Borderline personality disorder (BPD) presents itself in many ways. Symptoms can range from physical to emotional, and can be challenging for the individual experiencing them.
Maybe you struggle with chronic fears of abandonment and have trouble in your relationships because of it. Maybe you experience heightened emotions so frequently, you don’t feel like you can trust your ability to have the “right” reaction to things. Or maybe you find yourself struggling with self-harm and suicidal thoughts, and are desperately looking for relief.
Whatever your “worst” symptom of BPD is, we want you to know you are not alone.
To shed some light on what some difficult symptoms of borderline personality disorder can look like, we asked members of our mental health community who live with BPD to share the “worst” symptom they experience.
Here’s what they shared with us:
1. “The chronic emptiness and lack of identity. I am a ghost, stitched together with fragments of those I’ve known throughout my life. I pick apart their personality, and create this sort of ugly Frankenstein. I, even at the age of 26, still do not know who I am or what I like/dislike. There’s nothing more harrowing or isolating.” — Yasmin A.
2. “No sense of self. I went through so many majors in college and I am constantly second guessing myself. Do I really want to do this with my life? What about this instead? This looks better let’s do this. It’s tiring for myself and everyone around me. I’ll finally ‘settle’ on something and then something ‘better’ will come along and I jump ship.” — James S.
3. “The one symptom I hate that no one told me about was the high sexual drive. It doesn’t sound like a bad thing, but it’s horrible. The paranoia is terrible especially when it’s about my friends. And the complete roller coaster of emotions. It gets to the point [when] I just love it when I feel absolutely nothing.” — Hollie B.
4. “I self-sabotage in order to feel. The worst part is not knowing if what [I] feel is ever real. I feel nothing and everything. I’m an emotional paradox and it’s frustrating.” — Jessica M.
5. “I hate the split second when you are spiraling and you see what you’re doing, see the impulsive behavior or hear the things you’re saying to someone you truly love that you know you’ll regret later, and you can’t stop. Wanting to bite your tongue or walk away, but you can’t.” — Olivia R.
6. “The extreme bouts of paranoia [when] you are convinced that the people you’re closest to no longer care about you or hate you and are sick of you.” — Julia F.
7. “I find that people often talk about feeling empty, lack of identity, chronic suicidality and fear of abandonment, which are all so hard to deal with. In my opinion however, the worst symptom that people don’t typically talk about is the intensity of the emotions we experience. Nothing I ever feel is in moderation. I’ve often felt emotional pain so intense I couldn’t determine whether it was physical pain [or not]. (Maybe it’s harder for me to distinguish because I also struggle with chronic migraines?) Occasionally, the pain can feel so [debilitating] I’ll crumple to the floor and stay curled up for a long time. Comparatively, feeling numb or even empty is such a respite.” — Meghadeepa M.
8. “For me, the worst symptom of BPD is fear of abandonment. Because of this, I can’t work on my other symptoms. I’m afraid if I get better, my therapist will leave me, so I don’t try as hard as I should in recovery.” — Emily B.
9. “Splitting (idealization and devaluation). Loving something/someone to the extreme one minute and then hating their guts the next. It’s confusing and horrible to feel. I find myself sometimes so completely obsessed with a TV show or an actor etc. to the point it’s all I talk about. I spend so much time invested in it for months. Then all of a sudden I hate it/them for no reason whatsoever.” — Amy W.
10. “Not knowing who you are. There are so many different ways I act when I’m around different groups of people. And I have no idea which version of ‘me’ is most accurate. Every time someone asks me to tell them about myself, I have no idea what to tell them. I constantly feel like I don’t actually have a personality. I’m just a shadow of a person.” — Shanny J.
