is BPD and over the years I have learned to manage it, quieten it and allow my other selves to emerge. I have explored different types of therapy and found Inner Child work to be the most effective. Cognitive Behavioural therapy has helped me to rationalise situations that I may otherwise have blown completely out of proportion. I believe that there is no ‘one size fits all’ You can take different things (tools) from different therapies and make up your own personalised ‘toolbox’ Keep up the good work Joseph :)

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Thanks, Lisa. Having a “borderline part” ourselves helps us to understand some of the more difficult clients that other professionals often shun.

  47. Lynn K says:

    What does it mean when you’d rather not have any relationships outside of your immediate family? I find I sabotage relationships by being friendly for some time and then get a feeling like I don’t measure up to being that person’s friend or didn’t call them when I should’ve and then it’s too late and withdraw. Obviously, there is some shame in there but I don’t understand why I can’t continue being the friend. I moved to a new city last year to be with my grown children whom I adore. I was in a drastically dysfunctional relationship and even proposed to this person just to somehow get them to stop what I think they were doing – cheating on me. When my children heard this they dropped everything including their work the next day) and drove 7 hours to end up on my doorstep advising me against going through with my plans and move to their city to be with them. I did and hadn’t regretted it until now. My daughter had PROMISED me she would never move from this city and she and her brother would ALWAYS be around for me (I’m 64 yo). After my daughter started her Master’s degree she started talking about moving to another state 7 hours away from me to get her PhD. She told me she would be there 5 years and was not planning to come back to the city we live in now. She and I do many things together and are best friends. Her brother and I on the other hand have a rather distant relationship although he denies that I could be possibly be hurt by his not calling me or texting me back when I’ve done so. In fact, my daughter told me he was incredulous! Now, I’m quite sure I won’t have anyone to help me (ex – had an endoscopy and had to be driven home and watched). I feel betrayed by my daughter (although proud and happy that she’s pursuing such a lofty goal) and worry constantly about what I’d do if I fell in my apt., got in a car accident… My kids have even tried to threaten me into making friends here (my son refusing to help fix my computer unless I went to the Sr. Center to make friends). More and more life holds no more fascination for me. I work as a caregiver which gives me everything that I think I need to make me happy. It is VERY gratifying. I am really depressed that several weeks ago my psychologist reminded me that I’m a Borderline and he was referring me to someone who likes to treat them. I am also Bi-Polar Disorder (which is “fairly” treated with meds) and ADD. Let’s see, what do I lack – a Narcissistic PD? Anti-Social PD? Histrionic PD? I just took the MMPI, MCMI and the PAI. What else is lurking out there? I’m dreading the results. I watch movies where people who have Bipolar or Borderline diseases kill people. I’m petrified of the implications of all these diagnoses. So, why is it not better not to have any drama in your life, risk doing something to hurt (not necessarily physically or intentionally) someone else? I know that therapy would say that I could learn to get by these obstacles. BUT, you can NEVER get rid of a PD and not much you can do about ADD either. Put the 3 together and you have a poisonous, toxic brew. What do you think? Need some feedback.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      It’s hard to comment since you say so many things I disagree with. The whole emphasis on diagnostic labels runs completely contrary to the way I think. I have treated people (over many years) with “personality disorders” who changed dramatically, to the point that no one would consider them as having one now. I also like to work with people who have been labelled as “borderline” but I’d certainly never give them a label like that or tell them to their face. I won’t argue that you have emotional issues but you’re certainly not going to solve them by refining the collection of diagnoses you affix to yourself.

  48. Marie says:

    I read your article, and found it interesting. I recently terminated therapy after 8 years with the same therapist. I have never found my life was not worth living, I really dislike the DBT therapy model of Marsha Linehan’s model. I spent 8 years feeling inwardly like a failure, because I could not, would not participate in the group that existed at my therapists practice. (his wife was the co leader, and it was of mixed gender) My therapist is unfortunately the one that blurred the emotional boundries of our sessions, my issues often taking the back seat to his. How I wish that I had a therapist that never yelled at me, lectured me, or told me he often “dreaded” seeing me. I was hoping your blog might touch on what to do now, more therapy? or how to best use what I learned during the better moments of my therapeutic relationship. I often struggle with being the one that terminated therapy and having read his notes from my sessions, he really, really did not want to treat me in the first place. Any insight might help.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Knowing that your therapist didn’t want to work with you must have been traumatic. The more I hear about what other professionals are doing, the more it seems to me that there’s a powerful prejudice against and aversion to working with borderlines. Given the type of treatment you received, I’m not sure how useful it will be to you, now that you’ve terminated. I’d look around for a different therapist, someone who isn’t going to force DBT down your throat and works psycho-dynamically.

  49. This is such helpful information…especially the comments. There’s so much here.

    My mother was diagnosed with bipolar when I was in high school. Then bpd traits after I left home. The diagnosis explained a lot for me, though I understand not wanting to be “defined” by a diagnosis. I guess it helped just knowing that it had a name.

    My mom left in a rage and my dad remarried quickly…another woman who has many of the same traits. (I’m not privy to her mental status and I don’t think she’s ever seen any kind of therapist).

    How my dad could move from one to the other is just baffling to me. Though my therapist told me once that it would have been more surprising if he’d found a healhty relationship after forty years with my mom.

    True.

    But it still hurts like hell.

    My mom tried therapy and dbt for awhile, but now she’s given up. She insists her life is over. She attempts suicide several times a year.

    And to be honest, I’m so over it. I’m just done.

    Reading your blog gives me some sense of hope for my mother…that she’s in there somewhere. Thank you for the work you do.

  50. worried mum says:

    This site gives me some hope for my 18 year old daughter who has been diagnosed with BPD. We always had a fantastic relationship. She started to get depressed after returning from a year overseas as an exchange student, during which time her father and I broke up after an 18-year marriage. He went to live in the States with his girlfriend and has not really been involved in my children’s lives, although he says he emails them every few days. My daughter has not been sexually abused–and she confirms this. I stayed home to raise my children and did everything I could to be a good mother. But she has my personality–hypersensitive, black and white thinking, a worrier, perfectionist, catastrophiser, with a tendency towards depression. She was a straight-A student, in the legal debating team, speaks fluent Japanese. She was ready to go to university and do a double degree. Her teachers adored her and have done everything to help her since she has got sick. When she got sick she told me ‘mum you will have to give up your hopes and dreams for me’, which broke my heart for her. She started going out all night drinking, got a big tattoo, piercings, got in trouble with the police and has now lost her licence (but she is still driving). At first I told her that the behaviour was unacceptable. She moved out and told everyone I had ‘kicked her out of the house’, which wasn’t true. She came back and I said nothing for months and months and put up with her being out all night, disappearing for days, not attending school, rages, self-mutilation, threats to kill herself. Then last week when I hadn’t seen her for days and she had been at school for one day in a week, I felt I should say something. I told her she should not go out dressed like that (she was wearing skintight leather black shorts that showed her bum cheeks), had a big hickey on her neck, and I told her that she was ruining her life by not going to school (something I now regret). She then moved out again and I do not know where she is, although I spoke to her tonight and she said she was okay. I told her that her sister and I love her. I have repeatedly asked her to get help, but she says there is ‘nothing wrong with her’. She was due to start a DBT course, but then backed out. She won’t see her psychiatrist or counsellor. I am happy to pay for whatever help she needs. It is hell when she is here, but at least I know where she is: I can try to keep her safe and there is food, shelter, warmth for her. It is much more peaceful when she is not here, but I want to look after my daughter and help her. I don’t know what to do. I have noticed that the couple of times her father has been back from the States she is much better; I see my beautiful daughter. But as soon as he goes, she is her BPD self. I believe that she got this disorder from missing her dad and his practical abandonment of the children, but I am not an expert and I could be wrong. She denies this and says that she doesn’t mind at all that he went to live overseas. Joseph, do I let her come home and continue on her path of self-destruction, knowing that it is the disorder causing her behaviour, or do I set down boundaries (which she probably wouldn’t follow anyway and she would end up leaving again)? thank you.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Based on the information you give me, it sounds as if you’re better off setting clear boundaries and articulating them with love and concern. Rather than telling her she’s ruining her life or that she shouldn’t go out dressed a particular way, you should explain the rules for how to behave in your home. It’s your home, but she’s also an adult. You need to let her take responsibility for her own life but make clear you have expectations for her behavior while in your home. It’s very hard to do but you have to let her make her own mistakes. You can’t save her from her worst impulses but you can set limits and make clear your expectations for the way she treats you. Rather than offering criticism or advice, set up rules and clear consequences if she breaks them.

  51. Lisa says:

    I hate having BPD. I wish I could cut it out of me. It’s like a shadow that has literally followed me all my life (since 7?) and I’m different and alone. I’ve worked in a psychiatric hospital and the therapists and psychiatrists are very vocal about not wanting to work with “borderlines” and labeling and joking about our manipulative behavior.

    My therapist says I have come a long way. I guess that means I hide my “issues” really well. But I still feel fake. I hate it.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I imagine there will always be a “borderline Lisa” living inside of you; but over time, with more hard work, you’ll develop the healthier side of yourself so that eventually it will “outweigh” the other parts. This is what I have seen happen.

    • Dana says:

      That’s exactly what I deal with. Get this…one night after my bf and I got into an argument, he went to the local bar to have a drink. He ended up talking to a girl who is a Social Worker. Without even knowing me, she told him that with me suffering from BPD, he should RUN AND NEVER LOOK BACK because I would drag him down and make his life a living hell as long as we are together. She said all borderlines are manipulative and won’t change. This is someone who is supposed to know better than to make judgements that could affect people’s lives based on nothing! It made my bf think and it made me feel horrible. I’m not on the furious, mean end of the spectrum. There are all kinds of borderlines. I am more someone with collapsed boundaries. I am hurt way too easily and never want to upset anyone…but when the rage does come, I have to turn it on myself. I hit my leg. I bruise myself. I have scarred my arm. Thrown things. Broken things…just whatever I have to do to feel better and not hurt others. I don’t trust that I won’t eventually lose it and kill myself, even accidentally. I am on medication but still have the panic attacks, the anxiety, the crying jags, the over or under-reactions. I’m so sick of saying I’m sorry. I’m even sick of myself. I do wish I could cut it out of me, too. Or just throw it up and finally feel like everyone else does and not some snot machine who’s scared to go out in public because there’s no way to know how I’ll act. I wish people didn’t look at BPD’s like we are crazy.

      • Asiah says:

        Hey

        you sound like me. I turn my rage onto myself. I feel so fake and always pretend to be nice even though I’m really anxious. Anyway, if you ever want to contact me yo can. :-)

  52. mary says:

    I am now remembering that as a school child even though I scored high in general intelligence, my spelling and school work in general was poor. In high school it was worse, bad grades, IQ fell, but any general intelligence test went well, this continued through my 20′s. I listened and interacted with people but thinking back I was mimicking others. I now even question by reactions to love break ups and or loneliness. In my 30′s I woke up and became more aware of my surroundings, as I age I actual learn better, score well, etc. But even in 30′s when I did on my own tracking for corp. I was working for I allowed it to be booed and then picked up by an executive. And at 66 I can be over the top with emotion at least once a year, I can be cold or hot. I do however love to see young people develope into adults with a future.

  53. Miguel says:

    Just a month ago I discovered that my mom harbored undiagnosed/untreated BPD and that discovery completely changed me. She has been dead for 10 years and I have struggled with numerous things since (and before also!) But 18 months of therapy have landed me in a good spot. I now know that it is indeed ok to realize that the way I was treated as a child was wrong. And that has opened up a realization that I was not so wrong – that my childhood intellect was right (“you don’t deserve to be treated this way even – especially? – by your mom”) but my childhood emotion (“you are so faulty even your mom can’t love you”) prevails & lurks within and has haunted me. In 4 weeks I have realized that BPD (and the behaviors associated with it) can cause toxic shame in children at tender young ages. I am now focused on my deepest visions of my self as faulty flawed unworthy valueless and a shameful mistake. I am in the process of redefining those deepest and distorted beliefs… and with that attempting to overlay pride on top of the shame realizing that the shame may always be there and will need to be talked back to and diminished when it rears its ugly head.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      My approach differs. I look at the shame as valid, the emotional residue of knowing you were damaged by your upbringing. This view of shame is different from the kind of toxic shame that Bradshaw talks about, the result of shaming messages one received during childhood.

      • Miguel says:

        Hmm – not sure that there are such distinct differences as you might imply. It all goes back to a damaged childhood. I think Brene’ Brown has hit on many good points in her research on shame. We need to acknowledge it, see how it affects us as adults even, and learn that empathy is most often the key to a brighter future. I am able to look at the shamers and see that they were imperfect themselves. I didn’t ask for the shaming and they did the best they could with what they had. I did deserve better from them – and am able to see myself as worthy of that. I am able to point to a more complete individual who is able to transcend the shame and the shamer – not needing to even the shame score or waste energy in attempting to “shame the shamer” or engage the shamer into a forced acknowledgement or apology as it were…. rather to focus on and expend energies toward some productive things to make a champion at that which is within.

      • Sonna says:

        I was so hurt to be told I was a boarderline. I lived in a family that was so abusive and now I was so angry I was a boarderline? I was told there was no cure and that really felt like being blamed for what my parents did. Naturally I was even more angry. But it turned out that it isn’t a forever thing at least for me. My husband stuck with me and loved me and listened to me and forgave me. His family loved me and were so good to me the hurt and anger went away. I’m married 23 years now and whatever happened to me before no longer happens. I am loved when I come home no matter what. It came to me one day that if I wanted to be forgiven I needed to forgive. It was like a dam broke inside me leaving only peace. I am so grateful and only hope more people are loved as they should be.

  54. Dana says:

    I have had bpd all of my life, or at least as long as I can remember. I also have PTSD, anxiety, major depression, self-injury and I was told I exhibit some schizophrenic “tendencies” because I have seen and heard things that weren’t real. I also have a three or four month time period where I have no recollection whatsoever, although I was working and raising a child. One day she was talking to me and I was shocked that it was a different season all together. I was told that was disassociation. One thing I hate is not being able to control my emotions the way I would like to. I always have to pretend or imitate…because I’m really not sure of who or what I am. My problems seem to center around not being able to tell what is “real” and what isn’t. I don’t mean that in a literal sense. I generally (lol) know the difference between an object and a person, ect. What I mean about not being able to tell what is real is harder to explain. I don’t trust my thoughts and perceptions. What I do trust is my instinct. I learned to rely heavily upon them as a young child, so there’s my silver lining. BPD has left me feeling hopeless, honestly. Between the bouts of fury (more than mere anger, certainly) and the jags of crying over almost anything or anyone’s sadness, pain or inconvenience it has drained me completely. I can’t keep all these plates spinning…what happens when they fall, besides break? I suspect not much but more guilt feelings for me. BPD or not, I’m thankful to be alive and to learn more about my situation so that maybe one day I can begin to feel what everyone else without BPD does. Thanks for listening. This site is really helpful.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      You’re welcome. I don’t know what I can say that would help, but I do understand how hard a road you have.

