On living with a mental illness.
August 6, 2007 11:17 AM   Subscribe

Borderline personality disorder described firsthand. A very personal look at BPD - including the implications of sharing the news in a public setting - his blog.
posted by 2shay (153 comments total) 204 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not generally one to be moved by this kind of thing, but I found that post to be incredibly sad and heartening at once. I have met three people in my life similarly afflicted, but not one of them ever seemed to realize that they had a problem, at least they never let on that they did. They would just trash one relationship after another and keep on going. That fact that this guy is aware gives me some hope for him, but it also most be incredibly hellish to have that awareness.

Thanks for posting this.
posted by psmealey at 11:32 AM on August 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

I know of psychologists and psychiatrists that won't even accept them as patients due to their propensity to manipulate. I imagine very few functional people with mental disorders face as tough a time, except pedophiles.
posted by Gnostic Novelist at 11:33 AM on August 6, 2007 [3 favorites]

Wow. Quite a few of the things he described sound really familiar. When does it cross over to be pathological?
posted by punkfloyd at 11:38 AM on August 6, 2007

punkfloyd: When it causes a trail of chaos, broken relationships, and financial failure through your entire life. When your best friend, who you have known since elementary school, moves across the country in part to get away from you, because you have exhausted her with your ongoing and insoluble problems. When nothing helps. When everyone, everyone is against you, and nobody understands, and your rage over this is just beneath the surface and can manifest at any time, over the slightest perceived insult. When everyone who gets drawn into your orbit-- because you are bright and charismatic-- eventually backs away, reeling from the experience, because they expected to be able to fix you, or help you, and eventually realized that it wasn't possible. When you've never held a job, or not for more than a few months. When you leave the country and your teenager hasn't seen you for years; on the other hand, even your parents won't send you money for the flight for a visit because after the last one they can't cope with the possiblity that they're going to be left cleaning up after you, both literally when you abandon a suite full of garbage and furniture and rotten food and emotionally, one more time. When your other former best friend, the one from high school, will hear the phone ring at 4 a.m., let it pick up, and stand there in the dark listening to your frantic messages, to you begging this friend to pick up and talk to you, and she will stand there unmoving, listening and waiting for the call to end.

That person, the one listening to the message, is me. Believe me, there's a big difference between everyday insecurity and self-esteem issues and what it means to be borderline.
posted by jokeefe at 11:51 AM on August 6, 2007 [60 favorites]

When does it cross over to be pathological?

clinically speaking, when you meet five of the nine listed DSM-IV criteria.
posted by the painkiller at 11:54 AM on August 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

BPD is fascinating, but he's right that most sane human beings should avoid such people at all costs. From my understanding of the underlying mechanism, these are people who are basically really, really, sensitive. They're incapable separating the current sentence coming out of your mouth from the one before or after, so if that one sentence, hell, if that one word is critical, they're feeling criticized and abused. It doesn't matter if you've prefaced the criticism with a ton of praise, the moment is the only thing they're capable of. BPDs are like perfect Buddhists: they let go of the past and focus on the present with such desperate attention that it's the only thing they CAN feel. This isn't all bad: if it's a nice moment, they feel like they're on top of the world. They become addicted to that, probably in something like the technical sense of addiction. They become increasingly manipulative, constantly trying to control what's happening RIGHT NOW, and to keep the stream of comfort and praise and love and attention coming.

Everyone's a little bit like this: we all would prefer people be nice rather than mean. But most people can handle constructive criticism, can separate the particular moment from the general relationship, and feel basically whole and accepted even in the bad moments. BPDs can't. In that sense, their fears and vulnerabilities are completely realized in the reactions of the people around them. They're really not likeable, insofar as anyone who spends enough time around them will find them a roller-coaster of emotions, most of which are unhealthy. Others feel like extras in the BPD's extremely selfish personal drama. Knowing that the selfishness has a cause doesn't change the fact that self-respect requires us to socialize with people who won't hurt us.

As such, this blog looks like another chain in the manipulations. The author wants his 'friends' to accept him for who he is, and for strangers to call him up and feel sorry for him. But he's a person who can never accept others for who they are: he'll be too busy worrying about how they'll affect him, how to maximize his own comfort, to ever change the way he acts. I feel sorry for him... but not so much that I'd like to be his friend.
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:55 AM on August 6, 2007 [21 favorites]

anotherpanacea - i think you're half right. one trait that is a hallmark of BPD is that those afflicted with it oscillate wildly and for no discernible reason between that hypersensitivity and a state of nearly total emotional dissociation. kind of like an emotionally-oriented bipolarity, if you will. i've read accounts of BPD sufferers who describe their world in terms of living with a thick pane of glass between them and everyone else - they are incapable of being sensitive to others emotions and as during those times that emotional invulnerability (and numbness) allows them to feel like they can act with total impunity. which to someone on the other side of the glass manifests itself as highly manipulative behavior. cutting behavior, in particular, is described as an expression of their desire to break through that pane of glass and allow themselves to "feel" something.
posted by the painkiller at 12:08 PM on August 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

My dad and I suspect my mother has BPD. Mom and I haven't talked for 6 years - for no reason whatsoever. She just up and decided I was evil one day, and barred me from contacting her. Discovering such a disorder existed and fit my mother to a T has helped me transition from extremely bitter to understanding (and realizing that, no, I really wasn't evil). Unfortunately, there's not much I can do about this as long as my dad still has to call his only kid on the sly.
posted by katillathehun at 12:09 PM on August 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

jokeefe's description of what it's like to have a person with BPD in your life is painfully spot-on. Another portrait of the type, for any Sopranos fans in the audience, is Gloria Trillo (the crazy Mercedes salesperson), who appears to hit seven or eight of the nine criteria. That mix of charm and frantic neediness and rage and seductiveness and self-hatred is pretty pathognomic.
posted by Kat Allison at 12:11 PM on August 6, 2007 [2 favorites]

Good post, thanks.
posted by languagehat at 12:11 PM on August 6, 2007

As such, this blog looks like another chain in the manipulations.

He's a talented writer - maybe a disorder of this type could be an asset in that field.
posted by 2shay at 12:12 PM on August 6, 2007

And thanks for that vivid and harrowing description, jokeefe. (And I thought I had difficult friends...)
posted by languagehat at 12:13 PM on August 6, 2007

Sorry no link, but I've heard tell that brain imaging has sharpened what the idea of BPD is. Specifically, there seems to be a kind of person who does not have the low-level circuits that permit the frontal cortex to tamp down the amygdala. These circuits provide a built-in limiting of emotions by logic, without these a person will over-react to emotions in a way that is clearly not in their own self-interest. This is the part that makes them crazy and not just jerks.

That kind of self-harming without more extreme psychosis was how the notion of "borderline" came into play, and some find it a regrettably irrelevant naming convention. There have been complaints that the term has sometimes become a catch-all.
posted by StickyCarpet at 12:20 PM on August 6, 2007 [7 favorites]

Thanks for posting this, 2shay.
posted by sidereal at 12:21 PM on August 6, 2007

nickyskye in 4.. 3.. 2..
posted by StickyCarpet at 12:26 PM on August 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

So does BPD appear at a certain age? Is one born with it? Is the consensus that it's nature ....or nuture?
posted by punkfloyd at 12:34 PM on August 6, 2007

Thanks for the post. That's very helpful--and thanks also for the great comment, anotherpanacea. My wife and I believe that her mother probably has BPD. Figuring out how to maintain some kind of relationship with her has been difficult, to say the least. Complicating the problem are well-intentioned siblings who are unwilling to consider that not everything they hear from their mother is actually true, although she herself might believe it is.

As of today it has been exactly 13 months since we last saw her in person. That's easy to remember because a conversation upset her when our daughter was three days old, and she hasn't been back since. I thought that missing out on the milestones of a granddaughter's first year would be enough to entice her to come back, but I was wrong.

A friend of ours--a mental health professional--recommended that we read Stop Walking on Eggshells. I'll pass that recommendation on to anyone else struggling with a relationship with a family member with BPD.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 12:49 PM on August 6, 2007 [4 favorites]

I really appreciated this, 2shay.
posted by turing_test at 12:49 PM on August 6, 2007

"I was talking to a friend — one of the two people — recently. She asked me, “If you realize this is going on, why can’t you just not do it?" I think I laughed, though I didn’t mean to be rude. It’s the most obvious question in the world. It’s just that the answer is also obvious, if difficult to understand. The part of my brain I would ordinarily use to make judgments and draw conclusions is the very part that’s affected by this problem. I can’t just don’t-be-like-that because my brain literally doesn’t work that way."

This notion always scares the hell out of me. What does this mean? That he feels emotions and can't prevent himself from acting upon them (even if perhaps he's controlled the physical)? That seems like wavering in and out of being a conscious human. And even scarier is that it seems that most of society is like this. Can't even begin to recall how many times I've heard "but that's how I feel" in defense of an otherwise abhorrent action or belief (or hell it doesn't even need to be abhorrent as some have pointed out that they're affected by positive rewards as well) and when attempting to criticize it, most people will readily defend this behavior.
posted by kigpig at 1:05 PM on August 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

You don't have to be crazy to think that Cory Doctorow is a jackass... but it helps.
posted by interrobang at 1:12 PM on August 6, 2007 [2 favorites]

"What does this mean? That he feels emotions and can't prevent himself from acting upon them (even if perhaps he's controlled the physical)?"

My fiancee has a friend with BPD. In many respects she is a delightful and caring woman, but she is also irresistably drawn to men who abuse her, again and again and again. And it's become clear that she knows she does this. She knows when she's about to do it. She knows when she is doing it. She recognises what went wrong having done it. But she is completely unable to stop this behaviour. I seriously believe that she should be under permanent adult supervision because she has no faculty of judgement at all.

And while she hasn't yet exhausted my fiancee in the way outlined by jokeefe, boy, I can absolutely believe jokeefe's account.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:16 PM on August 6, 2007

I very briefly dated someone with BPD that I met on an on-line dating service. We went from 0-60 basically overnight, spent all our time together, had a great time. And then like 3 weeks into it, she just lost her mind (she had been drinking). Accusations that I was looking at other girls, that I was going to dump her for my ex gf, crying, screaming, calling herself a piece of shit, saying that she's ugly, etc. I felt horrible for her, and I thought maybe that it was just the drinking so I didn't break up with her right away.. Next weekend, same story, i cut it off that Monday.

After that, I had a stream of hundreds IMs and text messages for about two weeks, saying that I was hurting her because I got off on hurting people, that i did the whole thing on purpose just to hurt her, etc... talking about getting a pregnancy test, getting checked for STDs, etc. After not even four weeks of dating!

