Excerpt from The Human Magnet Syndrome: The Codependent Narcissist Trap (2018)
Borderline Personality Disorder – or “BPD” – may be among the most stigmatized of mental disorders.
Currently, there are rumblings in the mental health field about the negative implications of the term itself, as many consider it misleading and fraught with negative associations. BPD is often undiagnosed, misdiagnosed, or treated inappropriately (Porr, 2001). Clinicians may limit the number of BPD patients in their practice or drop them altogether because of their resistance to treatment. If the person with the condition repeats self-harming behavior, frustration among family, friends, and health professionals increases and may lead to decreased care (Kulkarni, 2015).
BPD is characterized by volatile moods, self-image, thought processes, and personal relationships. When unable to regulate their emotions, borderlines tend to engage in wild, reckless, and out-of-control behaviors such as dangerous sexual liaisons, drug abuse, gambling, spending sprees, or eating binges. A prominent feature of BPD is the inability to regulate mood, which is often referred to as mood dysregulation.
Symptoms include rapidly fluctuating mood swings with periods of intense despair and irritability and/or apprehension, which can last a few hours to a few days. Individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD’s) become overwhelmed and incapacitated by the intensity of their emotions, whether it is joy and elation or depression, anxiety, and rage. They are unable to manage these intense emotions. When upset, they experience a flurry of emotions, distorted and dangerous thought processes, and destructive mood swings that threaten the safety of others, as well as themselves.
Their love/hate approach to relationships is entirely a narcissistic process, as the direction of the relationship is always determined by the BPD’s feelings at any given moment. Unlike someone with a Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD,) a BPD has a limited capacity and willingness to be genuinely empathetic, sensitive, generous, and sacrificial. However, those positive attributes are not without the proverbial strings attached; when the BPD explodes with vindictive rage, all they said or gave to their loved one may be taken away in one fell swoop of aggression.
Life in Extremes: Love/Hate
BPDs experience the world in extremes: black-and-white or all-or-nothing. When they are happy, the world is a beautiful and perfect place. The joy they experience is as perfect as any person’s joy could be. On the other hand, they reflexively experience reckless rage, paranoia, and feelings of hopelessness when they perceive they are being rejected or abandoned.
Their swing into red-hot, out-of-control fury brings them to the brink of harming themselves or others. In extreme circumstances of depression, agitation, or rage, the person with BPD may spontaneously behave violently and lethally—towards themselves and/or others.
People with BPD are chronically unsure about their lives, whether it is with their family, personal relationships, work, or future aspirations. They also experience persistent uncertain and insecure thoughts and feelings about their self-image, long-term goals, friendships, and values. They often suffer from chronic boredom or feelings of emptiness.
BPDs typically don’t intend to cause harm to anyone, including themselves, but their reflexive emotional rampages create a form of temporary insanity. During moments of a complete emotional meltdown, their thought processes, insight into their emotional state, and ability to make sound and rational decisions become severely impaired. They will put themselves and loved ones in harm’s way because of an irrational and uncontrollable wave of hatred, rage, or paranoia. This is not due to a lack of love, but because, in that moment, they have been triggered to experience the wrath and anger connected to repressed memories of their abusive, neglectful, and traumatic childhood.
BPDs are rarely capable of sustaining stable long-term relationships. Their romantic relationships begin quickly, intensely, and with a great deal of excitement, euphoria, and sexual chemistry. Their volatile emotions move in one of two directions: love and adoration or hate and destruction. Because this person has had little-to-no experience with healthy relationships, the euphoric “perfect love” feelings that occur in the beginning of the relationship are neither realistic nor lasting. The early euphoric love experience is transient as their psychological fragility leads them to an eventual emotional crash and burn.
This black-and-white approach to their romances creates a teeter-totter effect of extreme behavior; they either shower their partner with love and kindness, or rage at them with disgust and violence. Their love/hate processing of relationships places an impossible burden on the partner.
Abandonment: The Core Issue
Often individuals diagnosed with BPD are preoccupied with real or imagined abandonment, which they frantically try to avoid. The perception of impending separation or rejection can lead to profound changes in the way they think about themselves and others, as well as in their emotional stability and behavior. Whether real or imagined, any reminder causes them to strike back at their romantic partner with rage and aggressive hostility. A mistaken comment, a benign disagreement, or an expression perceived as disappointing can quickly transform their loving feelings toward their “soulmate” into a raging retribution against an enemy.
Video Series For Victims of Narcissistic Abuse
BPD is one of the three Pathological Narcissistic Personality Disorders discussed in my two Human Magnet Syndrome books. Although there is a great variability with this disorder, most people with BPD hurt the people they love most. In reaction to the rampant abuse caused by harmful BPD’s, I created an educational video series for the victims. Although the videos are NOT a resource for people suffering with BPD, they are not meant to malign or denigrate them. http://bit.do/RosenbergBPDVideos
Kulkarni, J. (2015). “Borderline Personality Disorder is a Hurtful Label for Real Suffering—Time We Changed It.” Retrieved from: https://theconversation.com/borderline-personality-disorder-is-a-hurtful-label- for-real-suffering-time-we-changed-it-41760
Porr, V. (2001). “How Advocacy is Bringing Borderline Personality Disorder into the Light: Advocacy Issues.” Retrieved from: http://www.tara4bpd.org/ how-advocacy-is-bringing-borderline-personality-disorder-into-the-light/ (on December 4, 2012)
Rosenberg, R (2013). “The Human Magnet Syndrome: Why We Love People Who Hurt Us.” Eau Claire,WI: PESI
Rosenberg, R (2018). “The Human Magnet Syndrome: The Codependent Narcissist Trap.” New York, NY: Morgan James Publishing