    • Margaret says:

      Poor you, Dana. That must be an exhausting, unpredictable and sometimes scary way to live. You are so brave to write about it – and write so well (your phrase about the plates spinning is the most amazing imagery, and describes my frequent sense of overwhemedness exactly. I had a BPD/alcoholic mother who died over 20 years ago and I was probably BPD in my 20s before getting into therapy in my mid-30s, and even now in my late 40s am still a little too sensitive and prone to PTSD feelings and avoidance behaviour, at least when I’m stressed. I can be thankful that I at least have better boundaries now, have cut out a lot of the stress and enhanced my response to it and spend more time indulging in peaceful, self-loving and delightful thoughts and feeling in control. You sound so insightful about it and so self-aware and basically a really nice person, so you must have done loads of work on it and must be just around the corner from recovery. Thank you for your insights and for sharing your feelings, and good luck finding the last two or three pieces of the jigsaw puzzle. Thanks for this site, Dr Burgo! You are very generous to provide your insights into BPD.

      • Dana Gimenez says:

        Dear Margaret,
        Thank you for such a sweet, considerate response. I am sorry to hear of your struggles, as well. You sound as if you have come to a better place in your life and I am pleased to know that. I, too, have tried to reduce my stressors and simplify my life. I take my meds on time and I go to my appointments. Mindfulness has been the tool which helps me the most, undoubtedly. When my mind wanders to dark places I deliberately do something with my hands. Crosswords, word search, wash the dog, make a grocery list and go get them, ect. It does help. Helping others helps, too! That’s always a great way to get your mind off of the negative.
        I’m glad you mentioned the avoidance issues as I still struggle with them daily. I just set small goals. It seems as if no one around me understands and it’s so hard to keep from falling into the same patterns of thought and behaviors but I really try not to. Thank you for your support and know that you have mine, as well. Take care.

  55. Frances says:

    Hi everyone. I am so glad I stumbled upon this site. My most recent attempt at a loving, meaninful relationship has left me, bitter, angry, unhappy and feeling very alone. My mother even said to me today when I told her I was attempting to go back out to work on Monday, “you have a personality problem, you should be alone cause you dont get along with anyone”. I thought she meant forget working cause Ill never get along with anyone, but she really wants me to forget the desire for a loving relationship and this is all ive ever wanted in life, which led me to having and raising a 9 year old all on my own.
    I am really crushed by what my mother said and was in at a great mood previously, but with the failed relationship and then my mother, whom i trust saying negative things to me, I have no isolated myself again. I feel incredibly sad, hopeless, scared and unhuman. I need to get out to work and make money to try to do whats best for my son and I, but I feel literally like shit now. What if everyone feels the way my mother does and im just made a fool of? I have no idea what to do.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      From what you say, I can’t tell if you’re in psychotherapy. It sounds as if you need some support for what you’re trying to accomplish for yourself and your son.

  56. Frances says:

    Btw, I have been receiving treatment (no talking or counselling), I just checkin-in which a therapist for the last 8 years and it hasnt helped. She diagnosed with me with BPD and an anxiety disorder.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Oops — responded to the last comment before I saw this one. Just “checking in” sounds like a med check with a psychiatrist. Are you on meds? Have you ever had actual psychotherapy?

      • Frances says:

        Hi There and thank you for your response. I have done anxiety /depression group and i found the tools useful as far as coping skills and awareness, my doctor did mention dbt group, but I had done something similar as she suggested in the past, just found it humiliating to cry infront of others. For example, a lady would be talking about her issues and she’d start crying and I would feel her pain and start crying. This had me an emotional wreck to the point where I got so depressed and found it difficult to take my son to school on mornings. He started missing school so I discontinued the group and explained it to my psyhiatrist. The best thing was to put a bandaid on it and try to live in this world the best way I knew how, but ive been walking through life not fully engaging (just moving through the motions and not really feeling fully) and my son is suffering for it. I haven’t contemplated suicide in a while, but Ive been in so much pain from this recent relationship and failed relationships that I dont see the point in living anymore. I was living for my son the best I knew how, but it just doesnt seem good enough for anyone. Sorry for the rant.

        • Dana Gimenez says:

          Dear Frances,
          It’s wonderful that you are considering going back to work! I am sure it will be meaningful to get out some and engage with others, in spite of what was said by your Mother. I am sorry about that. I have found that sometimes it’s just so hard for others to understand just how deeply their words do cut…and often, perhaps not in this case I’m not sure…others simply do not know how to respond or what to do and find it frustrating. In my life my Mother does the same thing and it is deflating. What I really wanted to say to you more than anything is this: Your child NEEDS YOU. Not someone else, but YOU. Unless you are incapable of taking care of his basic needs, providing him love and attention and being present in his life, I will repeat. HE NEEDS YOU. Children of suicide are statistically much more likely to take their own lives later in life. Did you know that? I have had PTSD, BPD, anxiety disorder, panic disorder, major depressive disorder and schizo-affective tendencies with self-harm most of my life. I am 42 yrs old now. I have three incredible step-children, but before that I was married and my husband left me one morning and never came back. He moved in with a “gf” of mine that night. We were married 7 yrs at the time and my daughter was 3. I had nowhere to turn. My Dad was dying of cancer, my trailer was falling apart, I had no heat, no car, no phone, and he ruined my credit by not paying student loans he swore he was paying. I was DESTITUTE and had a period of time where I disassociated completely. Through all of this, I knew two things and two things only…first I knew I had a real illness (undiagnosed at that point) and secondarily, I knew I had no time for it. I had a child, and no one would take care of her but me, or as well as I can. Not because I am super stable, not because I had any money or plans outside of staying home with my child until she started school, but because I bore her and she needed my love and my attention. I threw myself into her life and in the process was required to improve my own. I had to work. I had to cook. I had to bathe and brush my teeth! lol Please consider this as you go through this horrible struggle you are facing. You are not a piece of shut. There are people..even strangers like me…who do care and who understand how you may feel. I struggle every single day and it hurts so badly when my eyes open in the morning and I wish they hadn’t more often than not. My beloved daughter, who I named Hope, is grown now. I put her through college, two B.A.’s in 3.5 yrs. She is engaged, has a wonderful job and no longer needs me in that same way. Enjoy those years while you can! It’s been an extremely painful thing to let her “go” be her own person, but worth every beautiful and agonizing moment. So worth it. Am I well? No. Now I tell myself every day how much it would ruin her life and her wedding if I didn’t make it until next May. She gives me purpose when I can’t see my own. I would never tell her that, nor lean on her in that manner. We are the Moms. We must always remember that and behave accordingly. You said you are a single Mom. Don’t let your child feel as alone in this world as you say you have. Brush Mom’s comments off…you obviously know her and you know your own conceptions/misperceptions. Take it slowly, one small step at a time…but take them. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain…including the happiness and respect of a precious life which you created and foster daily. You can do this!!!! I will pray for your strength and clarity. If you are on meds, keep up with them if they work or change them if they don’t, with a qualified doctor. Counseling is great and often on a sliding scale through the county you live in. Best wishes and peace be with you.

          • frances says:

            Wow. Thank you so much for this thorough reply. It was so nice to wake up this morning and have this bit of support to read. I went to bed last night and said I wasnt going to wake up this morning. At the same time, i still wanna get out to work and be that person for my son and I, but if just seems as though more and more, im becoming my own worst enemy. Everything is falling apart and not getting better. I feel like I cannot even connect with my son properly because I am so caught up in what im feeling (saddness, stuck, situations beyond my control). 6 months ago, I also did something in attempts to make myself feel better and had very bad results..I was concerned about aging under my eyes as someone told me I looked like a monster. I went and got restylane injections under my eyes and now have what appears to look like two huge semi-circle indentations under both eyes that a very dark. I now look like im way older than I actually am and the doctors cant do nothing about it. I hide behind sunglasses all day for the fear of looking like a monster. I just wanna die for more than one reason and the reasons keep building up. I feel so out of place in life and like there is no place for me. I am so angry inside and just want to give up. I feel bad that my son has a mother like me who is so caught up in her own painful world that its becoming difficult to step out of it and guide him through his.

            • Kelly says:

              Francis…
              I know its been nearly 5 months, but it you are following this thread, know that someone in Mississippi prayed for you tonight. Don’t give up on yourself. Don’t give up on a life with your son. Just keep loving him and be present. You are his safe place.

              • frances says:

                Thank you so much. I appreciate that. With the holiday season and friends wanting to get out with me and be social I swear I had a pannick attack. Im just not ready. Grocery shopping, and appointments are enough for me at this point as well as trying my best to raise my son. I dont know when ill ever get out of this mind frame im in. Im avoiding social gatherings to avoid being judged, but I get judged regardless and those words really hurt. Guys want to be close to me, but I keep pushing them away. I have been raped three times in my life, assulted, abandoned and im not sure if this has anything to do with the fact that I just wanna keep my distance now from people. Both men and women. I just dont want people to know how hurting I really am in every sense of the word or how insecure I am. But, its crazy because I love my son to death but im starting to get angry when hes constantly asking for things, needing attention and it stresses me out. Especially when I I am so caught up in my own mind and worrying about my future. He is the last one that deserves me being angry. He did nothing and I know this. In turn, my angry comments make me feel like a worse parent.

  57. Robin B says:

    Man has no individual I. But there are, instead, hundreds and thousands of separate small “I”s, very often entirely unknown to one another, never coming into contact, or, on the contrary, hostile to each other, mutually exclusive and incompatible.

    G. I. Gurdjieff

  58. Nichole says:

    I’ve known since the sixthgrade that i have BPD. My parents call me names (they say im a unloving, disrespectful b****) Then sometimes i’m the girl who’s got her whole life ahead of her. I get told so many time that i’m just hormonal and self diagnosing myself. But, I have EVERY symptom.. even the small things that i’ve found.. I broke up with my ex gf 10 or so times.. My ex bf 12 or sooo.. the list goes on.. I change my opinions of myself and personality traits so fast.. somtimes in one day.. i fear dating cause i know i will hurt them, but i can’t handle being alone.. i want help bu i have ran out on every therepist that i’ve had because i just can’t get everthing out in the open.. people love me, except my family members, exes, and my one friend who knows me.. and my family doesn’t want to accept me either.. I feel empty all the time.. I can eat thinking its hunger but it never goes away.. i go blank all the time.. and my memory sucks.. i probably could’nt recall everything on the spot. i get so nervous. How can i get help, when i distrust that anyone can help me?

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      The only solution is to stick with a therapist when it gets tough. Nobody can help you if you don’t hang in there. Be brave!

  59. ashley says:

    I was molested multiple times when I was young (it happened around the ages of 5-8) and because of this I became anti-social and skeptical of people. Because of this behavior and moving multiple times, I felt like I couldn’t connect with people so I didn’t try. I was picked on for 5 + years because people just couldn’t understand, I was picked on inside and outside of school. I also have a dad that doesn’t know how to show emotional support and a mom who has sever bi polar, severe enough to have electric shock treatment. She tried to kill herself twice, once in front of me. I can’t remember any of it though. I’m now 22 and I still suffer from the affects from everything I’ve been through with people. The one thing that I want is just a big support group, but people are such flakes, coming in and out of my life, that at this point I really don’t want to try anymore. But I feel like I can never trust people again, I’ve wanted to feel different…but nobody has given me a reason to feel different towards humanity. Because of this I’m not feeling very hopeless and depressed. Therapy was helping me but I only see her once a month…:( I’m trying with everything I can to live life the best I can and be positive everyday…but I guess recently its been getting harder to fight on…

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Given your awful childhood and the difficulties you now face, once a month isn’t anywhere near enough. You probably need to be going more than once a week.

  60. Ali says:

    I have struggled with BPD symptoms and emotional dysregulation since I was very young and I was in therapy for ten years (8-18) before I stopped and recently restarted, in my mid-twenties. I always had anxiety, depression and distorted thinking, and events in my life caused it to manifest to suicidal behavior. I was “wild” and “good” simultaneously, and always had an intolerance of being alone, controlling anger, and feeling completely empty. I was sent away to therapy-based boarding schools for my wild behavior and years of intense fighting with my parents/stepparents. I was hospitalized several times for eating disorders and wild bouts of anger and impulsive, self-harming behaviors. I was also composed much of the time,a good student, participated in therapy and gave advice to my peers. Until everything crumbled and all the crises kicked in. I was kicked out from boarding school to boarding school, experienced some very traumatizing placements, and began abusing drugs at a young age. At 18, when i was back in the real world I went to university across the country, where I was academically successful and was distracted to the point that I believed all my issues had dissipated. I had always been a talented performer and writer, and am generally intelligent and insightful. So, I viewed myself as ‘together’, although I was blitzed and empty constantly, always moving from boyfriend to boyfriend and having occasional, intense breakdowns. I became a huge pothead and although I was academically successful, I engaged in risky behaviors and woke in terror each day, as I had for years. Once college ended I went off the deep end and have been struggling since. I am self-destructive and the suicidal/panicked feelings kick in. I am on so many prescription medications it is ridiculous. These are not antidepressants but rather xanax, ambien, adderall, etc. I tend to resort to these things as a coping mechanism. I am a loyal person and a good friend, but I battle with distorted (rather paranoid or oversensitive) thinking, although I am good at putting on a front and acting composed, fun, engaging. I regularly have meltdowns and tend to push the people I am closest with away from me and engage in crazy self-fulfilling prophesies, where I cause the thing I fear most to manifest. I used to attribute my rage at significant others to their behavior, as I often dated alcoholics or people who were as self-destructive as I was. Now I am dating someone who is supportive, thorough and loyal, and I am still unhappy, switching all over the place…and always unpredictably. I live in fear of this. I was and am always unsure of where I stand in life and my moods switch hourly, purely based on circumstance. I have a lot of strengths but struggle with an inherent low self-confidence and anxiety that prohibits me from maintaining a job or handling stress like anyone else might. I am a walking paradox, seem completely competent but behind closed doors am living in a state of panic, pain and terror. It feels like physical pain when I am sad, alone, numb, empty. An hour later I can find something to look forward to and feel unusually high. Anyhow, in my years of therapy before I had been tested on bipolar meds, etc, which were unsuccessful. The therapists alluded to my having bpd but never diagnosed it as I was under 18. After my first therapy session in 7 years, recently, my psychologist, who seems to understand me quite well, diagnosed me with bpd. I always sort of knew, but I lied as a teenager to get out of my boarding schools and wasn’t completely honest. I am “High-functioning” at times, I suppose. But those dark times are dark…and frequent. I hate my abandonment issues getting in the way and disorting my thoughts. I know those feelings are unfair (ie, when my boyfriend has to have a meeting late and I internally become upset, know it’s irrational, but act out in my raging emptiness and also self-punish for being so ridiculous, usually by drinking and going out…almost punishing for no reason). I feel I have caused intense pain for others in my life, such as my family, and it adds to self-hatred. Some days I am happy, productive, with hours of sorrow and confusion and emptiness in between. I could cry and laugh about this all at the same time, then panic and lose control, go to a dark place, get out by 8 and remember life isn’t so bad. But the cycle is intense and repeats itself. I walk on eggshells with my own mind. It has been worse in late, that crappy pain. I feel so intensely and am nothing all at once. I just wanted to reach out to others. It is such a stigmatized, misunderstood illness,and I feel for all of you. There are a lot of us living in that crazy oxygen-less place in space, being sucked in and pulled out, catatonic, blissful, overwhelmed, stable. I am lucky to have very supportive family and friends, but it does suck to struggle with this on your own. Sometimes I feel so extreme and empty I want to drive a thousand miles an hour off a cliff and other days I am pleased to sit on the beach and look at the waves, but rarely can I write or read anymore as it plunges me too deep into the recesses of my wild mind. I truly feel your pain and it is very comforting to see others working through similar issues, whichever levels we may be in this borderline- or whatever it really is- world. I understand. Thanks for all your comments.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      And thank you for that beautifully written account. You convey the emotional turmoil and struggle so very well.