It was the rapid alteration between being pleading and loving and mean and angry that really did my head in. She was so sweet and nice at times, like I really thought we could have had a great relationship, but it was like she had this evil, ugly person inside her that she couldn't keep under control.
posted by empath at 1:19 PM on August 6, 2007 [3 favorites]

It's...really bizarre reading the comments on this thread. Mostly the 'people with BPD should be avoided at all costs' and 'there is no hope'.

My father and my older brother are both BPD. This is something neither of them will ever admit, though I have some hope for my brother as he's younger and maybe still has a chance to at least try and manage his rage and his unpredictable mood. My father I have entirely given up on, which is a difficult thing to do as the youngest, especially considering how much I used to idolize him. But there is only so much abuse one person can take, and I have at this point reached my threshold.

It was disheartening reading this post, but it all rings true. I can only hope that, when I finally have children of my own, I won't pass these genes on to them.

Family members with Borderline will break your heart. Then they will apologize profusely, you will begin to heal and they will break it again. It never stops.
posted by nonmerci at 1:20 PM on August 6, 2007 [3 favorites]

Interesting post 2shay, thanks.

jokeefe, amazing comment.

does BPD appear at a certain age

Thought to be relatively fixed by age 6 and a lifelong disorder, all pervasive, by 21.

The DSM needs to come up with much better defined details regarding BPD. "Some mental health professionals use this diagnosis for their female patients who are a "pain in the ass." If you are female and are seen as a "difficult patient" you may be at risk for getting this diagnosis."

Seconding the Walking on Eggshells book. The author also runs the excellent adult children of BPDed parents online.

Glad to see a male BPD with a blog. I think it's just the kind of thing that can help survivors of relationships with BPDs, to hear about what it's like in the mind of the person with this disorder. BPD, like any of the clinical disorders is on a continuum and is almost always co-morbid with other issues, like addiction, ptsd, depression, mania etc.

"The DSM IV, was published in May 1994 by the American Psychiatric Association and referred to as the "bible" of psychiatric diagnosis because it provides definitions, symptoms and characteristics for mental disorders that are recognized by clinicians from around the world.

The DSM IV calls for clinicians to evaluate individuals on five levels or axes. Axis I identifies mental disorders; Axis II identifies personality disorders and mental retardation. Axis III identifies relevant physical diseases and conditions. Axis IV identifies the individuals psychosocial and environmental issues; and Axis V is used by the clinician to assess an individual's overall functioning based on the 100-point scale called the Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF)."

Related thread. Related because BPD is one of the Axis 2 Cluster B disorders: NPD , ASPD, BPD and HPD.

Definition of a personality disorder.

The main information links about BPD on the web are BPD Central, Helen's BPD resources, BPD411 and for non-BPDed adult children of BPDs.

Sam Vaknin, who was diagnosed as NPD while he was in prison for fraud, wrote a book, Malignant Self Love, and collected a massive amount of material on the web about pathological narcissism as part of his awakening to his disorder. His writing has helped tens of thousands of survivors of relationships with narcissists understand the person they were enmeshed with and comprehend the crazy-making mayhem they survived.

However, the fact he has helped people does not mean he is less of a pathological narcissist. :)

Mentally, people with Axis 2 Cluster B personality disorders are often brighter, shrewder, talented, way more strategically astute survivors that the majority of human beings. So, with that in mind, I do not think of them having a mental illness but an emotional illness. It is in the emotions department that people with these four disorders are most dangerous to others and themselves.

People with BPD specialise in dramarama, addiction, suicidal ideation, self mutilation and promiscuity. One BPDed man I knew in a recovery group for survivors of relationships with pathological narcissists, regularly propane-torched his body. Self-cutting and self-burning with cigarettes is common.

People, who have survived a relationship with a person with an Axis 2 cluster B disorder, commonly use two expressions when talking about their experience, feeling emotionally vampired and in the case of narcissists and anti-social personality disorder in particular, evil. This is because the people with Axis 2 Cluster B disorders are attuned to the feelings of others but stomp on them anyway or require mothering to the point of the caretaker's total exhaustion.

The underlying condition, considered to be pathological narcissism, in all Axis 2 Cluster B personality disorders causes the person to be unable to connect to others with empathy, to have a sustained true self or good will. Their experiences are compartmentalised, so people with Axis 2 cluster B disorders can go into a rage and snap out of it incredibly fast, seeming to have no understanding of the impact their rage or malice had on others.

They may feel guilt or shame but are unable to respond to those feelings appropriately.

Diagnosed male BPDs are less common than female BPDs.

In the Sopranos (wall to wall Axis 2 Cluster Bs), Tony's mother was diagnosed with BPD but I think she was more classic NPD. His sister, Janice, was, imo, classic female BPD. BPD females commonly attach themselves to NPD or ASPD men.

Self link, for the last seven years I've written about and extensively researched surviving relationships with people with Axis II Cluster B disorders and run a number adult children of narcissists recovery groups (this is a page of links or things I found helpful, listed on another person's site). Quite often adult children of NPDs have one parent who is NPD and the other who is BPD or is an adult child of a narcissist.

That pair, female BPD and male NPD, is typical folie à deux material. A nightmare if you are a child of that kind of couple.
posted by nickyskye at 1:21 PM on August 6, 2007 [37 favorites]

Wow. Reading that post is inevitable an emotional experience, regardless of how much I agree with/understand what he is (and commenters are) saying. Thanks for posting this.
posted by ORthey at 1:27 PM on August 6, 2007

The person who wrote that post is unusually self-aware, and I admire his honesty and his struggle to understand his behavior. So, I don't mean to pick at his words, but this passage stood out for me.

I go through periods of uncontrollable rage. That is to say, the rage is uncontrollable. I get angry for no good reason, or at best for a very, very insignificant reason, and it doesn’t go away readily. I’m not dangerous in any meaningful sense, at least not to others. But I can be very difficult to be around.

I think that many BPD people (who are capable of understanding that they rage: many do not remember doing it) feel that their rages are not dangerous to others if they are not directly, physically violent. This is not true: having another person uncontrollably angry at you for no reason at unpredictable times is extremely damaging to non-BPD people.

Because BPD people tend to exist in such an intense, dramatic universe, I think that they have a difficult time understanding that for the rest of us, extreme rage is absolutely outside the realm of acceptable behavior.
posted by lemuria at 1:43 PM on August 6, 2007 [9 favorites]

nickyskye in 4.. 3.. 2..

Bam, LOL, you nailed it dear StickyCarpet.

She just up and decided I was evil one day

Projective identification. Another of the main issues with BPDs is black and white thinking. All good or all bad.

If they are unable to contain their feelings of shame about themselves, that they are a flawed human being, they may project this out, onto another person, especially a person who is close to them, like their child. If she thinks you are evil, she may be having evil thoughts herself and it's a warning to you to protect yourself. Stalking is a huge BPD issue. It's no fun to be stalked.

BPDs also have approach-avoidance issues and if you attempt to get close to them, in order for them to disconnect from what may feel like overwhelming/engulfing closeness to them, they may pull a "devalue and discard". A d&d really hurts on the receving end but it is truly the best as it is not possible to be close, authentically - or safely- close, to a person with BPD.
posted by nickyskye at 1:45 PM on August 6, 2007 [3 favorites]

BPD is fascinating, but he's right that most sane human beings should avoid such people at all costs

There was a time in my life where reading something like that would send me, suddenly and unavoidably, spiralling downward. I might get very angry or just very sad. If someone close to me said something like that, I might do something terribly self-destructive and make them feel like they drove me to it by their callousness. Or I might concoct an elaborate web of lies to try and make them feel sympathy for me. There was a time in my life where I easily met 8 out of the 9 DSM criteria for a borderline personality, and all the important things in my life were being consumed by it, and I just could not see a way out.

The worst times were pre-diagnosis, when I did not know what BPD was and did not understand what was wrong with me. As a teenager, I moved to a new city, had trouble fitting in, watched my mother descend into alcoholism, started getting involved in romantic relationships. What had been, up to that point, some occaisional behavioral problems and emotional quirks became more intense, started to solidify and gather speed. I was screwing everything up. I was dropping out of school, sabotaging my closest friendships, mutilating myself, desperately clinging to boyfriends, horrifying my family, lying so constantly and compulsively that I lost a grip on reality. I ended up in mental hospitals. I lost jobs. I lost people by hurting them terribly.

People would ask me why, and I wouldn't know how to answer them. I would try and come up with a believable lie, adding untruths to untruths, even when it became painfully obvious to everyone. People gave up on me. They gave up in disgust, or they gave up with great sadness. I didn't understand it any more than they did. The only explanation I could think of was, I'm a monster. I identified with child molesters; it seemed like they could understand what it's like to just be a bad person, to fight between what you want and what is right, and to lose.

Learning what was wrong with me was no magic bullet, but it was the beginning of a long and still ongoing process that has transformed me. I've read extensively on the disorder, and I've come to understand a lot about how my mind works. I've learned what I need to watch about myself and what needs and urges I need to keep in check. I've learned to reassure myself, and talk myself down from the extremes of my moods, instead of throwing myself on the mercy of others. I've forced myself to face situations I used to do anything to avoid, and I've found the deep relief that comes with their resolution. I've learned the hard way how quickly I lose the people I love when I fall into my borderline behaviors, and I've seen how much better things can be if I fight every damn day to be sane, sensible, kind.

I don't agree with those who say that BPD is uncurable, untreatable. I'm living proof that it isn't, and while I may not be the most severe of cases, I've come quite a long way. Today, I meet only 2-3 of the criteria, making me no longer a clinical case. I have been in a relationship for over four years, and while it has certainly had its ups and downs, it is stable and loving. My SO knows about BPD and he knows that I'm capable of doing very bad things, and he has stuck around, and learned to call me on my shit. Five years ago I couldn't have imagined letting someone get that close to me. The thought would have made me shake with terror. I have friends, I have a job, I am an honor student at a decent state university. I still have stuff to work on, and suspect I always will, but who doesn't?

This blogger seems very much in the thick of his illness; as some have pointed out, his entry itself is borderline, vacilating between a genuine effort to come clean and pleas for sympathy and fear of rejection. It makes me very sad to hear someone speaking from that place; it's truly terrible to be there. I wish I could tell him, and other sufferers, exactly how I got a grip on things, but it's not an easy thing to quantify or describe. Therapy helped, but I always quit before I was supposed to, prefering to take their tools and use them in my own way. Distancing myself from people who provoked problematic behavior was important, and so was an antidepressent I still take daily. Goals helped motivate me; work helped force me out of my own head. And of course, the realization that I was not a lost cause, that I was not irredeamably bad, just a person with a difficult, but certainly legitimate and well-documented, problem. There is another life possible.
posted by bookish at 1:51 PM on August 6, 2007 [104 favorites]

I had a female room mate with a boyfriend eventually diagnosed with BPD. He was also a heavy coke user. A drunk. A thief. Abusive. Expertly and shamelessly manipulative.

