Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a mental illness characterised by an inability to effectively regulate emotions. Emotional responses can be extreme and intense, and often lead to impulsive, reckless and self-destructive behaviours, all of which can make it difficult for us to maintain healthy and stable relationships. People who suffer with BPD often have a very poor sense of self, and consequently suffer from feelings of emptiness and an overwhelming fear of abandonment. 

It is not uncommon for someone with BPD to also suffer from anxiety disorders, eating disorders, depression and addictions as well as one or more of different personality disorders. One of the problems with borderline personality disorder (apart from the obvious, atrocious label itself) is that it often goes years undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. But the good news is, once it is diagnosed, with the right treatment and support,  it is possible to learn to manage our emotions and impulsive behaviours, and we can live a happy, stable life. 

The causes of BPD are still unknown, but genetic, cognitive, environmental and social factors are believed to play a part, as well as harmful or traumatic life events (particularly those which occurred during childhood). 

I personally describe BPD as a problem with the way we (I) perceive the world. It is not a mental illness cause by a chemical imbalance or disturbance, as such; it is a mental illness (and a serious one at that) caused by certain life events that alter the way we perceive and interact with the world around us. It is a state of constant, mental vigilance and alertness by which we subconsciously attempt to detect and deflect threats to ourselves and our already depleted sense of self. We often see threats where there actually aren’t any and we respond in such a way as our primitive coping mechanisms see fit. Because our emotions can so extreme and intense (and we can rarely rationalise them even to ourselves), we often resort to strategies such as self-harm or substance abuse in frantic attempts to make the feelings more bearable.  

Learning to manage BPD does not necessarily mean we won’t think the thoughts that are potentially dangerous. It does not mean we don’t feel things that we don’t understand, or struggle to deal with. Managing borderline means we do everything in the power we have not to act on our impulses, despite how compelled and convinced we are that these impulses can be trusted. With the right help it is possible to learn how manage the unmanageable.  

With the right diagnosis, the right help, a lot of support and an awful lot of hard work there is, always, hope.