  61. Dave says:

    Hi, how do I get a person with borderline personality disorder into therapy? To complicate the issue, she is a psycologist and knows everything there is to know about the disorder. She sees it in her family members and clients but refuses to see it in herself. She self diagnoses everything else. Right now, she is in the anger /hate phase and suffers from depression and anxiety as well. I want her to get help but I can’t express it in a way that doesn’t invoke rage. I love and care for her deeply and I have been turned into the enemy again. This time is worse than ever. I want to get her well. We are engaged or at least we were until last week and I have been forced to leave the house. This has happened before but usually it doesn’t get quite this bad or last as long. The anger, attacks, anexity and depression are more frequent, more severe and are now more often than not. She can get violent and relentless with out logic or reason. Any advice would be appreciated! Thank you!

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      It will be very difficult to get her into therapy if she’s unwilling to do so. The only leverage you have is your relationship with her and you may need to put it on the line: either you get into therapy so that we can keep our relationship growing or I am moving on. You may need to be very clear and stick to your guns. Whether or not it works, this is also the best way of taking care of yourself.

      • Dave says:

        Thank you for your reply. It has gotten worse and she acts as if me not being in her life would make her happy. I believe she already has picked her next victim. She vacillates so quickly form love to rage. She makes agreements then pulls them away within hours. I am devistated by all this. I truly love her. I am not in the house currently. I want to go back but I know what will happen. I don’t know if it is the lack of logic in this or if I am hopelessly codependent. She uses her phd as a shield and weapon to try to prove her points with me. It has left me devistated with a feeling worthlessness. I did everything I could to make her happy, put out all of her self ignited fires and delt with all daily crises. My therapist says I am not crazy eventhough I have been made to feel that way by a person with a disorder and a phd. Intellectually, I understand that she is sick and suffering but at the moment I can’t seem to get out of the emotional wake and roller coaster. Thanks again. I need to learn some how that I am not a fixer and everything can’t be fixed with love, support and compassion.

  62. Nicki says:

    It’s taken me 34 years to figure it out, but a very dear friend of mine definitely is a BPD. It took me until this summer to realize that the same “splitting/blacking” mode he abruptly went into after a very innocent conversation about college rankings at lunch during a wonderful mountain vacation was identical to an incident 8 years ago. That episode began while eating an ice cream cone after a fun summer bike ride, where the conversation turned to whether or not my secretary could possibly be intelligent if she never went to college. I said yes, he said no, and suddently I was asked to leave his condo and go home. He didn’t contact me for 5 years. Then, when he returned into my life 3 years ago, all had been going just great again until that fateful June lunch. This time he left my condo a day and a half early before our 2-week vacation was to end, and I have not heard from him since. This is a man who is extremely intelligent, creative, successful and except for these times of emotional distress, the most fun guy you could ever hope to spend time with in your life. I love him dearly, and even after going to therapy myself this summer, and reading all I can on this subject here on the internet and a variety of other sources, AND despite the fact that I have a professional background in counseling myself, I have to admit that I still DO NOT UNDERSTAND! This whole awakening to me is just too bizarre for my psyche to handle. I assume that I likely will see this man again, but whether it will be tomorrow, next week, 5 months, 5 years or more, I do not know. I remain confused, and all the research I have done on this subject would be a lot more fascinating to me, if it were not affecting my own life and the life of others I care for—namely my friend and his own family. Thanks for allowing me to tell my story.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      It sounds as if your friend has a very successful persona behind which he hides a lot of his illness. I can understand why you’d feel so confused. If you had greater access to his authentic feelings and reactions on a regular basis, he might make more sense to you.

  63. Tom says:

    Having been tagged with the BPD and then reading up on how it really has become a catch all tag for those people who don’t fit somewhere else. I have asked my therapist to question the use of this tag and instead look into ADD in adults and children. Sometimes it’s easier to assume rather than question.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Why don’t we just dispense with the labels altogether? It’s not an issue of trying to find the correct category (since these categories are entirely artificial) but rather trying to understand the unique nature of each person.

  64. TheWell says:

    Wow, reading your post really resonated with me. I’m a 41 year old female and I was recently diagnosed with BPD. I’m the type of borderline who turns it all inward. I never lash out at others but I do struggle with self esteem, self-harm, fear of abandonment, quick-intense attachments. I’m in therapy as well as group therapy. My blog if you are interested.

    http://livinginthewell.wordpress.com/

    The Well

  65. tracey says:

    Hi, i have been reading the stories because i have seen this website as i have a son who has borderline personality disorder (noy yet diagnosed). My sisters son has been diagnosed since he was nineteen after having problems in teenage years. I aslo think my other sisters son is showing signs of the disorder at fifteen. My dad has bipolar one and has been since he was aged 30 now on lithium, think he may have had bpd before being diagnosed with Bipolar. His dad was an alcoholic and had anger issues. Also his sisters have issues with gambling and self harm plus other borerline criteria. I feel there is a lot of genetics involved. Wish someone would do a study to verify this. My son has problems with relationships. Too clingy, need for reassurance. Severe anxiety when they are away. When the relationship breaks down he has suicidal tendencies. He can not seem to handle it. He has just come out of prison for dangerous driving which happened just after thier break up. He was on a self destruck mode. He has now come out of prison after saying he was going to change and seek help. But he has not followed through and says it is everyone elses fault and to leave him alone. He spends money like water. and then keeps coming to me for money which i begrudge giving him as he just goes out on benders. Think it helps with all his negative emotions.

  66. Erin says:

    My father may be a BPD. Also, my step-sister. I have had to cut contact with my dad because I feel swallowed by him and his anger and need. It’s all about what I can do for him, how I can make him happy, how I can meet his needs. He can be very warm and giving at times, however when he is in my life, I feel as if I have no self. A part of me does feel guilty for cutting off contact. It is mostly because he had a psychological attraction to me as a child in a sexual way. It feels so gross just writing that. If it were just his behavior and need, I don’t feel I would have severed the relationship.

    Also, my step-sister probably has BPD. Right now this actually bothers me more than not talking to my dad right now. I am getting married. I invited my step-sister who is gay. We both live in the South. Our parents are very religious. They of course think being gay is a sin. I do not. I emailed her on facebook. I invited her to the wedding. I wanted to help make her feel loved and welcomed. Apparently, all she heard was, ‘I hate you. Go away.’ She emailed me back. I have to say her words really hurt. She told me I had no manners. That I was “uncouth.” That I was no includer at all. She blocked me on facebook. She told her dad I was never to contact her again. Even though I have her email, phone number, and address, I am supposed to pretend I don’t. I am not allowed to even apologize for the misunderstanding, even though I did nothing wrong. ?? I am left wondering what the heck just happened.

    I think she has been so hurt by things in the past that even real love and kindness is scary to her. I think she knows I did nothing wrong. I think she is just trying to protect herself by hurting me to make me go away. And I am not chasing! I am not down for getting insulted just for being kind, but I am left with a lot of pity. I think it is really sad that she has to live life that way, but I am doing my best to not judge her. I wish her happiness and do my best to not harbor resentment at how she treated me when I was simply trying to reach out to her.

    For all of you with BPD, please be kind to yourself. Love yourself. You are your own worst enemy. People do not hate you. If someone is toxic to you, do not allow them to be in your life, even if it is your own mom. But don’t be jerks to people just because you are scared. I know most of those posting are the self-hurters not the other-hurters, so of course, I am not talking to you when I say that. To those of you who lash out at others, stop, be brave, and know that the universe doesn’t hate you, it loves you, you just don’t know what real love is, you were given a twisted and choked form of love and you are right to reject it, get therapy, you can do it!

  67. Erin says:

    I was diagnosed with a BPD 20 years ago and went to sessions twice with 2 different psychologist for only a few weeks before terminating. I just didn’t think they could help me, and to be honest, I still doubt any one can. But I’m married with 5 children, and am seeing the results of my miserable affliction. I know I intentionally sought a man who will take care of me, but I hate it, and I hate him, even though I know that’s irrational. My own children pull away from me (literally), and even though I wish for their love and affection, I must admit that their distance is somewhat comforting. I know I am damaging everyone in my path, and I want to be a healthy, wholesome influence, but I just don’t know how to be.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Find yourself a good therapist and stick with the work. Isn’t it better than the suffering you inflict on yourself and your children?

    • Mary says:

      Hi Erin…..I too have 5 children and am self diagnosed. I married a care taker who I love and hate and I am pushing my kids away. As they get older and independent, I am angry that they are not following every path I had laid out in my mind. I push them away and then feel relieved and sad at the same time. I am a professional in a community where most people come to me for therapy and I honestly feel I help so many people but I hide alone and pretend I am fine which only isolates myself more. I may consider getting a therapist online as I have no therapists in the area that I feel has the expertise in this area…..Good luck to you

  68. Danny says:

    I just like to start by saying I love reading your stuff. ( no I’m not idealising) I guess I have a question or two. Can people suffer from very painful abandonment/attachment issues, occasional rage (say every 6-12months on average) and not be BPD. I’m asking because I have experienced these things at different times in my life. I’ve never self harmed or had suicidal tendencies. As I have aged I have become smarter in understanding myself and others and have an easier time with attachment and abandonment but ive had to exercise a lot of care and attention to achieve this I have at times been obsessive and insecure around relationships. Thanks

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      You know that I don’t put much stock in diagnosis. I think instead of underlying pain and defensive strategies to cope with it. So, it sounds as if you’re not “BPD” in the book sense, but that you have a few features of it in a mild form. So you might relate a bit to the diagnostic criteria for BPD but not see yourself as fitting neatly into that category.

  69. New MFT says:

    Hi, I am a MFT student that is just a few months into practicum. I found your site in an effort to find some way to help a client I have. I am convinced she has BPD and I feel incapable of sorting through all the lies and distortions to help her. Every session I have with her leaves me feeling exhausted, despite that I really want to help her. The things you have written here have given me the motivation to keep going and I thank you for that.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I’m glad this helped. I understand about the exhaustion. But I think it’s like most kinds of effort: you’ll get better at it with time and your ability to bear with these difficult emotions will get stronger. You won’t feel so worn out by it.

  70. Edwin says:

    I am here today to say that reading these comments have me wanting to do something about my behaviour before I lose my wife and kids! I am an attention craver, and do things without worry of who I hurt. And I am tired of hurting my wife, and I dont want my kids to look down upon me for my ridiculous behavior. I want to love my wife the way she should be loved, I do love her but I am a constant worry to her with my slip ups for attention on through email. I dont seek sexual acts or anything like that, its just the attention I enjoy from knowing I made someone like me a little bit more. And I really want to stop doing these silly things, I also have an issue with handling things correctly, and saying what is really the truth on just the simplist of issues. I lie too much, and then again I dont trust my wife at times because I reflect back on some of her infidelities in this marriage and our relationship. I want to shake this so badly, and be the man she sees and use to love so dearly. I just feel like I am a self destructive time bomb just waiting for that next chance to gain acceptance from someone, when I need to be focused on my wife love…. I am so scared right now, but I want to work on this and make it like yesterday!!! I love my wife, and want to change my life around to keep my family together and live a life time with a woman I have sought to give my life for…. Please reply if you can help

  71. Kerri says:

    I have a question that is probably not answerable but it has bothered me for too many years so hopefully you can shed a little light. I was sexually assaulted in college and attempted suicide a couple of weeks later. I had been suicidal since high school and cut but never attempted until I was raped. I had cut and was planning on jumping from my dorm but obviously was stopped. I tried convincing the hospital I hadn’t intended on killing myself and only plant on cutting but they put me on 72 hour hold anyway. I was lying and would have killed myself as soon as I was let go. I only spoke to the psychiatrist briefly but was then given a pamphlet on borderline personality disorder. My question is how could they diagnose me based on such a brief interview when I was traumatized by the rape? Should I accept this diagnosis based on that experience or question it. I do have many borderline traits but never had the anger and acting out, prefer to be alone, and don’t want a relationship and never drew attention to myself in a way that people thought me to be unstable. I never ask my therapist because I guess I don’t want to be a borderline and recognize when I’m behaving in that way and try to stop. I realize you can’t say yes or no if I am but is the hospital diagnosis questionable?

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I don’t approve of diagnosis for the most part, and especially this one. Because BPD is so stigmatizing, it can be traumatic for someone to receive that diagnosis the way you did. I suspect the clinician who diagnosed you saw the self-injury and jumped to that conclusion because it’s often (not always) an indication of BPD.

  72. Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

    Mark, I’ll post your comment in the hopes that others will also respond. I think the best thing you can do is take your therapy seriously. Given your description of yourself, you probably need to go more than once. It sounds to me that your issues are in the area of profound shame and narcissism. Don’t expect too much too quickly.

  73. anonymous says:

    I wanted to say that I think your site is decent and respectful regarding BPD, and that is very refreshing.

    I found out that I had BPD because I happened to see a psychologist in addition to my psychiatrist and she told me what my psychiatrist’s ‘real diagnosis’ of me was. He was probably protecting me by not telling, and yet by not telling me, when I did find out, it felt like a dirty, shameful secret.

    Years later and tens of thousands of dollars of psychodynamic therapy later, I’m semi-recovered. Perhaps 70% better than I was. Which is miraculous for me, and has truly changed my life, but since my insurance plan changed, I cannot afford weekly therapy anymore, and pay over $200 for therapy once a month. We do not have mental health parity for insurance in my state. This insurance doesn’t cover meds, either. So now what? Soon I will have to switch to just med-checks because I’m falling deeper and deeper into debt. Eventually, I’m hoping professional in the field will advocate and fight for mental health parity. Insurance coverage means therapist can earn a decent living and also means those of us who need help can get it. Yet, nothing happens. Why?

    Since my diagnosis, I’ve seen mountains of books and web-sites by therapists even! stigmatizing us and talking of us as if we are less than human and hardly individuals. There is a sickening prejudice in the field that should be embarrassing to therapists, and yet somehow it is not. I feel as if I’m branded with a scarlet letter and though my psychotherapist always answers my thoughts about this, by saying that he “doesn’t like labels”, now I have one. This has caused more damage and shame than my actual illness.

    There is a lot of confusion as to what so-called “borderline” behavior really is, and patients are unique in their “presentation” of it. I’m almost finished with a Psych degree. As a research assistant, any subject that was disagreeable or difficult was “borderline” when discussed in our meetings with the professor. He never contradicted this commentary–even agreed, calling them “crazy” and rolling his eyes. Well that is what we were there trying to help–people with mental illness… well at least some of us were. That is what I thought, at least. The experience left me disappointed and jaded with the profession. The commentary was just sickening to listen to. But of course I could not say anything, lest other people be suspect my dark secret–my awful label.

    People in the profession should be advocating for change: what about alternative names that make more sense, like affective lability disorder or something less offensive? People in the field are the ones who should be ashamed as they hugely contribute to the misinformation, stereotyping and prejudice we suffer.

    We have an illness. We did not choose to have this illness, anymore than someone chooses to get cancer, and yet it is okay for “professionals” to indulge in slurs against me in everyday conversation amongst themselves? Would it be okay for them to make slurs against LGTB or a person of color? Yet it still goes on.