Once he was diagnosed he would use the "but I have a mental disorder" thing to gain sympathy and fuck her over again and again. Till eventually he beat the shit out of her so bad he fled town.

I had another diagnosis. He's what we used to call "An Asshole."
posted by tkchrist at 2:02 PM on August 6, 2007 [8 favorites]

I admire the courage of the fellow in the linked article, and of the other posters in this thread who've related their experiences. Whether suffering BPD from the inside or suffering from a loved one's BPD, it's no bed of roses.

I don't know if BPD is curable. But I firmly disbelieve that any living person is ever beyond help. Talking about it helps. Understanding and compassion help.
posted by ikkyu2 at 2:05 PM on August 6, 2007 [4 favorites]

I don't agree with those who say that BPD is uncurable, untreatable. I'm living proof that it isn't, and while I may not be the most severe of cases, I've come quite a long way. Today, I meet only 2-3 of the criteria, making me no longer a clinical case.

Congratulations bookish. Brave and commendable of you to step forward and share. I sincerely wish you the best on your recovery journey.

It seems that particular medications, like Tegretol (carbamazepine) and SSRIs as well as cognitive-behavioral and rational emotive therapy are effective in achieving behavior modification and in treating some of the depression-abandonment issues connected with BPD.
posted by nickyskye at 2:08 PM on August 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

Understanding and compassion help.

I'd add that savvy about the disorder comes first in terms of self-protection and then, while being savvy, and possibly at a safe distance, to be compassionate and understanding.
posted by nickyskye at 2:12 PM on August 6, 2007 [2 favorites]

One out of every four people are crazy. Think of your three best friends, if it isn't them, it's you.

It is all just a tad relative. All I wanted was a Pepsi.
posted by MapGuy at 2:14 PM on August 6, 2007

Thank you for posting this.

My older sister had BPD and anorexia. She killed herself in 2002 after twenty years of trying to live with her illnesses. She could have written that blog entry.

This is what it was like for us.
posted by swerve at 2:15 PM on August 6, 2007 [30 favorites]

swerve, that was..well, I can't think of a good adjective, really, but thank you for posting that.
posted by agregoli at 2:22 PM on August 6, 2007

And thanks for that vivid and harrowing description, jokeefe. (And I thought I had difficult friends...)

Thanks, LH. And I'm sure you can imagine that I could post thousands of words about this woman without covering it all... I held on for a long time for the sake of the person she could be, and who she was, often. The indulgent mother, the wit, the woman with a fantastic gift for interior design, the writer.

But BPD, from my experience, is like this: imagine the worst things you know about being fourteen years old: the self-absorption, the resentment, the depressive rage, the bottomless feeling of victimization, the continual battle with forces that you feel control you without understanding you, the profound infatuations founded on nothing more than transient attractions, the inability to empathize or even see other people's feelings as real. That's BPD: being that fourteen year old even as you turn 18, as your friends grow older and get their lives together, as your friends hit their mid-twenties and begin to realize just how deeply your confusions and anxieties and anger go, as they move on into their thirties and want to have nothing to do with you any longer unless drawn by a sense of obligation to the past. A lot of my friend's behaviour was initially lost in the turmoil of being teenagers: we were all messed up over love and sex and figuring out who we were; but for her, it's never ended. And the scope of the damage you can do, as that fourteen year old in an adult body, gets larger and larger. You can have kids, you can get married, you can take on adult places in the world, but you're still that narcissistic child, convinced that nobody knows you, desperate for redemption granted from some power, looking for the person who you are convinced holds that power, and above all desperately grieving the love you feel you've never properly been given, because something has purposely withheld it.

bookish, thank you for your comment; it's a brave one.
posted by jokeefe at 2:26 PM on August 6, 2007 [34 favorites]

Great post. Thank you.

And thank you jokeefe, and bookish, and swerve.
posted by rtha at 2:36 PM on August 6, 2007

Thank you for this post. It's very timely for me.

I am in the process of getting rid of a person in my life who shows all the symptoms of BPD. I have changed my phone number, am moving, and have filed for a Protection Order. In fact this is a new ID for me, because they'd probably recognize the other one, and I am scared of what they'd do if they saw this.

When things were good, they were amazing. This person could be charming, funny, and adoring. But when things were bad, they were hell.

They have broken into my house, confronted my friends and family (often in the middle of the night), destroyed my property, stalked me, made various wild accusations about people they thought I was sleeping with. They tried to forbid me to talk to certain friends, wear attractive outfits, change my hair and clothing style, frequent certain places.

The BPD plays out in other aspects of their life - they cannot hold a job because they are so confrontational. Because of that they are often homeless or near-homeless. They have great ambition but no follow through. They are alcoholic, and often abuse drugs.

And I always took them back, because I thought I could fix them, if I was nice enough and took care of them. Plus this person was always able to make it seem as though the problem was entirely my fault. (And yes, I am in counseling, which has made a huge difference).

But each time I took them back, it would devolve, quickly. Every time the phone or doorbell rang, I jumped. I didn't know whether I was going to be a saint or a devil. It was completely random, or triggered by the most meaningless thing - my tone of voice was wrong, a member of the opposite sex left a meaningless comment on my myspace page, I didn't answer my phone, so I must be avoiding them.

Despite the Order, I am, like the title of the book, on eggshells. I jump at every email, I look around every time I leave the house, and constantly check the rear view mirror. I keep checking my car to make sure they haven't left me yet another note under the windshield wiper. I cannot walk around town for fear they'll drive by me and yell obscenities out their window (again). My friends say that this person is continues to confront them about me. My social life is my DVD player.

I wish I had known about this disorder a year ago. As soon as I realized that this person had a serious mental illness I was able to make a total break.

At least it will be a total break on my part - I don't think I'll ever be rid of them completely
posted by uh126 at 2:55 PM on August 6, 2007 [5 favorites]

If she thinks you are evil, she may be having evil thoughts herself and it's a warning to you to protect yourself.

That is interesting, nickyskye, because she also used to accuse me of having "some kind of sick obsession" with her. I'm not sure where she got that apart from my desperately trying not to make my own mother angry, but that translated as stalker behavior to her... and SHE used to show up at my college dorm room and later my apartment... sometimes my friends' houses... unannounced. She'd rifle through my things looking for evidence of whatever she imagined I was doing. So, if anyone had stalker-like behavior, it was she.
posted by katillathehun at 2:59 PM on August 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

I posted the following on craigslist/m4w last Christmas after what was then a romantic dissapointment:

Hello ladies,

I am lonely, depressed and CUTE! Take me now!

My life is in a severe state of disrepair, I don't have a family nor good friends, and any time I see my roommates, I get freaked out by their normalcy.

Everything that is wrong in my life is very much in my face now, and this is probably an ill-chosen period for me to embark on a sincere quest for companionship.

In truth, this is more a rant than a request for you to email me a 250 words essay on why you're so fucking awesome along with a list of your favourite bands.

So I'm going to spend Christmas alone, so be it. I date a lot but despite all the small talk, there seems to be a chasm of genuine communication between me and the rest of the world I cannot cross.

I promise to go to a psychiatrist soon so I can spare the world of my half-assed attempt at lucidity and return to a productive life of rewarding coffee breaks and desperate frolicking, but for the time being, should you be a human being in the same predicament as I, or an animal, or a plant, or any fucking living organism with a fucked-up shitty life for that matter, know that you are not alone.

You are free to imagine the two of us wearing lush clothes, laughing away in a warm, comfortable house surrounded with beautiful, well-meaning intelligent spiritual people, enjoying this most magnificient of season together, living a meaningful rich life.

But don't email me. My curiosity about human suffering is limited.

I'm going to finish writing my Christmas "fuck you" letter to my dad now and shoot up after that. Bye bye.

Reading the linked post and noticing the wave of attention it got, part of me was wishing I could have the convenience of a BPD diagnosis, or at least the same attention.

But another part of me thought that the symptoms of BDP are pretty much describing the human condition, and that BDP itself, the word, the concept, the diagnosis, is a reinforced protective mental mechanism (also self-reinforcing because of it's feedback loop nature) against the pain of life rather than a disease. I can't really speak for anyone else, but if BDP is indeed a disease, I bet we all share it to a certain extent.
posted by jchgf at 3:00 PM on August 6, 2007 [4 favorites]

"I think that many BPD people (who are capable of understanding that they rage: many do not remember doing it) feel that their rages are not dangerous to others if they are not directly, physically violent. This is not true: having another person uncontrollably angry at you for no reason at unpredictable times is extremely damaging to non-BPD people."

A good friend of mine was forced to accept that an ex-girlfriend was BPD when she hospitalized him using a frying pan after flying into an instant rage over whether to salt the food.

Believe me, a BPD person can be very, very dangerous.
posted by zoogleplex at 3:07 PM on August 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

"At least it will be a total break on my part - I don't think I'll ever be rid of them completely"

Well, at least in my friend's case, the BPD person soon found new targets and has not come back. So don't lose hope.
posted by zoogleplex at 3:16 PM on August 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

Haven't read the link or the comments yet, but wanted to throw in...

My partner and I lived with a girl who we believe had BPD, who unwittingly took advantage of us. We had to kick her out of our house, and it was hard. It wrecked my girlfriends friendship with this person.

My sister also has it. She's been through quite a bit, but it's terribly sad. My father doesn't believe anything she says. She definitely has anxiety issues along with fibromyalgia. But due to her issues, it makes it hard for him to trust her, which makes her try harder to be taken seriously.

The wild mood swings are also difficult to deal with. My mother who is, as "my crazy sister" (what I like to call her) says, a saint... She's busted her ass to help my sister get the help she needs, unfortunately the state has not been very forthcoming, and my mom is getting burnt out, both from the overall support she needs and the seeming games my sister plays.

It's terribly tragic. And it's hard, because you KNOW you want to help, but you have to set firm boundaries. And I think that until you actually live or deal with someone with it, it's hard to see it. You have to be close enough... Otherwise, they just seem kind of... Maybe "energy vampire" is a good word.
posted by symbioid at 3:19 PM on August 6, 2007

Yeah I know... GYOFB. Suck it...
posted by symbioid at 3:20 PM on August 6, 2007

Believe me, a BPD person can be very, very dangerous.

Absolutely. My mom? Once tried to strangle me after I left a cereal bowl sitting on her desk. No joke. She wasn't normally a physically abusive person, but she had been getting gradually worse with her freakouts. That one left bruises. She apologized sincerely and seemed thoroughly shocked that she had gone that far.