11. “Never knowing if I’m overreacting. I tend to chronically ‘underreact’ because my mind is telling me I am obviously having [a] ‘borderline moment’ and whomever or whatever I’m upset about can’t possibly be that bad. It leaves me enduring emotional abuse and being taken advantage of because people learn they can push and push and push and I will always assume my emotions are wrong and not the situation. After decades of such situations, I have finally learned to go to my inner circle [of support] to check the scale of my reactions. Is this something I should feel this upset about or do I need to take a breath? It takes a long time to train yourself and your sounding board people that it’s OK to sometimes admit I’m overreacting. And that it’s just as important to stick to my guns when my reaction is equal to the situation. And even longer not to feel embarrassed to need that outside opinion and not feel defective for not being able to gauge my own reactions.” — Renee L.
12. “For me, the worst symptom of BPD are the days [when] you feel nothing. You feel like you don’t exist. When you feel so disconnected from the world almost as if you are in a dream. Everyone talks about the intense emotions and how to deal with that. But [people] rarely mention the days when you feel nothing. When your head feels strange and so numb. When you try your best to feel anything, good or bad. “ — Sarah S.
13. “How quickly your mindset and personality can shift. All it takes is one small thing I can perceive as a threat or an insult against myself and I’m a completely new person for the rest of the day. I don’t think, act or even sound like myself anymore.” — Kasey C.
14. “Having favorite people and wanting to be their favorite people too. So then you have to keep yourself in check constantly that you aren’t being oversensitive and jealous when they give other people attention. Thankfully I’ve been feeling very secure and realistic, but I can think of a period of time [when] I was extremely depressed and not behaving in a rational manner and also feeling a number of irrational insecurities in this way.” — Christal S.
15. “The urge to constantly fight with others to have attention and affection.” —Shanzeh D.
16. “The constant intrusive impulses to self-harm. Even if you can control it, the ‘I need to hurt myself’ response to the smallest of interpersonal stressors never really goes away. Even when looking at innocuous objects, it’s very easy for your thoughts to turn into ‘I could/should use this to hurt myself.’ Expressing your inner pain to others, without resorting to self-harm or otherwise emotionally escalating, is also a continuous struggle.” — Lisa G.
17. “Self-loathing to the point I honestly don’t believe when someone says they care. If I can’t love me, I can’t wrap my head around why anyone else would. This leads to guilt and feeling like a burden, which leads to more self-loathing.” — Devin L.
18. “The worst symptom for me is the constant disassociating from emotions. I fear overreacting emotionally, so I shut off my emotions completely because I tell myself that’s a safer, more controlled reaction than just allowing myself to feel.” — Gaytastic A.
19. “For me its the fear of not only being abandoned but abandoning another. Friends, lovers don’t understand why we feel emotions so intensely. Some days we feel other people’s emotions more than our own.” — Marissa L.
20. “For me, it is the feeling that I’m going to be rejected at some point. Just waiting for the other foot to drop. The abandonment is so hard to live with. Being apart of something but thinking it’s not going to last because you’re to screwed up and you don’t deserve it, you’re not worthy of commitment and so you screw it up before they can leave you. Self-worth and abandonment is so hard to live with when you have BPD.” — Holly D.
21. “Lack of emotional permanence. When I’m happy, it’s like all I’ve ever felt is happiness. When I’m depressed, I forget I’ve ever even been happy before. It’s so hard to get out of low moments when you can’t remember what the good ones feel like.” — Leah G.
22. “For me it’s work perfection. If I do some wrong at work — no matter how minor it is — I think I will be fired. I go into full panic attack, sweats and heavy breathing and headache. I will constantly ask a manager am I in trouble. It’s beyond stressful.” — Tammy B.
23. “How completely jealous I get of everything and everyone. My friend gets a new boyfriend, I get jealous. My sister kissed her husband: jealous. My friend cancels plans: jealous. I know logically and rationally I’m not being replaced, but emotionally I can’t stop the jealous rage in my head.” — Joselyne S.
24. “The worst thing nobody talks about is dissociation. It’s horrible to sit there and wonder if you or anything around you is actually real and sometimes I black out when I dissociate. It’s scary to realize you have no idea what you’ve been doing. “ — Vanessa L.
25. “Never knowing which thoughts are yours and which are the BPD. Constantly having to question every single choice, thought — anything that goes through you head. Having to hide emotion for fear of being ‘overdramatic.’” — Tina C.
What would you add?