    When is it going to change? I was impressed when Dr. Linehan “came out” about her illness. And that is what it is. “Coming out” because that is the degree of shame and stigma the profession has allowed. You can’t expect us to advocate for this change. We are the ones who have to hide the stigma. We rely on websites that de-stigmatize and on professionals to take a stand who do not have this illness to stop the bullying and to encourage their colleagues to do so, as well.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      What you say is sadly true about the profession. I think the disrespect is partly a kind of defense mechanism: working with people who suffer from borderline-type issues can be humbling, and make you feel terribly inadequate. It’s easier to “blame” the client than recognize the great limits of our ability to help some people.

      • anonymous says:

        But what is interesting is this: If a patient had a case of really difficult brain cancer to cure, would physicians blame that patient for their illness because they felt inadequate and humbled in their ability to help? Would they make disparaging remarks about that person because that person, for legitimate neurological reasons, might be losing control of their behavior?

        Those in the fields of Psychology and Psychiatry want the respect received by those in the ‘pure sciences’, yet many in the field publicly behave (via websites and in interactions with other professionals) in a manner regarding patients with this illness, that minimizes the perception of it into ‘chosen behaviors’, rather than a real disease process to be treated.

        Thus the person with Borderline Personality Disorder becomes considered more of a ‘misbehaving client’, rather than someone who is direly ill (no understatement since approx. 10% will die from suicide) due to feelings of inadequacy or fear by the therapist. Perhaps this is something that should be considered in training those aiming for a PhD or MD–how to cope with these feelings when they occur.

        I feel like BPD has been swept under the rug in the professional community like some dirty little secret. It needs to be talked about and addressed–policies changed–attitudes changed, because these attitudes might be leading to loss of life.

        • Debbie says:

          Thank you so much for contributing to this dialogue. I am a 54 yr old woman who was told by my psychiatrist that I had “major depression” and after twenty years of no respite therapy here in Canada I stumbled upon a forum on DBT at a hospital where I was being treated with Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation and was gobsmacked. Are you kidding me?!! My Dr. felt the “label” was too destructive and chose to keep it from me all those years. I have since started a DBT protocol and am this week reconciling with my mother who for sure has DBT after not speaking to her for twelve years. ALL of her abusive and destructive behavior can be attributed to her damaged brain.

          This is all a travesty. I should have been instructed ages ago that my symptoms were a diregulation of emotion and given the tools to manage this affliction and learn to believe that “feelings aren’t facts.” If this is a label that is too demonizing then bloody well change it as you so eloquently suggested.

          I applaud your insight and take great comfort that you with your education in phsycology can actually start a dialogue to make those changes that your forebearers were unable to do.

  74. Susannah says:

    I think I may be BPD. I attach, and idealize people. Then, once they become attached and want things from me, or begin to criticize or question me, I devalue and detach. Not understanding, my friends will try to remain in contact, whereupon I get claustrophobic, and avoid them like the plague.
    If it’s a partner, once the devaluing starts, sex is out of the window, and the relationship is doomed. This has been the story of my relationships since I began dating. So I’ve stopped dating for now!

  75. Im says:

    This is an amazing article. I am a qualified therapist now but I know that BPD self is in there and I still struggle to self- sooth day in and day out. I found your article when I was looking for Shame and its relevance to BPD.. I deeply resonate with your writing and so appreciate your willingness to let your inner BPD self speak. Mine is going crazy with me right now but somehow knowing I am not the only one struggling makes me feel a whole lot better.

    I think I will purchase your book :)

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      It is definitely much better to know that many of us struggle with these issues and you’re not alone. It help makes the pain/shame so much more bearable.

  76. Lisa says:

    I believe a lot of people, especially in the mental health field, feel uncomfortable working with or being around individuals with BPD because they can be so mean. They can rage out on a person and this makes it very unpleasant to be around them. The energy of a BPD person feels very uneasy, it’s like you can just sense it there. I find this with a lot of the personality disorders. There’s just a sense of uneasiness there that can feel uncomfortable for the person around them. After reading all the comments and really thinking about it, because I do know mental health professionals hold terrible attitudes towards BPD clients, I think this does need to be something that we change. Obviously these individuals are suffering quite a bit and don’t need more judgement coming at them from “professionals”. Thanks for everyone speaking their truth here, it has helped me to readjust the way I think of this topic….
    Although I am still not completely sure where I stand on the topic of Narcissistic Personality Disorder or AntiSocial Personality Disorder. Lacking empathy is a tough thing to face…It sounds like the people who have responded to this post are all very aware and tuned into their own empathy….Thanks again! Much love and respect to you all <3

  77. Anonymous says:

    i am a 62 yr old widow who undertook a 2 year deep self-search, re-organization, defragging of my personal clean slate (pcs) with truthful honest information I could trust and use for my present and future life. I entered therapy as a result of too many stressors and the loss of my lifeline so I was free-falling. Upon backcasting into my past and putting my life puzzle pieces together with pieces that fit, not that have been “forced” in. I am a ptsd and I nicknamed myself 3ctas= chronic complicated complex trauma abuse survivor. because I felt since my traumas rapes and sodomies occurred in infancy I had no “pre stress, no base nerve synapes system for my neo-corte to “build on correctly” I learned to mimic bluff and blend to survive. I was diagnosed with bpd and I am disturbed because I am not one as I read your blogs. I may have a symptom here or there mild but I am in emotional shutdown feral innocent and thats what i locked up decades ago. Well Dr. Bargo I opened my pandoras bo to seee that i kept me safe the parts that everyone hurt abused I locked away for a safe time to bring them out and enjoy. My psychotherapy went great for a couple of months until I had bpd placed upon me by my therapist and forced to use the handbook DBT with a theory that is “not proven as yet”. When I disagreed my therapy went to hell-o and became “pavlov poker head game abuse loop therapy” where my triggers were used repeatedly to keep me off kilter and on-tell. It became PSYCH-O-THERAPY. I RAN!! but now have NEW WOUNDS to deal with. blindisded betrayed, lied to, disrespected and there is no true justice for the client. This is the thrid and last time I will ever try therapy. Each time betrayed by the therapist for his own career steps. So if I go to whenever needed in june 2012, the therpaist changes his phone number and has no secretary for me to call, I am thrown away and left stranded while still under therapy? Is this normal behavior because as a nurse for forty + years I am STUNNED, thank u for this site!!! it has helped me see I am not alone. How could a therapist collect for texts and then ban them constantly? Why was he late every single appt or last minute cancellations and I am uncooperative. I do not want visibility so i get rush hour day appts. My horror triggers red/white look at linehan workbook…blood on skin blood and milk blood on sheets in underwear and you as a therapist use these to keep in emotional wildfire? why? I see psychotherapy as a codependent cash cow creator. Like Howard Stern who lives on a psychiatrists couch, he must be happy chaching all the way to the bank by keeping client dependent on him. As my therapist did to me for 14 months. I hate therapists and psychology. My three family memebers have them and use them to trigger me the same way my LAST THERAPIST DID TO ME. So thank you for helping me see there is hope.

  78. Sarah says:

    You say borderline personality doesn’t go away, but don’t you agree that our brains are malleable and therefore can form new healthier pathways. I think it’s very unhelpful to lable individuals who want to and can change their lives for the better- so much so that they then may not fit the borderline lable. Thanks x

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I do think that we can form new healthier pathways; I just don’t believe you can make it so the past never happened. I believe that many people who might be labelled BPD can change dramatically for the better but they’ll always retain a part of them that feels and reacts the same way. It just doesn’t rule them any more as there are other, healthier aspects to their personalities.

  79. Michael says:

    Dr. Joe, thank you for the article. It gave me a different perspective on BPD psychotherapy. My current wife takes Zoloft for depression. I met her when I was working for two years in Cental America. Early into our relationship (we have been together for five years) I found out she had been had been sexually abused as a young child, so I encouraged her to get professional help as I had been down this road before in my first marriage – 0r so I thought. She was diagnosed with depression and prescribed sertraline and she was dx with double personality. I doubted the double personality dx because she always remembered when see did or said bad things – which was very often. I felt for a long time that we were only dealing with chronic depression and realted issues she had with her early childhood abuse. I recently came across info on BPD . She has everyone of the symptoms and behavoirs of BPD. You name it – she has it. My wife studied BPD as well and cried as she looked at the disorder and it symptoms and behaviors because she said it told the story of her life – in vivid detail. She has rejected therapy in the past, but takes her medicine for depression most of the time – except when casual friends convince her that she is fine and doesn’t need medicine for depression. Of course, they usually only see her when she is ok. It seems like the more she reaches out to try and form new friendships or to better herself with activities or classes the more the symptoms and BPD behavior come out. Now that she has accepted that she has BPD, maybe she will seek psychotherapy again but I think that I cannot be the one to suggest this to her. She has a list of things that I need to work on to make her happy. She believes, when her BPD is in control of her which is very often these days, that I am the reason for her behavior. She wants me to commit to her that I will work harder to change things about myself and our life to make her happy. I often get ultimatums about if I don’t change something about myself by a specific date – she will divorce me. And when she is angry which is often, I am told very mean, vile things, that seek to detroy my emotional well-being. And that does not include the daily comments about little things that seem to be aimed at me. I am close to being emotionally bankrupt. As a point of reference, I have help raise 3 step sons over a 20 year period. Both of my wives could not have any more children when I met them, so I do not have any children. Two of my step sons are adults (first marriage) and one is 12 (second marriage). My step sons have told me that I am a great man and that I shouldn’t change a thing about myself. But as Jimmy Buffet sang, “Some people claim that there’s a woman to blame. Now I think, Hell, it could be my fault!”
    My problem is that I have lived with my wife’s BPD for 5 years. Before that, I was in a relationship for 15 years (10 years married) where my first wife exhibited a lot of BPD behavior, but was never diagnosed. I did not know of such a disorder at the time. We went to therapy together a few times, but my first wife would not go back once the therapist began to examine my first wife’s issues. She also was a victim of early childhood sexual abuse. After we had been married for three years my first wife remembered for the first time in her life that she had been sexually abused as a child. I was the first person she told. After that she told her mom who reacted as if she was imagining the sexual abuse. My first marriage ended when I realized she had been having an affair and she told me that my problem was that I was always too worried about making her happy. She had destroyed my self-esteem to a point were she had convinced me that I was worthless.
    I think that I probably have Rescuers Syndrome since all of my adult relationships, over 20 years worth have been with women who had BPD, whether dx or not. I have been in shock the last two weeks once I realized I am dealing with BPD and I cannot “save the day” for my wife. I must try to accept that this is as good as it gets. I am sure that you recommend that I get some theraphy to explore this. I am a responsible professional, but that does not insulate me from emotional trauma. I do not drink very often (socially once per 6 months to a year), I stopped smoking a year ago, and I am losing the extra weight I’ve been caring around (probably due to my emotional condition). I am faithful to my wife. I do not get angry easily. I would never hit a woman – although my wives have hit me before! My wife tells me I am very, very patient, but unless I change things about myself it proves that I do not love her. I love my wife and time will tell if I can emotionally survive my current marriage of not. The question I have is what real psychological issues could I develope living in a emotional environment like I have for most of my adult life? PTSD? If ultimately only my heart is broken and I live to love another day – then I can chance that. If I am at risk of permanent psychological damage, then I have more to think about. Am I asking the question to late?

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      No, it’s not too late, but you need to focus on taking care of yourself. You definitely need to get some therapy yourself in order to understand why you get involved in this destructive type of relationship.

  80. Awatea says:

    I am sitting here reading posts on BPD, i like to see my self as not having BPD but reacting normally to an abnormal situation. I have had a life full of more trauma than enything else, when i did get the help that was needed i was told that it is amazing i am not dead or in a psch ward. Anyway after 5 years of Gestalt pschychotherapy and reliving all kinds of childhood trauma and walking around trapped in a living hell, i feel so changed that now i struggle with my new self and finding the human connection that is needed to have real relationships in my life. So i am not alone anymore but just lonely, left alone with my longings for someone to see me for the real me. Anyway i came across this ste and felt having a voice on hear may help leaad me to what is needed… or maybe not.

  81. jen says:

    I’m not sure where to start. I am 41 and diagnosed with bpd and severe depression 5years ago. Recently i have been sectioned and in hospital for 3weeks. My Dr then let me go as he said that environment is not for me. I have been really unstable and dragged out of the river with hypothermia, and pulled off a bridge, i think i am one of those thats not taken seriously even though i am not trying to attract attention, i just have bad luck. I cant hold down a relationship, and have no direction in my life. I was nearly put on adult protection but managed to swerve that. I wanted to write after reading this, and i’m honestly not sure why. I saw my mental health nurse today, but i just dont see the point, and i only get 15mins so i feel ousted at every turn.
    I wont be here for much longer some of us are just to week…. I hate this diagnosis as its probably one of the worst as the mental health system seem against us. I am in Scotland, but i am invisible.

    • Dolma Beck says:

      Hi Jen, I hear you. Even though I can’t see you
      Hope you can find some small glint of hope
      To build on. Life is good.. It’s the monkey mind
      There is a great Buddhist centre in Scotland.
      Not sure of the name.. Same ling.. Something like that
      Tibetan Buddhist centre. Go there.

  82. Peta says:

    This has been an excellent thread to read. Thank you Joseph and all of the contributors. I am in the final stages of my masters of clinical psychology and so far in my two externships (placements external to the university) I have encountered a lot of negativity towards people with BPD. It is interesting that this same stigma is not directed at people with garden variety depression and anxiety. I think this is unfortunate as it does not benefit the client or patient to adopt a ‘tit-for-tat’ type of attitude as a practitioner. I am quite fascinated by the phenomenon of BPD or rather, the cluster of traits that we associate with BPD. I have enjoyed working with patients with BPD and I am more naturally drawn to working with people with these traits than I am working with the ‘YAVIS’. It is not to say the YAVIS client does not suffer, but I suppose I cannot relate to these people as easily, as I grew up in a family fuelled on drama.

    I can say with some degree of certainty that my maternal grandmother would fit the BPD label and possibly NPD as well. She is 84 and can be incredibly charming, clever and giving towards those to whom she is not related. To her family, she can be cold, callous and calculated (this is how it is interpreted anyway). She actually feels rejected, admonished and possibly very empty. So different people see her in different ways. Needless to say, my mother has a very tortured relationship with her as does my aunty.

    I related to your question about the ‘BPD’ part of myself. I would have to say that I have had many ‘run-ins’ with ‘her’. If one’s mother, father or grandparents was the dysregulated self in the family, chances are, one won’t be unaffected by this. As for me, I relate to the easily slighted, slightly paranoid aspects of BPD. As a 30 year old woman looking back, over the years I have found it hard to commit to relationships (both romantic or otherwise) for fear of rejection and feeling inferior, and I have major issues trusting others. Sometimes I will attach easily, but usually I am wary of letting others into my world. Even writing this out makes me feel ‘not normal’ as though, maybe I am ‘too weird’ to be a practicing psychotherapist when I look around at my colleagues who seem to have perfect lives and project an air of ‘having it all worked out’, being balanced, sensible and most of all, rational. I don’t tend to rate experiences from 1 to 10, I am marrying for love and not money and at times I feel like I am riding an emotional rollercoaster. Lucky for me though, I have a fiancé who is a wonderful listener and I write and perform songs to express my emotions. This helps tremendously. As I see it, I needed to ‘go through’ having a number of turbulent relationships, experimentation with substances, bouts of depression, and being on the verge of an eating disorder in my mid-20s to know that ‘having it all worked out’ and being ‘perfect’ was a far cry from normality. So when a health professional or colleague blames a client’s behaviour on ‘personality’ – I wonder if that colleague has ever had a meltdown, or even worse, taken the road less followed to work out what was best for him or her. I think there’s a little bit of BPD in everyone, unless of course you are perfect, which is just another construct that we have made up. I think that seeing parts of the self through a diagnostic label(s), can be a good empathy tweaking exercise and it allows us to see that diagnosis is not a black and white, clear-cut issue that is reserved for so-called emotionally unstable people.