...and then told me that the physical pain I felt was the equivalent of how I made her feel (emotionally) on a regular basis.

I've read Stop Walking On Eggshells, too, by the way. Excellent book. I can't recommend it enthusiastically enough.
posted by katillathehun at 3:28 PM on August 6, 2007 [2 favorites]

Also, the song "Just" by Radiohead really hits me when I think about this:

You do it to yourself, you do, and that's what really hurts.
posted by symbioid at 3:33 PM on August 6, 2007

I have a question. Are there recognized gradations within the condition? I know of someone who fills all or most of the criteria, but each one to a lesser degree than some examples given.
Thank you for this information.

I don't suppose it would do any good to try to tell someone with this condition that perhaps they should look into the possibilty. I will be thinking this thru over the coming days..........
And looking for the "Walking on Eggshells" book.
posted by readery at 3:37 PM on August 6, 2007

i haven't had the time to read the OP, but thought this may be interesting to add. Virtual Hallucinations is something to train people in understanding psychiatric disorders, by actually allowing you to witness first hand what people experience with schizophrenia and such. googling it came up with a few more examples then this one article.
posted by andywolf at 3:48 PM on August 6, 2007

My ex-boyfriend was BPD. He would tell people in his most sincere, manipulative way that I was crazy and "don't tell her (any of the bad horrible disrespecting things I've done behind her back) anything because you don't know what she'll do." and they BELIEVED him. Friends of ours that I thought were friends...you not only have to put up with THEIR shit but you always go around trying to explain YOURSELF... Walking on Eggshells was my bible.
posted by wafaa at 3:51 PM on August 6, 2007

Oh, they can definitely be physically violent. Mine was. But it seems to me that many are capable of understanding that physical violence is wrong (at least in the abstract), while at the same time not comprehending that screaming, slamming doors, breaking things, etc. can hurt someone.
posted by lemuria at 3:52 PM on August 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

I find it disappointing that someone accused the author's blog of being "another chain in the manipulations." Having followed his blog for, I believe, four years now, I hardly think it's anything of the sort. At times, it's been sad to read someone talking about themselves with self-deprecation, but his writing has been sharp as a tack, all at once entertaining, sad, uplifting, and enlightening.

It came as only half a surprise to me when he posted this: I figured there was something, but I was unsure what precisely. I certainly never knew much about BPD until now, but any gain in understanding that lets you comprehend how someone else's life happens day to day is something I consider valuable.
posted by CipherSwarm at 4:05 PM on August 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

Everyone believed my ex because, after all, he was a mental-health therapist--couples, chemical dependency, group therapy, etc.--and he CERTAINLY couldn't be messed up. Oh, yeah, he knew certain things were wrong.
posted by wafaa at 4:05 PM on August 6, 2007

Some of these people actually have bipolar disorder, or they have the borderline along WITH it.

It's really sad. My sister in law has this along with a couple of friends of mine (One I have lost touch with when she moved; the other one is actually really a good friend, with issues. Not all borderlines make their friends' lives hell. But some do. The first one left total chaos in her wake. )
posted by konolia at 4:14 PM on August 6, 2007

I know there was some reason I didn't want to visit MeFi earlier today and this is it. Ouch. This hurts but I so very much need to see it. Three months after cutting off my ex-wife for the third time, she comes back to me in this post. She was diagnosed with this before I met her over 20 years ago. Something about the damn name of the diagnosis made me think it was something I could help her back away from, bringing out my own worst codependent tendencies (it reinforced my ego to be, in my own words, her 'knight in shining burlap'). And I thought that her keeping up with therapists (most of whom were also her codependents) would keep things from getting worse. It took 17 years and two health crises of my own before I really realized just how toxic she was to me, and then it took another several months in deep depression before I could do anything. At least this last time, the attempt to re-connect never got beyond telephone conversations. But I keep discovering more details about the disorder and her affliction with it, signs I should have recognized years ago, a series of Homer "D'oh!" moments about how I had surrendered my own life to the irrational. Now, she is institutionalized and Officially declared psychotic, and I am Officially declared disabled (a combined diagnosis of heart disease and depression) and living a safe 220 miles away. A tangled web of financial problems built up over all those years and lingering fears at making her angry keep me from a final divorce, but I am finally working on a fresh start with myself and by myself.

So sorry for the self-indulgent rambling; I had hoped to have more to contribute to this enlightening discussion, but I am still learning things about the condition I should have known 20 years ago and all these other MeFites being so upfront and open about their relatives, friends and even selves with this disorder are so helpful - and painful. Thank you all.
posted by wendell at 4:48 PM on August 6, 2007 [14 favorites]

Wafaa - my mother did the same thing to me as your boyfriend did to you. She was so great to my friends that they believed her when she told them I had drug problems, was a thief, a pathological liar, and had dabbled in prostitution on the side (none of which are even remotely true). Talk about betrayal. Only one of my friends came back and said, "I know you better than I know your mom, so I'm going to believe you."

wendell - you remind me of my dad. My dad's still with my mother, but she's really ground my father down. I think he's also codependent, but he has Tourette's Syndrome, and she uses that to her advantage. I hate to say it, but I wish he'd leave my mom for his own health. He once found the courage to tell her he'd leave her if she didn't show him some respect, but her reaction was to insist he stop taking his anti-depressants. Which he did.

Bah. I keep showing up in this thread. I just keep reading other comments and having, "YES! Somebody understands!!" moments.
posted by katillathehun at 4:58 PM on August 6, 2007 [2 favorites]

I find it disappointing that someone accused the author's blog of being "another chain in the manipulations."

I'm disappointed to be the author of that comment, but only because it should have read: "another link in the chain of manipulations." I was referring, however, only to the post linked, not to the entire site (a part/whole problem common to that word 'blog.')

Perhaps I should have been more careful, like jokeefe, to make it clear that my analysis is really a generalization based on particular encounters. It's probably not fair for me to warn the entire Metafilter population against all potential BPDs when I was only attempting to share the self-protective rationalizations that I myself have had to use in my relations with some family members and some lovers who fit the diagnosis. There may be many more people like bookish who have managed to overcome their defects of character.

But the problem with this line of reasoning is that, "I've changed! I'm fixed now!" is the BPD's constant refrain. When they have power in your life, emotional or legal authority, it's too tempting to believe these lines, and acting under this deception, to offer unearned compassion and understanding. I feel confident in saying that anyone who recognizes these symptoms in their family members could probably do themselves a world of good by simply cutting them out of their life, without measurably affecting the unhappy state of the BPD. It may be true that my BPD ex-lover 'needs' me, but when my presence doesn't seem to actually help, but simply exposes me to her cruelty and caprice, I'm not sure what 'necessary' means for her.

they are incapable of being sensitive to others emotions and as during those times that emotional invulnerability (and numbness) allows them to feel like they can act with total impunity.

It's said that BPD has become a catch-all diagnosis, and I sometimes suspect that the 'numb' types have only a superficial relationship to the hypersensitive people with whom I'm familiar. Certainly the role of the amygdala in the disorder doesn't seem to jive with numbness, except perhaps through overstimulation and exhaustion. I'd be interested to hear more about this if anyone can help make sense of the apparent paradox.
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:16 PM on August 6, 2007 [7 favorites]

Reading the linked post and noticing the wave of attention it got, part of me was wishing I could have the convenience of a BPD diagnosis, or at least the same attention.

But another part of me thought that the symptoms of BDP are pretty much describing the human condition, and that BDP itself, the word, the concept, the diagnosis, is a reinforced protective mental mechanism (also self-reinforcing because of it's feedback loop nature) against the pain of life rather than a disease. I can't really speak for anyone else, but if BDP is indeed a disease, I bet we all share it to a certain extent.
posted by jchgf at 3:00 PM on August 6 [+] [!]

I think this is insulting to anyone who has lived with or really experienced the receiving end of someone raging that is most assuredly BPD.

Yes, we are all capable of hurting other people. Yes, everyone gets angry. But there is a broad difference between feeling angry from time to time based on specific situations and flying into a rage because someone has said a trigger word or phrase or back-talked (as is usually the case for me) one too many times. This is an insane person threatening you and your safety.

Without getting too personal, all I can say is that I have seen my father look at me like he wants to kill me, or like he could, and I have been on the receiving end of physical abuse. Fortunately it generally stops at idle threats, but I assure you that it is DAMAGING to watch a parent destroy property, talk about how much they'd like to kill themself and threaten you and the rest of your family.

This is not "the human condition". Sure, maybe some people are misdiagnosed, but consider that many people aren't even diagnosed at all and don't seek treatment. What kind of protection is the term really offering, then?

**please, no one get all social services on me, I'm an adult who normally now does not live at home and will be leaving the country in two weeks anyway.
posted by nonmerci at 5:20 PM on August 6, 2007 [3 favorites]

Well, that's enough vivid accounts of what it's like to be involved/related to someone with BPD that I really needn't add 500 words of mine. What's been written above strikes me as incredibly accurate and believable in terms of how a person with BPD thinks, feels and behaves as well as what it can do to a person who's close to them. It's not all hopeless for the person with BPD (as bookish points out): the person I know has not been able to get the therapy they need, but with a high dose of venlafaxine and another antipsychotic (forgot the name) stopped dramatically destroying their life and driving people away, though they're still jobless, often glum, often generally numb but are an active, welcome, contributing member of their family again.

Nthing the recommendations for Stop Walking on Eggshells and BPDCentral--the latter being set up and maintained by one of the authors of the former. There's a fair overlap in the material but it's still worth the price to have it a second time in hard-copy. I bought the person in question a copy of Lost in the Mirror right after they were diagnosed (after decades of different diagnoses, shrinks and pills) and they said it was the first time they felt anyone had ever understood what it was like to be them and it was profoundly life-changing in terms of giving them hope that life could be something other than the emotional-rollercoaster-nightmare they'd been living until that point. They didn't have the attention-span for Get Me Out of Here (well, they found the beginning to depressing and the book to long to get to the hopeful part). I read it and I thought I knew a thing or two after reading "Eggshells" but it was a further eye-opener.

On preview: Yes, if you read a description of BPD it sounds like the human condition. "Normal" people question their own worth, and worry about being abandoned or betrayed by those close to them, and sometimes respond irrationally and hurt people in the process. But they get over it, apologise (or don't) and move on. If you have BPD then your personality and life are dominated by a mortal fear of being abandoned and betrayed (something you feel as intensely as a child might the first time they are left with a new babysitter), and your behavior is dominated by extreme and irrational action to cope with this mortal fear. It's not what they worry about and the fact that they don't deal with it well--it's the intensity of the fear (such that everything else is a distant secondary concern) and that their coping mechanisms are so irrational and extreme that they destroy their own lives and the lives of those near them.
posted by Martin E. at 5:47 PM on August 6, 2007 [4 favorites]

Are there recognized gradations within the condition?