  83. devil says:

    I wonder what a person who can’t talk should do? I’ve tried several therapies but whenever I’m being asked about anything from my personal life, let it be the least significant detail I feel scared, ashamed, exposed and therefore angry. It basically feels like an attack on me and I’m immediately defending myself. I end up either not talking at all or being extremely aggressive and shouting. Several therapists have thrown me out already. Has anyone had such a problem and how to overcome it?

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I’ve never encountered that problem in my own practice so I’m not sure how to answer. Maybe one of the other site visitors will have a comment.

      • Peta says:

        I wonder if creative arts therapies that use alternative methods of communication may be useful if you haven’t already tried them – eg. art therapy, music therapy, sand tray, movement. Sometimes we have few words to describe how we feel and expressing our experience in another way can give new self-understanding and create more meaning. Perhaps too, it is about finding a therapist who is a good fit.

        • Kate says:

          I started with psychodynamic therapy. I then moved on to
          Provocative therapy, which was a good alternative for me ( reverse psychology).
          Also I benefitted a lot from reading Alice Miller’s books about emotional abuse.
          Being too sensitive to medication, I see a homeopath.
          I practice yoga, tai chi and mindfulness.
          I also have seen a healer (past life regression) which I’m very aware is not every body’s cup of tea, but it did resonate with me on a feeling level.

  84. Justine says:

    I have to ask this & I do realize I may not receive a response. I have a child who molested my younger children. I begged for help,even begged the county to remove him as he continued to molest even with all safegards I could possibly place in the home were in place. The county became my enemy & because I with other well known therapists were adamant on removing the child,they turned me into a monster. They had all adults take their tests & decided I was borderline,amongst other things that honestly don’t reflect who I am or stand for.
    My question is two-fold. Do therapists manipulate results to fit their own perceptions or desired outcomes? If no,then is it possible to exhibit bpd traits in a season of ones life?
    The county failed miserably as it turned out the child who was molesting had more victims than any of us were truly prepared for. When I did join DBT therapy,my own therapists said I didn’t fit the “mold” for their diagnosis & they referred me to someone who better suited my situation. The lady was amazing & helped me tremendously!
    If everyone is labeled incorrectly,that could actually cause more damage than addressing the blaring truth & helping the true problem.
    Thanks for the time you invest in this,it obviously needs to be discussed more.
    Justine

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Some (bad) therapists manipulate results to fit their own perceptions or desire outcomes, but I don’t think that’s the norm.

  85. Obee says:

    I suspect that our adult son, age 25, who lives 600 miles away, is Borderline. Things he has told us and things we have experienced directly fit all the descriptions I have read. We are trying to get him into therapy. Since I’m not a therapist by any stretch, should I tell him what I suspect so perhaps he could bring it up in counseling? Or should I sit back and see what happens? The other issue is, he is constantly bringing up his childhood and how we “screwed him up,” and he has mentioned some things that are total fabrications. He’s criticized us for bringing him up in a small, prosperous Midwest town, as well as the fact that he’s an only child. Does family counseling ever help in these situations?

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      If you can get him into therapy, I’d then leave it to the therapist to do his or her job. I wouldn’t mention the word “borderline” because people (including therapists) have very bad reactions to it.

  86. DHB says:

    Please help me find a good BPD therapist in Salt Lake City, Utah. I am in DESPERATE need for someone good. My BPD is horrid!

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I don’t have any professional contacts there. Try searching for “psychodynamic psychotherapist” in your area.

  87. Natalie says:

    Approximately two months ago I walked into my therapist’s office asking for some moral support whilst going through a stressful period. After three visits she has me visiting a path along the way to what appears to be BPD (although she hasn’t stated this). I am almost certain she thinks I am having difficulties with disclosure because of shame etc. To some extent that is true (it is hard) but what I have the most difficulty with at this stage is the fear and of being labelled with this. I’m on quite a journey but I’m finding it very difficult to raise this issue with her.

  88. LD says:

    I work daily with a man with BPD. We are both in a very small medical residency program and close daily interaction is constant. I’ve used every resource I can to help get me through this, we only have 5 more months to go, but I feel bullied intimidated and frankly threatened at work by his angry outbursts. He says that I’m too sensitive, that I overstep my boundaries and that I can go cry to anyone because he feels he has never done anything wrong. He is extremely moody and spews out very subtle underhanded comments that are meant to undermine me. The ironic thing is that we both share similar interest and have even had fun together studying, working out etc. but this closeness has left me even more hurt when he acts out against me. He has opened up to me about this girl he is dating in his life who fits a perfect description of the woman in “Fatal Attraction” He has the most insane and disturbing stories about their relationship and I find it sad that he feel he needs to be with her so he doesn’t feel alone. He tells me this himself. All I want in this residency is be an effective resident who can work well with colleagues, see patients, get the job done well and learn a lot. Some days are great, but then out of nowhere and unexpectedly I get “put in my place” as he describes it and get told “Im too slow and that I will never make it out there” these remarks come out of the blue. The emotion he conveys is anger that is directed at me, and it is confusing because he can be completely friendly and nice to the nurses and patients. I wake up everyday with butterflies in my stomach and dread going to work. After 2.5 years of dealing with this constantly my emotions are wearing very thin. I have a loving partner of 8 years who has had to hear about my dealings with this co-resident. A former resident in the program did not want him to attend her graduation. He can not seem to maintain a stable relationship, even though he does try, which is sad. He never admits our owns up to the consequences of his inappropriate and unprofessional behavior at work, stating that he just “works with a bunch of narcissists who focus to much on feelings” He readily gossips about everyone and has something negative to say about everything and everyone. He is always trying to get people to take a stand on his side of issues always asking “Am I right or wrong?” It is always yes or no or black or white with him. Any random thing can set him off. Residency is a stressful time that can bring out bad stuff in everyone, and I try to take things in stride, but this has taken a toll and on my well being and I must stand up for myself and take action. We are having a meeting with our interim division chair (who is right out of residency himself and only has 1 year experience) and program director (who is a volunteer and is never present in clinic) and I honestly don’t have that much faith in a good outcome. My coresident will lash out claiming that I am the one to blame, that I am too sensitive and that he has never done anything wrong. My division chair is well meaning but I highly doubt he will have the ability to deal with this situation effectively. Furthermore, I am afraid my coresident will retaliate over this situation and see it as a way to hurt or get back at him. I’m afraid things will get worse. I don’t know what else to do. There is no accountability for his behavior because of a lack of strong and consistent leadership in our program. It is already such a toxic environment at work. I’m already in therapy and reaching out to as many people as I can about this. Any helpful suggestions on how to deal with someone with BPD in the workplace?

  89. Ethan says:

    Super interesting to read all these stories.

    For those dealing directly, or indirectly with BPD–the issue is absolutely one of the most difficult and least rewarding conditions to treat. Therapists tend to run from BPD. I see a lot of questions which seek simple answers for incredibly complex scenarios, to which Dr. Burgo simply can’t resolve in a few sentences. But, Dr Burgo, you get a high-five from me for having the capacity and resilience to address the subject.

    BPD is also one of the most difficult conditions to recognize because it can present itself through a variety of other similar conditions, so I would suggest great caution for anyone ‘self diagnosing’ anything at all.

    Dr. Burgo, your book is arriving today. I look forward to reading it. Can I convince you to make it an audio-book? I read books at home, and I listen to books while I drive :)

    I have an interesting story. This won’t be a cathartic post summarizing my completely within my control but believe to be outside of my control life.

    I have a female friend who is 20, and I found to be an excellent person but has had a challenging enough life that she had become extremely self destructive (cutting/drugs/dangerous behavior). I was concerned that she would not be alive much longer with that behavior. This is a person who has virtually no one in her life, and never had a support system of any kind–through friends, nor family.
    I made a decision to make her a roommate of mine. Which, at first glance may not seem like a wise idea, but it was someone who was a close friend–and I didn’t think she would survive another 6 months of life. So I decided to take, and accept all the challenges involved.

    Myself, am stable, happy and a fairly balanced individual. There is virtually no circumstance in which I don’t believe I can create the outcome I desire. And so I accepted this challenge to informally rehabilitate her, and do whatever I could, to improve the conditions of her life–to be a continual positive, stable, and cosnsistent prescence.

    I studied her behaviors and tried to figure it all out. It was exceptionally hard to classify her behavior, because it was so inconsistent, and took on the characteristics of so many different conditions. So I did what any normal person wouldn’t do, and I researched. One of my closest friends is also a Psy D., who–out of the blue, had left a book on BPD at my house. Ever curious, I read and read–and found a gold-mine of information–which, couldn’t possibly have been more accurate in describing my new roomate.

    And voila–there it all was. BPD–it was disturbingly accurate, even in the nuances. And so I read the book, bought another book, and read that too. And…at this point, I understand BPD and its treatment fairly well.

    The first striking issue was that the succcessful treatment rate was very low. Enough to the point that I wondered if conventional therapy was even approaching it correctly—I thought “If a 40% success rate is considered the best modern pscyhology has to offer, maybe something is being overlooked”. In anything I do–if my success rate is 40%, I can probably presume that I don’t understand the problem very well. And so it really made me think “ok, Ethan, what could everyone be missing?”. My Psy D. friend told me how challnging BPD clients were, and why. And I again, thought that in anything I do in life–the challenge is always greatest when it’s not understood. When something is understood, when the mechanics are clear, navigating the issue at hand, becomes highly managable. And so this train of logic left me to decide that modern psychology and clinical practices don’t understand BPD very well. I don’t say that as a matter of subjetive judgement, but just by noting success rates.

    So how to help my friend then? What novel approach could I come up with that only I, as a friend, could provide. What unique conditions do I have that the therapist does not?

    Well, first–I’m not limited by the professional conditions of being a licenced therapist. I don’t have a code of conduct I have to follow, and I have exceptional access to the ‘client’. Another distinction is that I care more personally about my friend than would any ‘Therapist/client’ relationship. And then, I’m creative and inventive. :)

    And so it unfolded like this: I spoke with her regularly about the problems in her life, how she’s handling them, how she’s not, why she behaves and responds to certain conditions, etc—and we fairly regularly would convert unconscious behavior to conscious behavior–to take all those confusing emotions, figure out how to identify them, and how to sublimate effectively.

    It built trust, over time. Different stories would be revealed from her childhood, other influences would surface–but little by little, her situation improved. Along the way, she confided something to me. She revealed that several years ago–her mother had insisted she see a Psychologist, who had diagnosed her with BPD. (!!)—I had not told her what I knew about it, that I studied it extensively–but it was nice to know that my own evaluation had some further traction.

    So I asked her what happened. She had told me some time ago, that she did not trust therapists. That they’re doing a job–they don’t really care about you. Maybe they do to a certain extent, but they don’t REALLY care about you. She equated her exepriences with therapists, essentially to deceptive friendships: people who are there for you ONLY conditionally. People who receive money to be your ‘friend’.

    Interesting I thought. And what are some of the hallmarks of BPD? What are some of the conditions that generate BPD? Fear of abandonment is a major facet. In fact, abandonment is considered to be one of the most characteristic circumstantial causes. Trust is incredibly hard to come by with BPD clients. Yet, the clinical paradigm is one that is unquestionably clear: a BPD client is notoriously avoided, most often given up on, and built on the standard model of dr/client relationship; one that is structurally conditional.

    It’s kind of like exposure therapy. Take someone with a phobia of spiders. Then, they go and get therapy from a spider. Take a person with major fears of abandonment, and put them with a therapist who exists only in their lives for money. I believe for BPD–the conventional theraputic model is flawed.

    She told me of her own experience–on where she began to trust her therapist, someone who she believed really cared. And at somet point, she was at a low moment in her life, and she was told to call her therpist when that occured. She was feeling suicidal. She called her therapist. She got a voicemail telling her that her therapist was available between the hours of 8am and 5pm. And she never talked to her therapist again. In the moment of greatest need–the person she began to trust, ‘abandoned’ her. She felt betrayed, and it reminded her that this person doesn’t care–they’re just doing their job, and care between the hours of 8-5.

    And what do BPD need? Consistancy, for sure.

    So–with all this information, I decided on a course of action. I created an enviroment that was stable, healthy, productive. That was always present. She told a friend some time ago which I overheard “I trust Ethan with me more than I trust me with me”. And I have been a model of consistency and support in her life, providing her a place she calls ‘home’, with a friendship that never waivers. I have countless other ‘methods’ which I employed to good function, which I’m leaving out.

    Skipping to the present, 7 months later.

    She is a dancer. She just won the world championships.
    She says she has never been happier in her life. Her past chain of destructive relationships has all but stopped. She has developed a sense of identity, of self confidence. She knows how to let go, how to identify positive and negative influences in her life–she recognizes emotions and why they occur. She’s repaired her relationship with her mother, and even on occasion talks to her father (who abandoned the family at a young age…surprise). She has sworn off drugs. She no longer cuts, or even considers it an option. She no longer is bullemic. She has quality relationships. She says things like “I miss you” to friends, and “I love you” to family members–things she never, ever would say in the past. She can express her emotions. She confronts problems instead of avoiding them. Her manic episodes have simply disappeared. She told me recently that “you basically saved my life”.

    And–I think she will be alright. :)
    The reason I’m writing this is because it’s the first post I saw on this site. The reason I went to this site, is because I bought your book “why I..”.

    And so I have several observations on BPD and its treatment.
    First is that I think the clinical success rate is very low because the theraputic model is not built to deal with it in any effective fashion.
    Second, I believe that if the clinical model for treatment is counter-productive by nature to the problem, then the model and methodologies needs to change. With BPD, clearly, the results are poor. That means the methods are poor. And if the results are the best one can do based on the restrictions of ones practice, then the restrictions need to be adjusted.

    I think there is a barrier: there is a collective idealized methodology of what is ‘right’ and what ‘should’ be best practices when dealing with BPD. But that same ideology is just what creates results that are not successful. It’s a system built to fail those with BPD.
    And so, I think–in terms of BPD treatment–it may be time to think a little outside the box.
    As an anecdote–to end this long post, as I have no official guidelines on treatment–I would like to share how I got my friend to stop cutting herself :D
    Understanding BPD, I decided to utilized some of the unconscious behaviors in my favor.
    Specifically, guilt, shame, and fear of loss. To my friend, I am her highest confidant and closest friend.
    And so, I thought it over, looked her in the eyes and said: “look, if you cut yourself again, I’m going to cut myself too.”
    And her eyes went wide “You’re @#$#$@ing crazy! You’d do it too!!” and I said “yep”. And it never happened again :) Thank god she didn’t call my bluff ..haha..
    Anyway! Great site, I look forward to reading your book.

    • Dolma Beck says:

      Cool Ethan. Well done..
      Milieu therapy, has always been.. To my understanding
      The best way to facilitate healing. Bruno Bettelheim
      ( a therapist much maligned since his death).
      Wrote an amazing book, called “home for the heart.”
      About the school he set up at Chicago University, where
      Young- ish people, with psychosis were healed
      Without drugs… I found his book/ theories
      Very inspiring.. There have been qu about his
      Actual practice… Anyway. It’s a difficult
      Thing to create.. Hence I guess, therapists do
      The best they can… Once/ twice a week.
      In the seventies( time I came of age),
      Much milieu. Therapy setups were going on
      In Sydney, Australia.. Even the community centre
      At Bondi, set up a house… This was for psychotics.( a valiant try).
      I was a volunteer at the centre, at this time.
      Do they still create these houses?
      Doubt it. Medical profession has decided that psychosis,
      is result of brain chemistry malfunctioning .
      Nothing to do with family dynamics etc.. Here,
      Take an anti psychotic…
      I digress. …. Hope your friend just keeps blossoming
      Growing and dancing!

  90. bern says:

    I have been diagnosed with BPD, and have read a lot of books about it since the diagnosis. Many authors talk about an “invalidating environment” as a contributing factor to BPD, but none has come close to describing the environment I grew up in, which seems to have been unusual. I’d be interested to know of similar cases. At age 9 or 10, my mother cornered me and demanded to know what my father had “done to me” in the basement. I don’t think I even understood the question, but I do think she continued to watch me and that made me uncomfortable, because I remember not wanting to remain alone in a room with him. Then, after a time, I couldn’t stand to be in his presence at all and would leave any room he entered. He eventually retaliated with physical and verbal assaults, and my childhood dissolved in an atmosphere that led to cutting, bulimia, and suicide attempts beginning at age 15 (none of which my parents saw). It all seems continuous in my mind, but I do have mostly a memory gap for the years from ages 10-14. I would have thought I dreamed this up, but I remember that at age 16 my mother did the same thing, demanding to know what an uncle had done to me. She wasn’t a nurturing mother, but she wasn’t abusive, and my parents had a long and apparently happy marriage. Certainly I felt that she saw my existence in our home as a problem, and between that and my father’s punishments, I think by age 15 I felt there was no place for me to exist. What has bothered me all these years is that I can’t figure out why she would have said this in the first place. So… was this an “invalidating environment”? I’ve never seen anything described like this, because it wasn’t exactly sexual abuse. I don’t think I was sexually abused, actually.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I don’t know about “invalidating” but it sure sounds crazy-making. Your mother sounds as if she had some delusional, psychotic features.

  91. Diane Carr says:

    Oh boy, does this hit home. Yep, I’ve got my borderline person inside. She freaks when she is rejected or abandoned. And yes, she bonds very quickly – which isn’t a bad thing once you understand it and don’t expect others to do the same.

    I also freaked every time my therapist left me. The first time it happened she went over seas and then upon returning new carpet at been installed in the office with a toxic glue and my appointment was cancelled, the office closed, and I had no way to get in touch with her. I don’t think I have ever felt so miserable in my life.

    I called the campus (she worked for the university) police and someone mistakenly gave me her phone number. What power! That phone number became one way I learned to control the borderline child within me. Hmm. I think I still have it somewhere after all these years….. Thank God for a therapist that stuck in there with me.

    I think I have felt some shame over my need at that time in my life. This is helpful – reading your posts. Knowing I wasn’t so weird. Hearing you so matter of factly share.

  92. A. says:

    If a client shows borderline traits and appears to have a very strong positive transference reaction during and outside your appts (phone,email) how do you respond? I know it will somewhat depend on context, but if the person believes their reaction is due to all of your “positive, understanding, patient” etc. characteristics – how do you help them to gain any insight? Sometimes it becomes almost crazy making when I work with certain clients who exhibit this particular pattern. I also think my countertransference affects me because I find myself wanting to “fix” and, ironically, I’m definitely not feeling very patient on the inside /: I do my best to focus on the client and not let these impulsive reactions actually surface, but it even affects me internally sometimes outside of appts.

    Do you ever come right out and ask/talk about the transference directly? It feels like a lot of tension in the room.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Sometimes I do come out and talk about it directly, but as you’ve found, it doesn’t help to address idealization head on. Sometimes, I’ll listen to their relationship history, hear about the wonderful relationships that started off so well and ended so badly and then make an analogy. “I wonder if one day you’ll see something you don’t like in me and our relationship will be over.” I look to other relationships as predictors for what’s going to happen in the transference when idealization inevitably flips to devaluation.

  93. Danny says:

    I have had a very rough few days, and am still feeling very low and embarrassed. I was arrested for breaking a window at a somewhat ex’s (we where not a couple but we had a very short and intense relationship and I had fallen very hard for her) house even though I knew clearly that I had no intention of hurting her but I could not stop to think about my actions . As soon as I started to think clearly I asked myself “why do I do these stupid stupid things?” I took a few days to sit and think until reaching out for help. I was asked to take a few tests and it turns out that the symptoms point directly at BDP. I was give some information on BDP and it all became so clear to me that this is what has been holding me back my entire life. As I read on the pennies just kept dropping. Although I would prefer to be ‘normal’ I was so relieved to finally find a reason for my impulsive behaviour, anger, mood swings, abandonment issues and the list goes on. Although I am struggling to get through the days at the moment (she is afraid and has a protection order against me which really hurts) I am so excited as to what the future holds and working towards finally become well and hopefully happy for the first time in my life. What I want to ask is this, will I be able to improve and ever be able to hold down a meaningful relationship? Is this a life sentence? and finally am I having dreams of grandeur. Thanks in advance.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      No, it’s not a life sentence but it will take a lot of hard work in therapy with a therapist who understands bpd.

  94. Suzanna says:

    I was once responsible for the financial/administrative aspects of a newly established psychiatric research unit in the UK, where the head of research, a psychiatrist, shared with colleagues (but not with me) that he felt I had BPD.
    Reading your article I certainly recognise an overwhelming sense of abandonment that plagued me for years, until I decided to warn friends that if I started to cry as we parted after a visit, to understand that it was just old pain that I was in the process of healing. What a liberation!
    I still have residual pangs of sadness, but it lasts for a few seconds, then I’m able to go about my day. Pre-liberation I would feel totally lost for anything up to a week!

  95. Randy says:

    I am married to the love of my life – who is both the most amazing and hateful person I have ever met. She has EVERY criteria for BPD (and is also diagnosed with DID, complex PTSD, with some bipolar). She is very abusive to me – physically attacking me 100′s of times causing me to miss work to not show up bruised, verbally assaulting me in the most horrible ways possible (i will spare the details), and sexually by sleeping with men and claiming it is my fault she was “raped”. She has threatened to suicide and to kill our children to make sure i am left with nothing after she is gone…and has driven everyone in her life away, all the while blaming them for being “rejecting”. She has gone thru about ten therapists/psychiatrists who have unanimously claimed she needs in-patient treatment. My poor wife was raised SEVERELY abused, and our entire families are concerned about the emotional health of our two young kids. I have an opportunity to legally force her into therapy…what should I do? I am prepared to separate from her and take the kids because I am afraid it is the only option I have to save my kids and to offer her a chance to heal. What should I do to get her help and to protect our two sons at the same time?

    • Joseph Burgo says:

      I think you already know what to do. The question is, why would you consider such a destructive, abusive person the love of your life? What keeps you in such an unhealthy relationship?

      • Dolma Beck says:

        Hi Joe.. A truly inspiring/ honest
        Site you’ve got here , thanks.
        Bloody good qu. What keeps you in such an unhealthy
        Relationship? I’ve been asking myself that for the last three
        Yrs… Since I finally stepped away from my
        Husband. A man I shared thirty yrs of my life with.
        Maybe not as out there as Randys wife.
        But , pretty screwy a lot of the time.
        Why do people stay in abusive relationships?
        I knew a lot of the time, this is wrong stuff going on here.
        I had five children with him..
        He’s charming, loving.. But would explode
        Into rages.. It was crazy crazy stuff…
        Now, from a distance.. I can see how crazy it was.
        Inside it.. All sorts of justification went on.
        I feel much shame at my cowardice. Much
        Shame at damage done to my kids.
        My ‘ justification’, is that my mother was/ is a narcissistic
        Woman. I was programmed … Even though my rational
        Mind could see so many of his behaviours were so
        Destructive. My emotional self, kept trying to
        Work it thru.. Work it thru.. No excuses.
        Randy, if youre still reading. Yes, I understand
        The feeling of her being the love of your life.
        But. Your boys need a stable/ predictable environment
        Once you really leave.. And that could mean no contact,
        To break the sick hold .. Your disturbed
        Wife has over you. No contact for the boys either.
        Our children see their father once a week, at a restaurant… He’s got a ” new” family. A woman he worked with and her kids…. Not five minutes on his own…
        My therapist, way back at the beg of the break
        When I was in such pain, such loss and confusion..
        Simple asked me” where is your backbone”

        • Joseph Burgo says:

          It takes a lot of courage to face the unknown and leave an unhappy marriage when you have children. And as you say, you were “programmed” by your upbringing. Like Cinderella in my story, many women who were brought up by narcissistic mothers unwittingly end up marrying narcissistic men. It’s what they know.

  96. Sherpa says:

    I suffer from BDP, and got diagnosed Jan of 2011. It made so much sense to me when I found out. I took the DBT course recommended to me, and finished it. However, I agree with you that you have to manage it so that healthier parts of you can have a say (as you so wisely put it). My life has become so much more manageable since my diagnosis because I can’t blame people around me. However, I slipped up this past week at work and got very upset and emotional with someone who was being repeatedly rude to me at work for the past 3 years. Even though I find her behavior and attitude unacceptable, I feel guilty about and horrified at myself for my outburst (which thankfully happened behind closed doors with our supervisors). I feel like now everyone will think I’m crazy. I’ve been thinking about it night and day. I feel that a normal person would not have handled it this way. My husband has been very supportive of me thankfully. But, I still feel so embarrassed.

  97. alison says:

    I experienced severe trauma, abuse, and neglect growing up, and in my early 20′s began therapy. I’m fairly high functioning, but deal with major depression and anxiety on a daily basis, and cannot seem to find any relief. I was told about 10 years ago I have Borderline traits, whatever that means. What’s the difference in Borderline traits and BPD?

    I grew up in HELL, and felt so much shame around my life and who I was. As an adult, not living with my parents, I have escaped that horror, but now I’m told that I am horrible as a result of what I grew up in. Almost everything that I read regarding BPD or borderline traits portrays these individuals as monsters. It’s not fair!!! Thank you for not labeling.

    I have seen several therapist and have been in several groups including a DBT group twice. I take meds, and see a therapist weekly. I do not understand Marsha’s book – I’ve read it several times. I think I would prefer something that is more compassionate in regards to what we “borderlines” have all suffered. I do however have the utmost respect for Marsha in that she stepped out and admitted she has BPD. I want to personally thank you for sharing your story with us. That is the ultimate gift I believe you can give any client and other individuals out there suffering with mental illness. There is so much stigma and shame surrounding this diagnosis. Several therapists have told me that I can get better and that I’m not a horrible person, but then they do not share their own personal history with clients. Why? If they really believed that these diagnoses were not terrible and curable, and people should not feel shame, then why would they not share their own stories and give hope to those they treat? Instead, we all suffer on someone’s couch behind closed doors (clients and therapists).

    I believe that ending the shame and stigma associated with mental health disorders and BPD has to start with the mental health system and those that treat us.

  98. Julie says:

    I have attachment and transference with my current therapist. Someone living on $8,000 a year with a dependant and paying someone $110/week three time a week just does not make sense when i cant purchase groceries etc.

  99. Janine says:

    Hello there! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a group of volunteers and starting a new initiative in a community in the same niche. Your blog provided us beneficial information to work on. You have done a wonderful job!

  100. Cat says:

    It took me many months after a BPD diagnosis to do any of my mown research. I had never heard of it. Perhaps it was a subconscious fear of the unknown that kept my reading to a minimum. I read a couple of information leaflets and thought I knew mostly all the basic facts. However, reading these posts, it is clear I know very little at all.

    I’ve read loose terms being thrown around, like, “abuser….self-centred…..therapists run from BPD…successful treatment is low….negative press….” I had absolutely no idea people might look at it – at me – in such a negative way

    It’s obvious I need to do my own research. It has had a significant impact on most of my life and maybe research will help me understand myself more

    I thank you and everyone for the information shared. I will advertise your site on my new blog

    • Joseph Burgo says:

      Why thank you! You will find that a lot of the literature doesn’t address the psychodynamic aspect very well, and has little insight into the actual experience of people who struggle with these issues.

  101. Rich says:

    I don’t know what I am, but I do know there is something wrong with me. I’m not a psychotherapist, but I know what I know about myself. I have never had many friends. I avoid people. People find me very scary and “off-puttng.”

    Like my crazy Dad used to say: “Never trust anyone, because people are no damned good.” (Nice way to grow up… NOT.)

    What makes it a bit easier for me is that I believe I understand exactly why I am the way I am. I feel that there are reasons for my condition that are actually based in fact… not just my paranoia.

    Ridiculed by my parents. Sexually molested. Bullied by other students in grammar school and high school. Treated poorly on the job. Mind games in the Marine Corps designed to destroy your humanity, my profession lost due to technology, a good job I liked lost due to management incompetence, breaking my back for next to no money, being fired from a teaching job because I refused to pass students who failed the course (diploma mill school) and then having that employer talk bad about me to other employers, therefore keeping me unemployed in my field.

    Having to be humiliated by being forced to let employers investigate my credit history, employment history, having to sign all kinds of documents that take away my rights, having some creep look over my shoulder when I pee in a cup for a drug test… all for a minimum wage job that I don’t get anyway…

    “We have chosen a different candidate who’s qualifications and experience more closely match the requirements of the position.” I’ve received probably about 300 of those letters.

    I’m not the only one, I know. People are suffering out there, and they don’t have the funds to see a good psychotherapist.

    It is a miracle to me that we are not all in the nut house.

    • Dolma Beck says:

      Oh Rich.. Your words touched me.
      Hi from Australia. Thought re your issues,
      Support groups.. As well as this sort of forum to share.
      For what it’s worth, I liked your energy.

  102. michelle says:

    I’m glad you said bpd does not go away, it can be managed. Still trying to manage mine, after having lots of therapy, its still really difficult.

  103. Brittany says:

    Hello, and thank you for your blog. It is quite refreshing and instills hope for people like myself. I personally am grasping at straws as to what makes me do and think the way I do. I have been to numerous therapists and taken various medications to no avail. My issues are having a detrimental effect on my marriage to say the least. I have many of the typical symptoms of BPD.

    I cannot control my emotions. I have put several holes in the wall and come to the point of not being able to perform the simplest of tasks during my episodes. I am terrified of feeling the rage and hopelessness to the point I have set rules to guard against them, limiting both my husband and myself so that I don’t have to experience the discomfort. My discomfort is sexual in nature, and I am terrified of my husband even looking at another woman for any period of time. My thoughts are completely occupied by fears of him looking at someone or thinking of someone when we are not together so much that I cannot function. He is of course walking on eggshells as they say and is tired of my constant questioning and distrust. I feel this may stem from the fear of abandonment that many with BPD experience.