Yes. First, imo, most teenage girls go through a BPD traited time, with dramaramas, hormonal infatuations, impulsivity. Cutting among teen girls has been quite a goth fashion for about a decade.

PTSD arising out of having been a childhood sexual abuse survivor often causes many BPD traits, which may include self-mutilation, addiction, suicidal ideation, mood swings, dissociation.

PTSD arising out of trauma may manifest in BPD traits, mood swings, addiction, rages, severe fear of intimacy, black and white thinking, abandonment issues.

Also BPD is usually co-morbid with other issues, like OCD, bi-polar, paranoia, social phobia, generalised anxiety, eating disorders, body dysmorphia etc.

Depending on the substance that the BPDed person is addicted to, the severity of their disorder may be exaggerated. If the addiction is to pot, it may be a self-medicating for depression but if the addiction is crystal meth, the BPD traited person may be murderously enraged or really acting out sexually.

BPD traits is not the full disorder. But the full disorder also has a continuum, from Girl Interrupted to Fatal Attraction.
posted by nickyskye at 5:57 PM on August 6, 2007 [7 favorites]

Nonmerci, I can understand you'd consider my comment as insulting. I do not wish to defend myself, but I would just like to note it was a reaction the the original link posted by 2shay, which I perhaps misread or misinterpreted. Anyone who has lived through such ordeals as you have has my sympathy.
posted by jchgf at 5:58 PM on August 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

The 12 steps really help with the emotions that the BPD definition covers.

Pick any 12-step meeting, go there for a while until you see someone improve as a result of working the steps.

It's not 100% about God - the whole mechanism of having a sponsor as a neutral party is integral.

You also get to define God, or dismantle God. Works either way.
posted by krilli at 6:11 PM on August 6, 2007

It took me a long time to come to terms with the realization that my mother was not well. The constantly seeing everyone as either friend or foe, accusing me of siding with her enemies against her, accusing me (starting at 5 years old) of deliberately trying to ruin her life, writing suicide note upon note, yelling, screaming, throwing things, calling me the vilest names. Once, I purchased a book from the school book fair and she spent the entire afternoon until my father came home yelling at me for wasting money on a book when I could buy it from the library. She hit me with the book, bashed her own head into the refrigerator door, and cried and screamed her eyes out. It did not even occur to me that this was not normal. I was terrified and miserable, but I believed that she was right to be angry. It was only a few years ago that I realized how abnormal her behavior was and cut my family out of my life. She confided in me as well, all of her intense feelings and the great wrongs that were done to her and I am to this day unsure of many of the things she told me especially as some of the worst things have turned out to be true. Reading this thread, I see so much of her that it scares me.
posted by deadlypenguin at 6:32 PM on August 6, 2007 [4 favorites]

Great comments, and it feels good to know I'm not alone. I just looked at the link that IIRC nickyskye posted (the DSM IV - Axis II) And it struck me that mental retardation and Personality Disorders are on the same axis. Because, a few years ago, when it really was hitting me just how much my sister is affected, I was talking to my SO on the phone and said "I think my sister is mentally retarded!" I totally felt as if she had somehow been developmentally stopped at the age of 16.

Initially I was wondering if it may have been a trauma at that age that she has blocked, but now, knowing more about BPD and this thread has helped, I see that this is sort of common. An inability to "grow up" or "move on".

Thanks again for all the great links and comments people. And my heart goes out to all of you who've had to deal with much worse than I have.
posted by symbioid at 6:37 PM on August 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

But another part of me thought that the symptoms of BDP are pretty much describing the human condition, and that BDP itself, the word, the concept, the diagnosis, is a reinforced protective mental mechanism (also self-reinforcing because of it's feedback loop nature) against the pain of life rather than a disease. I can't really speak for anyone else, but if BDP is indeed a disease, I bet we all share it to a certain extent.

Yes and no. Personality disorders are tricky because we all have moments (or weeks) when we are borderline, narcissistic, avoidant, OCPD, etc. Certainly everyone who has ever been a teenager has been borderline for a while. The difference, though, is that true BPDs have NO other coping mechanism. They are the proverbial one-trick pony; while "healthy" people will toss borderline strategies into the mix on occasion, BPDs simply cannot transition out of them. If the healthy person has a symphony of coping mechanisms, BPDs just have their one tiny little recorder that they frantically wheeze into in response to every threat to their ego.

I think that one reason that psychiatric diagnoses are so poorly understood is that they are so often differences of degree rather than kind; it's also why every medical school has a rash of bipolar self-diagnosis every time psych comes up. Leaving aside frank psychosis, most psychiatric illness is "normal" (if not necessarily ideal) thought and behavior cranked to the extent that it causes serious disability.

BPD is one of the absolute hardest things to deal with as an outside observer. A psychiatrist friend of mine jokes that if he comes out of a patients room and he either wants to punch the person in the mouth or give them the keys to his car, the patient is probably borderline (sort of a joke, but countertransference can be a useful thing). People in the BPD's life often describe the same feelings -- when they're on the good side of the split, nothing is better. But when you cross over...it's beyond miserable.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 6:40 PM on August 6, 2007 [10 favorites]

anti-social personality disorder

oops, meant to write antisocial.

Seconding some of the 12-step meetings for survivors of long-term or repeated relationships with the BPDed, like Codependency Anonymous.

but if BDP is indeed a disease, I bet we all share it to a certain extent.

jchgf, In a post of mine from a couple of years ago about narcissists I said that recognizing the difference between normal difficulties and personality disorders can be crucial to decisions about entering new relationships and continuing existing relationships.

All mammals need attention. Human babies die, even if well fed and basic needs taken care of, if they do not receive loving strokes and attention:The Neuroarcheology of Childhood Maltreatment.

However, there is a big difference between a healthy need for attention, love, caring and pathological dependency on others for attention.

Healthy need for attention can be part of a balanced relationship in which both people are mutual in their feelings and attention-giving capacity. When one adult is a vortex of childlike need, wanting all the attention, all the time, while seething with unexpressed or explosive rage, unable to reciprocate appropriately, there is a serious illness there and it's seriously damaging to be around a person like that.

Reading this thread I've been surprised how many MeFites have spoken up about having BPDed relatives or experiences with people with BPD. I think this may be because MetaFilter has become more personally honest and less of a wall of snark, as I've sometimes experienced it in the past. And I like the change. It seems healthier.
posted by nickyskye at 6:55 PM on August 6, 2007 [3 favorites]

Last night, I was watching an autobiographical documentary about a guy named Rick Kirkham.

Although the film was ostensibly about his substance misuse problems, it seemed to me that substance misuse was simply a manifestation of his Borderline Personality Disorder.

Well worth a watch, IMO.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:59 PM on August 6, 2007

This sounds a lot like the situation I am dealing with with my wife. I've pretty much lost most of my family (father/mother/sister) because of it. And I worry about my boy, who's six. I have no doubt that winning a custody battle would not be easy for me, and I can't bear to think of him growing up with her on his own, without me being able to at least absorb/deflect some of her anger. The situation's not great for him now, I know, but I have no idea how to improve it. She seems to be missing that idea of a line which isn't crossed by normal people, so I have to factor her reaction into anything I might consider.

I know the internet is not necessarily the best place to get advice, but I feel like I know this community somewhat, and after 8 years, I'm rapidly approaching the end of my rope.
posted by bashos_frog at 7:40 PM on August 6, 2007

bashos_frog, You are right to worry about your boy.

Please go to BPD Central and join the free online community there for appropriate support and advice on all aspects of your situation.

What a terrible situation you are in. Please stay long enough to protect your son and work on getting custody of your son.

It will likely take a couple of years but if you share a son together and plan on seeing your son after you detach from your soon-to-be ex, it will take that long to get through the beginning of your healing-from-the-damage process in any case.
posted by nickyskye at 7:54 PM on August 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

If anyone looks in this thread in the future, or if anyone can use this information now, I just wanted to bring up Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). It's designed for people with BPD, but has recently begun to be used with other diagnoses, like my own depression. It was the breakthrough for me that I'd been looking for. It's taught in groups, in tandem with individual therapy It's skills-based--a class. With homework and everything!

It's fantastic.
posted by Stewriffic at 8:16 PM on August 6, 2007 [6 favorites]

A reader sent me a link to this discussion.

I really applaud this guy because he knows he has a problem. That means he actually has a ghost's chance of getting better. So many BPs don't. You want to know the real nightmare? Being involved with a really high-functioning BP -- especially one in a position of power -- who refuses to admit they have a problem.

I was married to a raging BP with a Harvard Degree and an Ivy League professorship. The way she decided to preemptively reject me was to fabricate an account of domestic violence and broadcast it to the entire community. No matter there were never any injuries, police reports, restraining orders, missed work days, etc. etc. People believed her -- at first. But it took years for all her PhD'ed colleagues to figure it out.

That's the real nightmare. Being the codependent fixer/pleaser stupid enough to be taken in by a high-functioning BP. That was my problem. I had to fix it. I did, and went on with my life. But it left some serious scars.

I originally published a 25K word account under my own name because I felt I needed to clear my reputation. Mission accomplished. Plus, it became very popular reading in the BPD community. I went on to have a very happy life with a sane partner.

Now I want to distance myself as much as possible from the whole BPD scene and attending darkness. But if you're really in the dark about being in a relationship with a BP, you're patient enough to wait the 30 seconds to pull the PDF off this anonymous file sharing site, I might be able to help you. I hate the thought of somebody else suffering the way I did.


"She who conceals her illness cannot hope for a cure."
posted by betteryeti at 8:16 PM on August 6, 2007 [9 favorites]

i'd also like to thank those of you who shared your stories. it really is incredible how shared these experiences are. in that spirit, here's a bit of my story - hopefully it will be of use to someone.

i won't go into the unpleasant details - alot of them are similar to those scenarios and tales that others have recounted in this thread. suffice it to say that she was relatively 'high-functioning' enough to manage to get along without serious alarm bells going off among her peers and her friends. but eventually, the carefully constructed armature of her life collapsed astonishingly quickly.

ultimately, the diagnosis was a bit of a relief to me, as it catalyzed an number of jumbled theories in my head as to what was wrong with our relationship into something that was rather objective and coherent. i could put a name to the problem and being able to do that allowed me to gain a toehold of sanity in the whirlwind of mood swings, manipulation, and emotional disorientation. i'm no saint and i certainly couldn't pin all the trials of our relationship on her, but hearing that diagnosis for the first time was a real 'eureka!' moment. it was enlightening, to say the least - turns out her merry-go-round really had nothing to do with me after all.

otoh, it also completely sucked because i had come to care very deeply for this person. since her state had nothing to do with me, i had to confront the reality that i was powerless to do anything to try to help anymore. in fact there was little (if any) hope for anything but more destruction, anguish, and calamity. unable to rebuild a foundation of trust, i felt i had no choice but to abandon the relationship. it's been very difficult living with that choice, as it always is when logic and emotion are at cross purposes. but when things ended between us, she was profoundly unwell, and disentangling the manipulativeness from lucidity had become impossible.

she actually ended up getting married to the guy she was with before she met me. she has two beautiful children now. if i were a praying man, i'd be praying for those kids every night - as it is, i can only hope that either she has found a way to manage to keep the lid on, or that her children get enough coping skills to find their center before she unloads on them. but she's aware, and she's smart, and on her behalf i have hope - but she's not my problem anymore.
posted by the painkiller at 8:31 PM on August 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

Great thread...moving and eye-opening. A question for NickySkye and others: do you have any recommendations for dealing with BPD in the workplace? Or does Walking on Eggshells cover that ground?