    We are both to the point of exhaustion and I am desperately seeking any kind of guidance or insight as to what this may be as my series of therapists were unable to help me. I am inspired by your approach and would greatly value your input.

    Thank you

    • Joseph Burgo says:

      This sounds like a complex issue, with too much going on for me to understand and address is a reply to your comment. I think you may need to find (yet another) therapist who is psychodynamic is approach and experienced in working with bpd symptoms.

  104. Oonagh says:

    hi Joe, sometimes I want my analyst to tell me he wants me to attend sessions especially when i am in a rage and saying i won’t go back m
    . He says I want to know what he, the Other, wants and to comply with that .He says it’s more important for me to learn to know what I want. He doesn’t think it’s helpful for me to be deciding to attend based on whether I think he wants me there or not. All this stuff about having my own desire and not being for other. And while he is warm he also has this neutral straight face expression at the door (I use the couch) + I think he doesn’t like me, is angry etc. He wants to know what it evokes and still is not smiling. My bd self gets angry or depressed feelings about this . ‘Should’ he reassure more and smile more? Do Bds need more reassurance? my bad stuff keeps emerging and I am so scared he will hate me. I have sent too many texts/emails between sessions buff he doesn’t give out about that. He seems very tolerant, patient. I am improving a lot but scared I will push him too much- he says he knows it’s what I am doing at times. Just wondering if bds need extra reassurance or is that bd thinking in itself? I think I must be bd Joe as I go crazy at him by text when raging & wounded.

    • Oonagh says:

      * ie that I want to comply with what I think HE wants and not what I might want.

    • Joseph Burgo says:

      These days, I think that most of us need reassurance, and I’ve come more and more to question the “blank screen” approach to psychotherapy that I’ve practiced for so many years. I think it’s crucial to see in the Other’s face that he or she cares, that we matter. I understand what your therapist is getting at, about your needing to know what YOU want, but I think it’s also helpful that he, as the professional, indicates his view of the matter — that you need to come to therapy because it’s objectively good for you (and not a question of what you do or do not want).

      • Oonagh says:

        Hi Joe,
        Thank you for your reply. I am sending it to my analyst:-) It might make him more ‘stubborn’ as I tell him he is sometimes;-) He is very warm and astute. I think yes partly he won’t say he thinks it’s important for me to attend ( which in my view is not the same as demanding I attend) – because maybe he wants me to see it’s my desire to attend. But as well as saying I want to attend it’s also demonstrated by my twice weekly commitment without cancellations etc. I told him I want to know that he ‘ gives a shit’ ie whether I turn up or not. Sometimes his silence makes me work better and other times his responses are also really helpful. He is not totally silent – it’s the first therapy I have had that actually is transforming stuff with his often spot on reflections/ interpretations. I have finally told him I have identified my BP though undoubtedly he knew this before I did. My understanding started here on your site – your words made it tolerable and possible to consider my BP reality – I would have wanted to kill myself in the past if I thought I was BP – it
        has such bad press. This weekend I read a lot more about it- I
        was stunned that this is how I am too for sure. Then I was also
        feeling really moved by also recognising that my BP problems are reduced considerably since beginning work with this
        analyst. It was like getting good news and bad news all at once. My concern is that as I get better I might prematurely terminate therapy and do damage ultimately if I did that. That’s why I believe it’s important and useful for the analyst to- as you say- give something of his professional reading of my need or advisability to stay in the work or his view that it is important. It’s horrible that he won’t say- it feels shit for me. He is very good though or so I believe most of the time-I don’t really understand why he won’t confirm if he thinks I really do need it – it feels over analytical, necessarily

        • Oonagh says:

          * UNnecessarily with holding not to affirm his view of this. It leaves me feeling a bit stranded and not fully confident about his being there. Recently I find it difficult to imagine he will be there – he never cancels, is never late and yet I keep worrying or can’t feel a sense of the continuity being assured or something- it’s a bit surreal and maybe something is coming into play for me ie my stuff. Anyway I also feel a bit mad at him that he won’t say that he thinks it’s important – so I guess there is some argument from me ahead – could he not just save me this aggro but he is very perceptive and maybe he wants whatever is evoked to emerge. So it feels like more pain to sort through when just some affirmation of his position would help. I really need it.
          I hope others reading this though will also be encouraged by my experience of a warm, challenging but not too much, hard working year of good therapy in analysis has really paid off- I have less severe BP after one year than my entire life. It gives me a better life and confidence for further healing. My current issue is about needing to hear my analyst confirm the work is necessary because that would hold me during difficult times and longer vacation breaks. I was suicidal last Christmas and almost putting myself into psychiatric institution but I knew my analyst cared and would be back and that held me together. Now I worry he might not care so much coz I was very difficult with rage texts (100) over a weekend last April thereabouts . He managed it well after- was kind though he also told me I was being very destructive so it must have been a nightmare for him. I was sorry, eventually and still only beginning to understand how horrible it must have been for him. It was that mad BP configuration of ‘ I love you, I HATE YOU, please don’t leave me’ desperate not to be rejected just when I was doing every possible to BE REJECTED. So crazy. But am understanding it more now and that helps control outbursts.We were a bit tense first session after but it meant the world to me he was still there for me. The kindest thing anyone ever said was when he said he wasn’t mad at me and that ‘you couldn’t help yourself’ – he understood something important. At first i didn’t accept that – it seemed like an excuse for my bad crazy behaviors but later I recognised he was right and it has calmed me a lot to identify the BP rage which before we learn about it and heal- we really can’t help it too. I think now ‘couldn’t help yourself’ has two meanings eh? one is the out of control unmanageable rage which we madly try to fix by being at our craziest, the other is literally we CAN’T help ourselves ie we need that other, the therapist to help us with all this stuff. Which brings me full circle to I really need him to say he understands and agrees that I need this therapy. Like a dog with a bone- fixation. Didn’t set out to write so much- just wanted to say Thank You.

        • Joseph Burgo says:

          Keep trying to talk to him about it, being as non-accusatory as possible. He sounds like a good man and I bet he’ll hear you eventually.

  105. Oonagh says:

    Thanks Joe, you are amazing to read our posts here and respond. Yes, I am talking more recently. He smiled recently when I arrived and that felt safe. I think he tries to create a non expressive starting point ie be facially neutral to discover what i might project. INside myself, since speaking more i feel more integrated about sessions being there – he emphasised that they are MY sessions and he will be there. it helped. Issue of taking me flight has subsided for now. I am trusting more each time. He is helping me reach some difficult stuff that i have not trusted a therapist or analyst with before. Your site helps me when I am in a bad place and don’t want to trust my analyst coz it’s too painful to trust. I need him so much – not just in the baby transference but even when I feel less needy which occasionally can happen. I don’t think he has any idea – I don’t know how he could even imagine – how difficult it has been all my life to exist in my brain and body. Yet he manages to convey deep caring, deep attention and listening and tonight I managed to start speaking about it – I couldn’t find words to describe- he suggested that I just try a bit- it was painful, these previously indescribable almost un –
    namable experiences of living in BP skin (we are so accustomed to existing this way and

    it seems so mercurial, so impossible to articulate- would you agree with/have a sense of this? Other BPs here also?). Words that were excruciatingly difficult to find, totally inadequate to the task ( also the dreadful fear that if he couldn’t understand this core fundamental experience that i would be alone with it forever. I think its why I have managed to keep this sense of myself so hidden in previous therapies) – it was horrendous risking trying to verbalise. But he listened, I knew he was listening and would try to understand. He has taught me that everything doesn’t have to be understood in one go, that all this takes time and that there is was loosened somehow time. Even though i couldn’t find the words to fully articulate – the tight knot that restricts meaning making meaning

  106. Oonagh says:

    Ie that restricts meaning making – experiences of existence that are so densely knotted and twisted, or whatever~ that knot of loosened enough ~ not knowing who I am or what I feel when I wake up every day~ trying to describe it led to memories of sense~ of being left in a cot for hours ~ nothing but walls and ceiling to look at. Anyway ~ it’s still raw, difficult but I was able to start speaking about it and I am grateful, so grateful that its possible to heal after never being able to imagine that healing is possible. Telling my analyst everything, holding nothing back that I feel and think is absolutely healing me.
    Your site gives me encouragement, reminds me what the process requires and reminds me to listen- when i am in conflict- to the part of me that knows my analyst trustworthy and I need to engage my trust in him. Thanks again.

  107. Marie says:

    At 28, and after 6 years of psychotherapy (psychology- CBT, and psychiatry) I remain deeply troubled by whether or not I have or had bpd. I came across my borderline diagnosis by accident when I needed a report from my GP for an insurance company. The main emotion was relief because I finally could make sense of the self destructive “depression” I was in, history of bulimia, cutting and self loathing, overdoses, and why it was taking me years to improve despite all the hard work. When I confronted my psychologist about this, she said that BPD and mental health diagnoses in general are unhelpful and I can believe whatever I want to believe and it’s the lived experience that is important. I know what she is getting at, but it made me very angry that I was the only one that didn’t know about this diagnosis.

    When I questioned my psychiatrist, the one who wrote this diagnosis she didn’t answer me directly but said that I probably don’t fit the criteria now, because I was too high functioning. All I wanted was for either of them to admit this was my clinical diagnosis so that I could understand myself better and move on. Instead I am constantly worrying whether I am or was borderline or whether people see me as borderline, I just want to know the truth! I have no idea why this bothers me so much because I am significantly better. I also take comfort in the previous comments that you never really recover fully from borderline, because I still have intense emotional swings, insecurity and episodic cutting even though I am “normal” 90% of the time and to be honest this vulnerability seems like it will always show up in times of stress. Does anyone have any insight why I am so insecure about the diagnosis thing, and why I am so angry that my psychiatrist never told me?

    • Joseph Burgo says:

      That’s an interesting question. The anger probably comes from the mis-perception that your psychiatrist was withholding an important piece of information. In reality, she needed to have a diagnosis for purposes of medical records and the insurance company, if one was involved. We are all forced into assigning labels because of the way the system works. As long as your therapists were talking about the dynamics and issues that often get lumped together as “borderline,” nobody was keeping you in the dark.

      I hate this particular label because it has such negative connotations it can feel like a death sentence. I’m glad you’re doing much better and it’s good that you recognize how stress exacerbates your issues. That way, you can take that vulnerability into account and structure your life to avoid stress as much as possible.

  108. Marie says:

    Thanks Joseph, you make some good points. I do think some of the anger was about feeling as though I was kept in the dark.

    On reflection, I think the self-sabotaging part of me wants to feed the cognitive distortion that I am a bad person, and use the label as some kind of proof of this. In hindsight I think my practitioners were trying to save me from myself because they knew I would be more likely to take on a victim mentality if this was shared with me. Therefore the healthy part of me is pleased, and perhaps the unhealthy part is angry they didn’t assist my destructive side.

    PS over several years of visiting BPD sites, this is by far the most informative blog I have come across- I cannot believe I didn’t find it sooner! Your commitment to your writing and your passion for transparency within mental health is fabulous. Thank you.

  109. Elizabeth says:

    What a godsend it was to find your site. I have a rather long story to share, and I hope it is o.k. to do so. I am feeling in desperate need of an objective opinion, however. I have been a psychodynamic psychotherapist for 20+ years and in long-term psychodynamic therapy myself for over 27 years with the same therapist (who I will call Therapist A). The therapy has lasted so long because I have had many, many losses (deaths) over the years and come from an alcoholic, abusive family. At times, I questioned my need for continued therapy but was told by Therapist A that “the work of transference was not done” and that it would be a mistake to end prematurely, so I continued to follow treatment recommendations. Last October a horrible tragedy occurred in Therapist A’s life – her husband passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. Of course, this event caused a deep upwelling of empathy in me for my dear therapist as well as a realistic fear that she may choose not to return to her practice and that I many never see her again. In the midst of my own grief (having just lost my father and sister 9 days apart due to the ravages of alcoholism and COPD) I agreed to see her on-call, back-up colleague. This back-up therapist is well-schooled in psychodynamic theory (having graduated from the same Ivy League social work school as I did) and seemed like an excellent choice. In reality, however, her therapeutic style left me feeling confused and anxious. She began telling me detailed information about my beloved therapist’s private life and critiquing her ability as a therapist. She told me my therapist was ‘too uptight’ and ‘private’ and suggested my therapist had mishandled me in many ways over the years. Since initially, I was not told of the reason for my therapist’s absence, this on-call therapist took it upon herself to tell me one session by saying “Don’t you read the newspaper? Her husband died.” Needless to say, I became quite tearful and upset in that session. The on-call colleague responded by saying “Can’t you focus on all the good she has given you over the years? It wasn’t your husband that died so you need to ask yourself why you are so upset”. ( For those familiar with Myers-Briggs types, I am an INFP so I do not think it was out of the ordinary for me to express such deep empathy in reference to such a tragic loss in the life of someone I care for deeply. ) A few sessions later the on-call therapist said she met with my therapist for a ‘mini therapy’ session and told me quote: “She is a wreck. She won’t be returning to therapy – she didn’t even ask about her clients”. Since my therapist did not convey her retirement to me directly, I had no choice but to accept the news as the truth and began yet another deep grieving process.
    After that last session with the on-call therapist, my Higher Self told me I could not continue seeing her. I sought out and found a wonderful, compassionate therapist (whom I will call Therapist B) whose style closely matches my own. In the meantime, I began receiving a series of emails from my original therapist (initiated by her) that conveyed varying messages about her well-being and her decision whether or not to return to work. I still have these emails as evidence that I am not ‘crazy’ in imagining that she vacillated between an angry “I am retiring and you just need to accept it” to “I will be back someday and we will continue our work”. After a 4 mth absence, I was contacted directly by Therapist A and told that she was returning to work and would like to make an apt with me. Of course I jumped at the chance to see her again and “eyeball” for myself her state of well-being. The first few sessions back, she rather coldly told me she was retiring and had only returned to say ‘goodbye’. Of course, I cried my eyes out, but ultimately wanted her to do what was best for her. She continued to schedule sessions and as time went on she began altering her retirement date from 3 mths to 6mths to 3 years. I was encouraged by her to keep seeing therapist B as Therapist A was working a much reduced schedule (only 2 days per week) and could not guarantee her continued availability. Therapist B ( whose style very different) began counseling me that my original therapist was actually harmful to me. She liked her to a chiropractor who creates more pain and bruising under the guise of therapeutic care. Therapist B is not a fan of psychodynamic therapy and has been increasingly vocal about the “harm’ my original therapist has been inflicting on me. After several phone calls I placed to Therapist A which she did not return, Therapist B suggested I show my anger directly to Therapist A rather than just accept the ‘substandard care.’ Something came over me, and for the first time in my treatment with Therapist A, I did express my anger in a direct, but not over the top way (as far as my observing ego can tell). I apologized in the same sentence stating that I could understand that she was experiencing a rough time and explained that Therapist B felt it would be therapeutic for me to get my own anger out. Therapist A did not handle my anger well. For the first time in 27 years she began talking about my need for DBT and my ‘borderline behavior’. This shocked me as I had never heard mention of this before from her or Therapist B. I reread the DSM criteria for BPD trying to be as objective as I can about myself. While I suffer from depression and grief and anxiety from time to time, I have never self-injured, been hospitalized, am not a substance abuser, don’t struggle with my identity, and have stable, long-term relationships. I am not saying I couldn’t use DBT right about now, but my Higher Self is telling me (as is Therapist B) that I am experiencing more of a grief reaction related to situational events. Therapist A seems suddenly certain, though, that I have BPD and called my psychiatrist (without a written release, BTW) to convince her of the same. My psychiatrist admitted to me that she never saw me in this way but since Therapist A has know me for so long she can only defer to her judgment. So, not wanting to appear as if I am noncompliant with treatment, I made an appointment with a DBT therapist yesterday. When I spoke to Therapist B today and let her know, she said inviting another therapist in the mix at this time would be a mistake and encouraged me to cancel the appointment (which I did so as not to appear noncompliant in her eyes). Therapist B went on to say she was angry that my understandable, righteous anger and grief was being labeled as ‘borderline’. My Higher Self kind of feels the same way. I can’t help but thinking why, in all the 27 years of work this is the first I’ve heard of my ‘borderline’ diagnosis and need for DBT. I still feel such compassion for Therapist A and want to do what is best for me. I think I have to decide to no longer see her for my own well-being and Therapist B is making this a requirement if I want to continue seeing her. I am so confused and in so much pain. Any words of advice would be so appreciated. I apologize, again, for the long-winded post.