Reading all this, I am now virtually positive that at least one and possibly two coworkers of mine have BPD. It explains virutally everything -- every tantrum, every wildly inappropriate reaction, every major battle fought over the most minor of procedures or requirements. I and my other coworkers (and supervisors) are all at our collective wit's end trying to manage working with them on a day-to-day basis -- it's the most exhausting, upsetting trial I've ever been through in a professional setting in my entire life. I have always taken pride in being able to work with many different personalities (I'm known in my dept. as being the go-to person for working well with the most prickly of people!), but I am at a complete and utter loss as to how to proceed any longer. I feel like I am failing in a key way in the profession I love so much, and I know that my own supervisors feel utterly defeated by the situation.

Not working with these people is not an option -- I do project work, and they are both the central participants for each project. Upper management is both totally aware and evidently unwilling or incapable of addressing the situation. And quitting my job to get away from them is not an option either -- when not working with these two people, I love my job and the satisfaction and security it brings, and I will not sacrifice either of those because of these two people. (My fear of their instability is so great that I'm posting via sock puppet on the one-in-a-million chance that they might see this comment under my real username and connect the dots.) So any suggestions for books will be most welcome -- I'll get a couple of copies to pass around the office!
posted by fizzyliftingdrink at 10:47 PM on August 6, 2007

An interesting feature of borderline personality is that it's probably the disorder people are most likely to suspect themselves of having. I've been wondering about it recently, except I'm neither charismatic nor manipulative, although charismatic, manipulative people have told me I am. But it seems I have a lot of chaotic living and damaging people (and ultimately seeking help) to do before I can know for sure. So it's a bit like criminality, too - linked to it, from what I've read.
posted by limnrix at 11:02 PM on August 6, 2007

Reading this thread I'm wondering if BPD is a learned behavior for some people. If you're raised by some one who suffers from it, you learn how to react to other people by watching mom and dad. Genetics combined with learned behavior = Hellcat

(no, I'm not going to mention her name but man oh man was that a hellride)
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 11:07 PM on August 6, 2007


Disclaimer: I'm doing all this based solely on his website, I am not his doctor, etc, etc-- but this guy isn't borderline.

I' think what he "has" is narcissism, not borderline. I don't mean this as a criticism, but as a technical distinction of personality. I'd suggest that's also why he hasn't "gotten better." The treatment of borderline is very different from narcissism. It's like having a pilot teach you how to ski. That's the problem with using the "bible of psychiatry" (those words alone are a red flag)-- it's lead him to the wrong "diagnosis" and thus entirely wrong treatment maneuvers.

As a simple distinction, a borderline is one who has no identity, so absorbs one based on the strongest one available (e.g. a boyfriend.) When the boyfriend changes, so, too, does the identity. A narcissist, by contrast, has a fairly strong invented identity-- that doesn't jive with reality, that no one else wants to accept. "I'm really an undiscovered talent." They lie, manipulate, and coerce to get you to accept this identity.

A narcissist is a 17 yo boy; a borderline is a 15 yo girl.

The move of the narcissist is to find people to force to accept his identity. And if they don't, the result is uncontrollable rage.

Bad news: borderlines are completely "curable." Narcissists are not. But where there's will there's hope.
posted by TheLastPsychiatrist at 11:14 PM on August 6, 2007 [11 favorites]

This thread has been pretty great -- best of the Metafilter indeed.

I'm always sceptical about psychological diagnoses and labels and all of that, more than I should be perhaps. But I've found it really interesting that every time I was forming a 'Yeah, but....' comment in mind to post after reading to the end, someone said something that addressed my concern before I got to posting it. Like half a dozen times.

Not to trivialize, but sometimes, reading history, I wonder if everyone, mostly, was what we now call a borderline personality in centuries past, and if civilization and evolution have made most of us less.... extreme these days.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:42 PM on August 6, 2007

This is all so emotionally intense!

Like nickyskye I had read Sam Vaknin's book and website about the similar Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). I think it is great that these people can become self-aware enough of their problem to be able to explain what they are experiencing. (Sam freely admits that his writing of the book and his website are all part of the enormous ego-gratification he constantly needs--hey, as long as it is all in a good cause).

I hadn't heard of BPD or its symptoms--maybe I've just instinctively avoided these people out of self-preservation. Unfortunately, I used to be drawn toward NPDs, because of some issues of my own.

Reading about these disorders from the perspective of the afflicted person gives much more insight, understanding, and recognition than just reading some academic paper.

It certainly will be helpful to other sufferers and their friends.
posted by eye of newt at 11:49 PM on August 6, 2007

swerve, Just finished reading your deeply moving and beautifully written account of losing your BPDed older sister. I'm truly sorry for your loss. That had to have been and still be so utterly devastating.

symbioid, it struck me that mental retardation and Personality Disorders are on the same axis

Never thought about it until your comment. I think you're spot on. I know that pathological narcissism has some of the inability to connect with others that autism has and saw that as the brain of people with Axis II Cluster Bs being partially developed neurologically. Rather than mental retardation, because the Axis II Cluster Bs are often exceptionally intelligent, I think they are emotionally retarded. Maybe this is literal retardation in the limbic part of the brain, connected with emotions? Limbically challenged?

Burhanistan, How can doctors make generalizations about people who supposedly have BPD without delving into the minutiae of the afflicted's life?

People with BPD (along the continuum) often have traits of their disorder writ large, in neon. When they have emotional volatility, their rages blast people like verbal flamethrowers. When they have suicidal ideation, it's time for the stomach pump, the family coaxing them back from the window sill or trips into the emergency ward. Their self mutilation issues leave their body cross hatched with scars. There's usually a wake of people's lives in tatters behind them, exhausted caretakers. Minutiae might be useful to comprehend what caused the BPD but seeing the BPD traits doesn't take a magnifying glass, it's right there.

Once you know the traits and have some familiarity with people who have these personality disorders, it's glaringly plain to see. And then, knowing the traits of the Cluster Bs, it's like "I see dead people", the world -and history- looks starkly different.

A psychiatrist who ran a hospital in Canada told me that one way to tell a patient with a PD is how very uncomfortable it feels to be around them.

the painkiller, So sorry you had to survive that suffering but glad you were able to detach. Six years ago I wrote this comment about how hard it is to grieve the ending of an enmeshment with a narcissist. It was copied and used on various recovery sites. Maybe it also applies to grieving the loss of a relationship with someone with BPD.

fizzyliftingdrink, do you have any recommendations for dealing with BPD in the workplace?

Wise to use a sockpuppet. Seeing the situation and the disorder clearly is a good portion of managing some of the impact.

Having put together an information package for a company owner with an NPDed employee they were afraid to fire (who has now found a way to constructively deal with 'the problem' without firing the employee) I'd like to suggest a small handful of things for you here in relation to your situation. Some of the issues cross over to people with BPD, as they can be very narcissistic.

It helps to keep a log of the crazy-making behavior. This takes it out of the vague and unreal into the real. This can be used in court, if necessary. And it may be necessary.

The recently deceased Tim Field's excellent Bully Online, bullies in the workplace.

How To Deal With Emotionally Explosive People

Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You by the wonderful Susan Forward

The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense by Suzette Haden Elgin, which is now also available as an ebook.

Dattner Consulting.

There's tons more, links to sites, online support groups, books and articles to read, reading matter on specific issues, certain lawyers or therapists familiar in dealing with survivors of relationships with PDed people. Self link and disclaimer, I charge $50 an hour and since I'm not qualified with any degree in psychology, I can only offer practical information not therapy.
posted by nickyskye at 12:12 AM on August 7, 2007 [8 favorites]

I've read, lately, that BPD is much more treatable by something called "dialectical behavior therapy" than standard therapy. It involves very in-depth work by one's therapist and working through situations in order to see the shades of grey that truth is, rather than the extreme love/hate that borderline people tend to perceive things as.
posted by blacklite at 12:12 AM on August 7, 2007


That's the tragedy of loving a borderline: loving them doesn't make them better, it makes them *worse*. It's a total emotional mind-f**k, an Alice-in-Wonderland world of emotions. You think you can love someone back to health, to sanity? You think that you can nurture and encourage and validate this person, and it'll make it all better? Just try and try and keep trying and it'll all turn out okay, because love conquers all? Think again. You're just pouring gasoline on a very, very dark and destructive fire. All the things you think you know about relationships, emotional connection, love and caring -- they're all wrong in the Borderlands. There's only one right thing you can do when you're in a relationship with a borderline: run. Just turn 180 degrees, get those feet moving, and don't stop until you're sure they can't follow you. Then keep running some more.

Sorry to be so dire, but I've spent way too much time of my life dealing with a seriously destructive, high-functioning borderline -- and then processing what happened to me to the point the world made sense again. It sounds really harsh, but really I'm just trying to advocate for the healthy people who are being pulled down into insanity and darkness by BPs. They need to know: there's nothing you can do; these people are broken, and they'll usually try to break you if you give them the chance; just get out of there; figure out why you were attracted to such an unhealthy person in the first place, heal that part of yourself, and start again: try to find somebody healthy, and go on with life.
posted by betteryeti at 12:35 AM on August 7, 2007 [20 favorites]

Brilliantly said betteryeti.
posted by nickyskye at 12:42 AM on August 7, 2007

I do not agree with most of the sentiments in this thread at all. The descriptions of borderline as an untreatable illness seem like how people looked at borderline more than a decade ago. These days borderline is not by definition untreatable. It does require a therapist with experience and special training and of course the person will have to want to change.

Furthermore: people can actually grow over it (actually, in a Dutch study, 40% of all people who were at one point diagnosed with BPD in a psychiatric hospital were borderline free after three years). Treating borderline as a condition that is set in stone and people with BPD as persons you should run away from as far as possible are probably self fulfilling prophecies.
posted by davar at 3:37 AM on August 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

Not to trivialize, but sometimes, reading history, I wonder if everyone, mostly, was what we now call a borderline personality in centuries past, and if civilization and evolution have made most of us less.... extreme these days.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken

I don't think that's a trivial point at all.

Frankly, it IS hard to read history without wondering, just as you say, what the hell the diagnosis would be on many occasions.

But (for me) an obvious problem is accuracy. From the candid accounts here, it takes a long, hard, informed, wrenching look at multiple behavioral symptoms to get a handle on the nature of the disorder.

History is, of course, selective.

(Which is why many physical disorders of prominent individuals throughout history have also been misunderstood, such as epilepsy. Information about the symptoms was scattered).
posted by Jody Tresidder at 5:14 AM on August 7, 2007

PTSD arising out of having been a childhood sexual abuse survivor often causes many BPD traits, which may include self-mutilation, addiction, suicidal ideation, mood swings, dissociation.

PTSD arising out of trauma may manifest in BPD traits, mood swings, addiction, rages, severe fear of intimacy, black and white thinking, abandonment issues.

Also BPD is usually co-morbid with other issues, like OCD, bi-polar, paranoia, social phobia, generalised anxiety, eating disorders, body dysmorphia etc.

This totally nails it on the head. I interned at a halfway house for mentally ill women on the north side of Chicago a little more than ten years ago and while BPD was the one thread that unified all the women there the co-morbidities were wildly varied but you hit pretty much all of them. The BPD anorexics were considered lost causes, the team working with them had cycled through so many treatments with no sucess that they more or less threw their hands up. I remember one social worker telling me not to concentrate on them since I was only going to be for a couple months and by the time I left they would probably be dead anyway. I'm talking about women who weighed 65 lbs and couldn't eat more than a lettuce leaf and a dollop of catsup per day.

Everybody in the halfway house was a cutter. Forearms, upper arms, thighs, all over the place. This was not attention seeking cutting, it was serious self-mutilation.

The one woman I did bond with was this enormous, butch lesbian who told me these wild stories about being raised in a Satanic cult in the desert outside Phoenix. She talked about having animals slaughtered on her while she lay naked on an altar and all the men in the cult having sex with her. The house staff told me to humor her but not put too much stock in the story; she was a compulsive liar. She did suffer sexual abuse as a child, addiction issues over the course of her life, etc.

Some days she loved me and would follow me around while I worked and we would laugh and make jokes. Other days she hated me and would threaten to kill me and be all up in my face ready to swing on me. There wasn't any discernable pattern to it. The only thing that became a real issue is that when I was getting ready to leave she couldn't handle the disconnecting part and made repeated attempts to find out my address and phone number. She would be clever, like ask me to show her my drivers license because she just wants to see the picture. I was a little concerned this woman was going to show up on my doorstep one night but she never did. The last night I was there she wouldn't even come out of her room to say goodbye. I sometimes wonder what happened to her.
posted by The Straightener at 5:55 AM on August 7, 2007 [3 favorites]

nickyskye: thank you. Just to clarify, the AJP article was written by my mother. I'm the sister mentioned in the third paragraph. I didn't mean to imply authorship.

I often don't know how to explain that Elizabeth's suicide was just the final shock in the larger tragedy of her life. I'm sorry to see so many posts here from people who understand.
posted by swerve at 7:11 AM on August 7, 2007

I do not agree with most of the sentiments in this thread at all. The descriptions of borderline as an untreatable illness seem like how people looked at borderline more than a decade ago. These days borderline is not by definition untreatable. It does require a therapist with experience and special training and of course the person will have to want to change.

I'm sure you're right-- from a clinical perspective. Many of us here have only our personal experiences to draw on, and the multiple failures of our uninformed attempts to help. For the individual who is enmeshed with a person who is borderline, getting away is often the best and most direct advice. When a (team of) therapist(s) or psychiatrist is needed, the one lone person, who is trying to act out of love or friendship, is ineffectual. If you don't get out, you catch it yourself-- I mean that their chaos and emotionality and never-ending emergencies become yours, as well. So yeah, medical treatment. And if you're working with somebody who actually realizes that they have a problem-- that the mess of their life is not the fault of their lovers, or friends, or parents-- then perhaps the prognosis is good. The proper help and guidance in a clinical setting might make all the difference and bring them to health; but one single person who is tied to the borderline merely by their emotional of famiial relationship is not in a position to do this.
posted by jokeefe at 8:06 AM on August 7, 2007 [3 favorites]

Maybe the Borderline Personality diagnosis I had for a few years was a mistake; I was never as bad as what people describe here. Golly. Now I have things to point to to show how sane and reasonable I am in comparison.
posted by davy at 8:09 AM on August 7, 2007

This thread has been pretty great -- best of the Metafilter indeed.

Yeah, what he said. And nickyskye is one of the treasures of this site.

if BDP is indeed a disease, I bet we all share it to a certain extent.

Nonsense. That's like saying because sometimes we don't feel like eating, we're all anorexics. I hate the "aren't we all really psychotics/Nazis/fetishists?" attitude. No, we're not. There may be no such thing as a perfectly normal person, but that doesn't mean everyone's a raving loony. (Note: Non-PC terminology meant as over-the-top humor à la wonderchicken; I respect the serious nature of mental illness and do not mean to belittle it. Thank you for your concern.)
posted by languagehat at 8:17 AM on August 7, 2007 [8 favorites]

True, not everybody's good enough to be a raving loony. It's truly a gift, a mark of distinction.

One weekday around 9 A.M. in 1986 I saw a guy squatting in a closed store's doorway on Market St. in San Francisco, next to a steaming pile of human turds, wiping his ass with Wonderbread, piece after piece, while he jabbered to himself and sundry of the hundreds of passersby. He was as thorough as one can be, but he should used pitas or a stack of corn tortillas. This was before hand sanitizer and I did not see any moist towelettes nearby: that's the part that bothered ME.
posted by davy at 8:34 AM on August 7, 2007

Thank you, languagehat. I have OCD and nothing annoys me more than when people suggest that everyone has that to some degree. No, they do not. Same with every other mental disorder out there.
posted by agregoli at 8:36 AM on August 7, 2007

Everybody has something wrong with them. It says so in the Bible.
posted by davy at 8:37 AM on August 7, 2007

So going by the opinion of a trained professional, to wit: "a borderline is one who has no identity, so absorbs one based on the strongest one available," I'm not and was was never truly "Borderline," nor do I resemble the "BPDs" being discussed here. Maybe someday it'll turn out I'm not "Bipolar" either.

Perhaps eventually it'll turn out that there's really nothing wrong with me, that it's "normal" people who are crazy. That was my contention as a kid, and while I've come to understand I'm objectively imperfect I've never had any reason to suspect the lot of you are truly sane.
posted by davy at 9:18 AM on August 7, 2007

Not to trivialize, but sometimes, reading history, I wonder if everyone, mostly, was what we now call a borderline personality in centuries past, and if civilization and evolution have made most of us less.... extreme these days.

The reason you might feel this way is that for a long time, the only people who were able to effect much change and put themselves in the history books were largely ruthless individuals. I imagine the sort of person who could start a war knowing full well that hundreds of thousands will die probably has less empathy than the average individual.

But most people are empathic towards others. Don't forget that having borderline personality means that you experience huge difficulties in existing around other people. Considering that it was only recently that the idea of isolated living existed outside of the extremely wealthy and hermits, I'm going to assume that borderline personality disorder was probably around as rare then as it is now.
posted by Deathalicious at 9:27 AM on August 7, 2007

"But most people are empathic towards others."

Except those labelled as "BPD" evidently.
posted by davy at 9:44 AM on August 7, 2007

So how many personalities does a schizophrenic have?
posted by davy at 9:59 AM on August 7, 2007

In reading this, I'm struck by how similar the behavior patterns are between BPD and meth addicts. Just as someone I know went through a hardcore meth habit, and then cleaned up a couple years later, the same rages and unpredictability and destructive behavior seem to have been evidenced. And it was weird how they disappeared once this person got clean, and was forced to confront the wreckage of their life.
posted by klangklangston at 10:00 AM on August 7, 2007

European Royalty: Inherited personality traits. Genetic character types of kings, queens...and other famous people. Personality Typing Based on Mendelian Genetics by A.M. Benis, Sc.D., M.D.

Fun and educational online psychology game: That's My Theory!

klangklangston, Yes, substances can cause acquired PD traits. The brain may get stuck in a PD if enough neurological damage is done. "Cluster B has the highest incidence of co-occurring substance abuse disorders of the three DSM-IV personality disorder clusters (Nace, O'Connell, ed., 1990, p. 184)."

"individuals with NPD are vulnerable to drug and alcohol abuse or addiction because there are drugs which support an inflated sense of self and drugs that interrupt or moderate feelings of depression and low self-esteem. Most of these individuals will use drugs that enhance their feelings of vigor, power, or euphoria. Cocaine is very effective for this goal. Individuals with NPD, to ward off unwanted intrusions of unpleasant reality, use denial, flight, and overcompensation supported by increased activity, overproductivity, and grandiosity. Use of these defenses can result in increased isolation. These individuals will use alcohol and other sedatives to facilitate this isolation. There are some individuals with NPD who prefer the autistic stimulation of hallucinogens (Richards, 1993, p. 253).

Another factor in looking at the NPD drug of choice is the consummate skill required to manage the drug situation (including dealing) and the centrality to others that drug dealing fosters. It is possible that these activities may be more rewarding to individuals with NPD than the drug use itself (Richards, 1993, p. 253)."

It's my personal experience that speed is the Cluster B drug of choice, along with booze. Crank seems to rocket users into PDed mayhem.

Used to be an excellent site at Toad.net re Dual Diagnosis and the Narcissistic Personality Disorder. 404ed now. Drat. Next best.

Alcoholism, Narcissism and Psychopathology by G. Forrest.

languagehat, Thanks very much for your really generous compliment.

Deathalicious, the only people who were able to effect much change and put themselves in the history books were largely ruthless individuals

Yes. This is still true to some extent. However, the web has changed the way communication reaches people. No more mass rallies at Nurenberg needed. A lone blogger, unpretentious, honest, witty, sage, perceptive, like WaiterRant, can get global attention. The internet, blogging, weblogs, websites are changing the history of truth telling, information sharing and public opinion. It's an awesome and wonderful time, this web thing. Information is power and empowering.