    • Joseph Burgo says:

      I don’t know — it sounds to me like professional misbehavior all around. I agree that it’s time for you to move on from Therapist A, but Therapist B sounds unprofessional and not terribly humble about passing judgment on a relationship of 27 years. The on-call therapist behaved very badly in criticizing your therapist during her absence. What is wrong with my profession???!!!

      • Elizabeth says:

        Thank you, Joseph. I am a wreck and unsure of where to go from here. I do thank you, though, for validating what my gut is telling me. If I weren’t in so much pain I would just quit therapy all together as I am hurt and disillusioned. I am looking for an intensive program for professionals dealing with grief and issues such as this. Do you happen to know of any?

        Kindest Regards,
        Elizabeth

  110. Susan says:

    I have BPD and I just successfully terminated therapy (depth therapy) after 3 years with a gifted therapist, and I am really feeling a sense of peace, calm, and enjoyment in this world. I am now experiencing a more engaging and fulfilling life, more meaningful relationships, and very muted and infrequent BPD traits (they are now only thoughts I have sometimes, and I know I’m a different person now). I have also seen aboit 10 therapists previously to this one, over a period of 20 years (I am 38 now).
    I’ve been reading these posts and articles about BPD, and I feel incredibly guilty – I didn’t have the awareness that BPD’s are so despised, and what an awful experience it must have been for my therapist. I am aware of the effect of my behaviour on others in my life (and I am grateful for the million kindnesses shown to me in spite of my BPD. When therapists have successful BPD clients, what do they feel? Are they satisfied but glad it is over? My impression is it is “part of the job” . Should I apologize to my therapist for just being a BPD client?

  111. Tori says:

    Dr. Burgo,

    I am so happy to have found this blog, a more positive insight to a condition I feel most don’t understand nor care about. Really, thank you so much for giving the cloud a silver lining! I have a pretty complex case I suppose you could say, BPD, PTSD, DID, Schizoaffective Disorder, and all the things that go along with each condition. Of all of them to cope with, I have found my BPD the most difficult, and when I am up all night researching everything I can, I suppose in an attempt to see if any of the signs/symptoms have miraculously vanished, I find myself discouraged with what most have to say about it. This is the first site I have come across that has positive insight, and coming from a doctor I think this gives me a little sigh of relief. I have been working on myself since age 16, I am now 22, and though my progress hasn’t come as far as I would like, progress is progress nonetheless, so there’s that. Even crazier, my one and only best friend in this world who I just so happened to cross paths with by joining the Navy, is diagnosed identically to me. She is from Ohio, I from Texas, and of all the Navy people to meet, I met the one in a million who shares almost the exact same background as I. I must say, we had a very dependent relationship with one another, from day one we were inseparable, and we have somehow saved each others lives at some point. I realized this dependence once I moved back to Texas, and she went off to Colorado, which is when I realized I needed to be able to help myself independently, no matter how hard that was going to be.

    I was curious what your thoughts were on hypnosis/hypnotherapy or EMDR as a therapeutic approach. I have tried DBT, and many years of “activities” and talking with my therapist, however I’ve hit a plateau and I know I have deep repressed/suppressed memories from past traumas. I am supposed to have an appointment Tuesday with a therapist who uses hypnosis, and he said if that doesn’t seem to help he would let me try with a female therapist who uses EMDR. I’ve been researching all night, but feedback from someone real is so much better than all the generalized information I have found through the night.

    Again, thank you for posting this, I am going to have to send the link to the friend I told you of, she needs some positive reassurance in her life right now, and I think your blog can be just that for her and help her get back up to try again.

    -Tori

    • Joseph Burgo says:

      Tori,

      I don’t know a lot about EMDR but it seems to me a fairly shallow approach to deeply ingrained emotional issues. I’ve known many people who’ve been through DBT — it has its limited usefulness but won’t effect deep emotional change. It’s more about learning coping mechanisms. My friend and colleague Bob Dick who often comments on this site uses hypnotherapy in his practice and finds it quite effective.

      http://www.drbobdick.com/

      • Dee says:

        EMDR worked great for me, for PTSD (essentially major physical and mental abuse in my family). I can say though, if a therapist hasn’t gone through the full proper training, they can leave you feeling awful. A second therapist, explained it all to me and did it right. I suggest regular therapy first, for awhile, then asking the therapist more about how they do EMDR. There’s an official EMDR website that explains.

        Anyway, it’s great because it connects the past emotion to the experience and allows you to reprocess it. The theory why it works is because the little electronic pulses from the device you put in your left and right hands alternate. This helps connect the left/right brain (connecting the emotion to the memory). And during the treatment, the therapist helps you process.

        I’ve done it three times, for three different types of abuse. The beauty of it is that many instances of abuse have the same underlying emotion, so those in the same category all get processed at once. These three times essentially healed most of my major trauma, freeing me to learn other skills for handling emotions. It transformed my life.

        I did this 7 years ago, so it stands the test of time. Right after EMDR, I felt pretty good. I felt understood, though a little sad. The sadness went away in a couple of days and I had full access to the therapist if needed. I felt a giant wave of relief within a couple of days (weight lifted). Then, for many weeks after I could feel real change. After about two months, I saw things quite differently and have little to no triggering of these horrors of the past.

        Really, the only time they’re triggered is when they actually happen again, such as if my dad decides to “rage” at me. What’s really cool is that I am able to get out of the situation much easier than I ever could prior to EMDR. In my 30′s, I reverted to a scared to death child if he raged. Now, post-EMDR, in my 40′s, I mostly respond in the way any adult, who hadn’t been subject to that type of abuse, would. I used to be too scared to leave or stand up to him, now it’s a piece of cake (even though his action instills fear, as it would to anyone). And, you have to use your judgement (flight or call him on it), based on self-protection, in the moment — yet you’re free of the child is afraid component. At least this is my experience. And now, my dad doesn’t even get past a few seconds of trying to rage with me. He knows I don’t accept it.

        You still need to go to regular therapy to get past it even more. Think of it this way, EMDR gives you a 90% rapid release of the past trauma. Then the regular therapy helps fine tune, particularly for much less intense emotion.

  112. Erum says:

    I read your article, and can identify with your experience with BPD, i got BPD clients at the start of my internship and the number has grown since then. Working with BPDs is extremely challenging yet somehow rewarding. I still remember the my first session with a client with BPD, i remember coming out after the session and holding my head and wanting to scream. However i gravitate towards them because they challenge me, making me become a better therapist, i feel.
    Psychodynamically my narcissism and neediness is also something that i am able to address through this process, and am going through self analysis to work through that.
    Challenging and confrontation works well i believe when it comes from both sides and there is a balance .

  113. Erica says:

    Hi joseph,
    Thank you so much for writing this article. I was diagnosed BPD a few years ago and My life has been getting mor chaotic ever since. it feels like I’ve been giving all I’ve got in therapy for 10 years. No matter how much effort I put in I always hit a wall. . Im 29 and have never had a healthy relation ship with anybody. I’ve been in 2 different residential treatment centers, I got kicked out of the first one for being too difficult. I’ve been living in current residential treatment for over a year and find that even having staff around 24/7 I still feel unbearably empty most of the time. The only time I feel okay is when I’m codependence with a friend or boyfriend and they’re completely happy with me, giving me attention when i demand it. I’ve done a lot of horrible thing to people I care about and I’m so tired of it. How do I find a therapist that has the skills to take me on cause I’ve been through about 7 and I’m starting to wonder what the hell is the disconnect. How do I find a therapist who can help me and isint afraid to take on a challenge?

    • Joseph Burgo says:

      It’s a major challenge to find that therapist, I know. I wish I had more useful advice to give you. Just keep looking for someone who is “psychodynamic” in orientation and does intensive, long-term work.

  114. Stacey says:

    It’s interesting you should ask. A few months ago I saw a private psychotherapist (who I instantly fell in love with, I didn’t expect him to be so handsome) who said I had a Borderline Personality Disorder and may need medication (this is never what a girl wants to hear from a handsome man), then he sent me away saying he wasn’t qualified to help me as he was a CBT therapist and I needed DBT. I have been trying to get the DBT from the NHS (I’m British, free health care) and after 4 months of trying to get it I finally got an assessment and they said I do not have a Borderline Personality Disorder and I actually have Severe Anxiety and Imposing thoughts as I am too mature, insightful and intelligent to have BPD.
    Now, of course, I do not know what is going on or how someone could be too intelligent to have a mental health problem. My GP then told me that sometimes ‘high functioning’ people are given different therapies than other people, but I’m not ‘high-functioning’ I’m just clever. I am way to affectionate and sexual to be Asperger’s or Autistic. I’m also not violent, I used to be violent (if you knew my history you would say it was understandable), but a bit of hard love put an end to that.
    I personally believe that I am a clever person with BPD, which I am fine with as people outside of the field of psychology don’t know what BPD means, but I would be even better with that if someone would help me. I’m 36 and I have been trying to get help for many years, apparently I am very robust (so said the handsome psychotherapist – I’ve had better compliments from a man) but at present I am struggling, I have learnt lots over the past 26 years of how to cope with what I feel, by doing my own research, but I think it’s about time a professional helped me.
    The help just isn’t available in England.

    • Joseph Burgo says:

      There must be someone in England who would be able to work with you. England has a strong psychoanalytic community with some excellent training institutes. You just need to keep looking!

      • Stacey says:

        Unfortunately I don’t get to pick and choose as it’s the National Health Service, paid by our taxes, so I just get what I am given and that’s a postcode lottery (zip code lottery).
        Since writing this I have now been told I have don’t have severe anxiety & imposing thoughts or a Borderline Personality Disorder, now they have said I have Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder.
        They wanted to give me Valium, so I have now lost my temper with them.
        Alongside battling for help with the mental health service, I’ve also written to the mayor of the city to ask for help, of course I have been ignored. I will be writing to the paper soon as it’s just not right that someone should have to beg for help in this way. I feel like they are leaving me to die to save on paperwork, they are making me feel even worse and giving me more panic attacks than I originally had.
        If this continues I will have no choice but to leave my emotional support network of friends and family and move across the country alone in order to get the help I need. This is dangerous for me, but they have the correct postcode on the other side of the country. I don’t want to die, you see, and I am trying very hard not to, but it’s getting harder and harder.
        I wonder how many people who have asked for help could have been helped before they committed suicide if only the government budgeted properly.
        (I’m a suicidal BDP person rather than a self-harming one)
        Who knows?

      • Stacey says:

        just to add to what I said previously. A national health service is good, of course it is good as help goes to those who need it. But, where I am from I would fall into the category of ‘borderline posh’, so the help I need goes to those who are homeless, just left prison, alcoholics, drug users and obese people instead. So, as I managed to kick drug dependency by myself, I moderate my drinking, I am far from obese, I sorted it myself out when I was homeless and I haven’t been caught yet, I can’t get that help.
        It goes to the most needy, which is fair, but doesn’t help me.
        In order for me to get the help I need to move to the really posh area as I will then be classed as the down and out degenerate in that section of society, so they will help me as I will be the most needy.
        But, I can’t just walk in to a doctors surgery and ask to be referred to the correct place, I need to physically live in that catchment area to get put forward for the help I need and then be assessed by a series of doctors to check I am needy enough, which I will be as I probably will be homeless when I am there as I can’t afford to the rent.
        I will work it out…it just doesn’t sit well with my anxiety.

  115. Sandra Vey says:

    Sometime in the future we will be moving to Orlando from WPB. Our daughter is married with two preschool boys. We have not seen the boys in almost one year as she will not allow us. My mother had BPD and my daughter is very much like her. The first time that my husband went to try to see A. (daughter), she wouldn’t even let him in the house but this time he got to go in the house and was there for an hour. She would not go out with her dad and have her husband watch the children. But she was very grouchy, nasty, and looked at you suspiciously. She will not respond to any communication. We send gifts but no acknowledgement. What can I do to get her to see that she is not like other people and for her to want to go to see a doctor? She does not know that she has BPD. She HATES me and I’ve been so good to her. As a child she was so difficult. I adored her as she was the girl that I always dreamed of as I had no sisters. Please let me know how I can get her to recognize her condition and to want to do something about it. Difficult!! I must do something. She looks glaringly at you like she is in pain. Please send suggestions. Thank you.

  116. Snow says:

    Hello,
    After reading this article, comments and digesting it all, it occurred to me that no one here questioned what personality disorders YAVIS are afflicted with, nor has anyone questioned the underlying message contained within the article and the comments, specifically that BPD patients do not include people who are also Young, Attractive, Verbal, Intelligent and Successful. I wonder if this article may unintentionally be sending a message that BPD is means lower intelligence, or unattractiveness, or failured lives. Are there correlations between BPD and Y, BPD and A, BPD and V, or BPD and a S? I also don’t recall learning that youth means sans personality disorders. I could continue to show questionable undertones suggested by this article for BPD individuals, but I will assume that the non-BPD readers and their BPD selves are more than capable of understanding the possible suggested biases and prejudices this article could be, again, unintentionally, buying into and reinforcing.

    I mean no harm or disrespect in posting my observations. As an undergrad psy student, my school strongly encourages us to question ourselves, specifically our learned prejudices and biases so that when we are working with clients whose family origin is different than what we know and are familiar with, that we be aware of when those learned biases and prejudices are getting in the way of helping. But, could it not benefit all of us to question our own biases and prejudices?

    #just some thoughts from a young, attractive, succcessful, intelligent BPD individual

  117. JC says:

    I am borderline and very rageful. My therapist has suggested (after two years) that I find a new therapist bc she cant take the constant onslaught of personal attacks and blaming anymore, and that I can only continue if I can stop the fighting.

    I don’t know how to. I never mean to fight with her, it just happens.

    But I can’t imagine not being able to see her anymore, even though I know now that she doesn’t feel the same way and is okay if we never see each other again.

    • Joseph Burgo says:

      This is very sad and I’m sorry. While I understand that your therapist feels she has reached her limit, I know that you can’t simply “behave.” Getting angry and attacking her is what you need to do in order to work this through. I wish she had greater tolerance for your rage.

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