Time for work. Looking forward to reading the comments when I get home tonight.
posted by nickyskye at 10:16 AM on August 7, 2007

klangklangston, I was thinking the same thing about speed freaks. Even years after they've cleaned up that behavior pops up when they're under stress.

damn, how did I end up knowing so many addicts?
posted by small_ruminant at 10:17 AM on August 7, 2007

The one I knew (well, knew best), we only got to see the effects of the drug, but didn't know about the drug usage, for years, until they kind of bottomed out, got help, and then made amends. It was just weird to be like, oh, yeah, that time from the late '80s through the mid '90s— they were totally tweaked the fuck out. That's why they were a tremendously unpredictable asshole and our family had to cut off all contact.

Which is why it sucks all the more that they died just a couple years later in a totally random accident— just when they'd gotten their life and health back together, wham.

Sorry, this is a bit derail-y.
posted by klangklangston at 10:25 AM on August 7, 2007

"damn, how did I end up knowing so many addicts?"

Maybe there something wrong with you?

But don't fret: the premise of today's psychiatry is that there's something wrong with everybody, and there's a pill and/or therapy to help. Be glad you too are special!
posted by davy at 10:27 AM on August 7, 2007

A close friend of mine was diagnosed with BPD in high school. She may well have been a recipient of a 'shotgun diagnosis' or diagnosed as such because she was a 'pain in the ass,' but whatever disorder she had was pretty pervasive. There were a few years that were really rough for her friends and family. She doesn't remember the worst of it, I think, partially due to being overmedicated with benzos and anti-psychotics. Now, seven or eight years after her initial diagnosis and institutionalization, she's doing great. She's in a stable and loving relationship, has held a teaching position for several years, and hasn't really had an unpleasant 'episode' for three or four years. I think she and her therapist even mutually decided that she didn't need to continue medications or therapy. I know that the personality disorders are lifelong conditions, and that to be 'cured' is nigh impossible (this is what leads me to believe that she may have been misdiagnosed), but she's doing great, and is pretty much the picture of mental health at this point in her life. If her friends had severed contact with her, I don't think she'd be where she is today.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 10:32 AM on August 7, 2007

klangklangston, that's happened to a couple of people I know, too- died of pneumonia and heart attack, respectively, after 15+ years of self-destructive behavior. Initially I thought the same thing you do, but now I'm glad they died clean, with their lives in order, including healthy relationships and good friends. Somehow it seemed like a fuck-you to the addiction that had been trying to kill them for years.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:41 AM on August 7, 2007

My girlfriend's father has NPD, along with sexual addiction issues... This has caused turmoil in her life.

We were discussing these issues yesterday, and the lack of empathy, as mentioned in autistic individuals as well, and we're trying to figure out why it is that NPD is different from autism in terms of control issues.

One thing that we're thinking is that NPD people KNOW that there are other emotions out there, but they can't comprehend that people wouldn't just feel like they do, since they're the center of the universe. This knowledge makes them seem guilty, in a sense, as they should understand and respect others feelings, but don't.

Autistic/Aspergers (my nephew was diagnosed a couple years ago as aspie, fortunately, he's pretty young, so he has the support he needs as he grows) seem to not understand that there are "others" out there, and thus can't even take into account that point, and it makes it more sympathetic... There is not intent to control, because as far as they are concerned, there is nothing to control.

I don't know if this is accurate or not... Does anyone know how to differentiate these two types of isolationist thought processes?

I think part of my "My sister is retarded" comments came during her opiates medication, which made her not only emotionally regressed, but mentally, it seemed as if she could not think of any advance concepts. I don't mean like "how's the weather bob?" small talk bs... I can't even give an example, but it was so jarring.

I think that may have to do with her fibro and fibro-fog as well.

Me? I have rage issues, but fortunately, I don't have BPD. The miniscule dose of Effexor (37.5 mg) has worked wonders, and everytime I think I can get off it... I find I need it, but I keep thinking, how can such a small dose work so well? Yet when I'm in the throws of a rage, it's so hard to control. So I can empathize with the feelings of helplessness that people with BPD have.

In the anime series, Neon Genesis they discuss the concept of the "Hedgehog's Dilemma", and the need for affection, but yet the pain of the spines pushing people away. On a fundamental level this seems to indicate the existentialist view, and deeper still, it seems to really be the way that those affected by BPD have to live. Forever striving, forever in pain, forever hurting those around them and themselves.

My sister, fortunately, has actually accepted her diagnosis, and does try to work on behaviors and critique when she can, as much as she can. But she needs much more support.

I'm jumping in the crowd who says that they need to be committed. Not committed, per se, but the lack of institutional support for those who really need it is such a sad thing.

I'm seriously contemplating reading "Walking on Eggshells" and getting a copy for my mom. My dad, I'm afraid, is a lost case in his eyes,m y sister is a manipulative evil person who is just trying to suck my parents dry. There's that vampire again.

Sorry for the length of this. But if anyone has clues to the NPD/Autism dichotomy, I'd appreciate that :)
posted by symbioid at 10:42 AM on August 7, 2007

"I don't have BPD."

No one "has" it or doesn't have it. It's not a disease, it doesn't have physical pathology. It's a construct, a heuristic-- a description. A description of someone by someone else.

And it exists only in relationship to someone else, to society. It is context specific-- emotionally and situationally. A 14yo girl may exhibit all the signs of borderline, but she isn't borderline because she is 14. So a borderline in one relationship may be a narcissist in another relationship, if the second partner has an even less defined ego than she.

The borderline needs someone else to define them, give them an identity. The narcissist has one (made up) and is looking for someone to acknowledge it. That's why they often get together. Two narcissists don't mesh; two borderlines inevitably role-define, one becoming the narcissist and the other the borderline.
posted by TheLastPsychiatrist at 11:00 AM on August 7, 2007 [9 favorites]

I mean that in the sense that I don't have the full disorder, I have one small part of the diagnosis, which is why I said I don't have "it".

Just as others are saying "everyone's crazy" I take the line that some of the others here say "we all have bits and pieces, but when the pieces mesh together in a certain way, they show a trend towards a specific diagnosis which can be consistently shown to exist in many individuals".
posted by symbioid at 11:15 AM on August 7, 2007

I know that the personality disorders are lifelong conditions, and that to be 'cured' is nigh impossible (this is what leads me to believe that she may have been misdiagnosed), but she's doing great, and is pretty much the picture of mental health at this point in her life.

That's not the impression I get. I get the impression that there's very little you can do to help somebody with a personality, but that they'll often just kind of 'grow out of it'.
posted by empath at 12:00 PM on August 7, 2007

I think that's true.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 12:05 PM on August 7, 2007

I want to thank 2shay and everyone who contributed for this remarkable thread, in particular jokeefe, nickyskye, Martin E. and bookish. I sent a link to my mom in the hope that she could pass this information on to my aunt & uncle. They've been caretakers for my adult cousin for some years now, and he's probably about as extreme a case of BPD as in any of the stories here. He's also increasingly violent, which worries the hell out me. It's heartbreaking to know how destructive a person can be to themselves, thier family and friends, and yet still be shrugged off as "Well, that's just the way he is" or "He's just an asshole." It doesn't do the person suffering from BPD any favors, and it certainly does nothing for the quality of life of those around him/her. I'll be sending her the "Walking on Eggshells" book, too. I just hope it isn't too late to convince them that they have some power over the situation.
posted by maryh at 12:22 PM on August 7, 2007

(btw, that "He's just an asshole" line in my comment above wasn't directed at any of the comments here; it's been the response of choice from some of my family members over this horrible situation. And it's just about the most disasterous response I can imagine. I hope this thread might have an impact on how they think about BPD.)
posted by maryh at 12:39 PM on August 7, 2007

died of pneumonia and heart attack, respectively, after 15+ years of self-destructive behavior
Huh. I knew an alcoholic who got pneumonia, then died of a heart attack, right after recovery. Is this a common pattern, or just aligning anecdotes?
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:40 PM on August 7, 2007

I've seen a lot of musicians and writers totally lose their talent once they get "clean & sober." Tom Waits and Warren Zevon were two of the rare exceptions. What this has to do with this thread I don't know, but whatever.
posted by davy at 12:47 PM on August 7, 2007

Thank you so much for posting this, and everyone has been so great with all of their comments. This has been a great thread to read
This couldn't have come at a better time for me. I have one of those friends, you know the type, "man, she's cool, but I would hate to be on the receiving end of that temper!" - that kind. Well, this friend of mine has recently gotten herself into a fine pickle with her family, and she came to me to vent, rant, whatever. I thought I would take the opportunity to share with her, as gently as possible (because she's, you know, one of those 'walking on eggshells' kind of people), that perhaps, just *maybe*, she was a teeny-tiny bit too angry. Sometimes she loses her cool really quickly and can turn very mean and very ugly really quickly. I tried to tell her as gently as I could that her anger was having an impact on other people. Lotta good it did me! She freaked out and stomped out of my house in a huff, and has spent the past few days sending me nasty emails, accusing me of all sorts of nefarious deeds, none of which are even the slightest bit true. I have been baffled, to say the least - 'Wait a minute, she's mad at me because I told her she gets angry easily? Can't she see the irony in that?'
Now I think I get it. Of course, I am but a humble translator, and no where close to being a trained psychotherapist/psychologist, but MAN, it doesn't take much to see the writing on the wall. Someone upthread said that you don't need the fine details to diagnose BPD, the symptoms are writ large, in big neon lights. My friend, she's got nearly all of it, an incredibly messy personal life, exhausted people left in her wake, explosive anger, damaging impulsiveness, substance abuse tendencies and worst of all, an inability to see the world as extending beyond herself. I am beginning to understand why one's sanity is safer when there is a distance between a BPD person and oneself.
posted by msali at 1:03 PM on August 7, 2007

My wife and I read an interesting memoir called Borderlines by an author named Caroline Kraus recently relating her relationship with a person with borderline or related personality disorder - if you're fascinated by people relating details of these very destructive relationships, well, that book is 300+ pages of it straight through.
posted by nanojath at 1:07 PM on August 7, 2007

I am another person who has lived with a significant other who I suspected to have BPD. The funny thing is that she was and is an exceptional student and worker and is more successful than I am or were. My mistake was wanting to be together too much - the pain was so horrible and I am afraid that it has affected a lot of my views in a negative way. It's even tougher because she had a horrible medical issue and I was the one who talked to her and helped her through it. We became best friends again. And her BPD got somewhat better. But things couldn't be again. So... I'm not sure which is worse, sometimes.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 2:38 PM on August 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

All these stories of people's experiences with BDP make me feel very grateful fo the boring life I lead! I do find it very difficult to spend time with people who thrive on crisis. Having a passive aggressive aspect to my personality means I just bore them enough that they go away and leave me alone. I think the most destructive person that I have spent any time with was probably a narcisist with a BDP girlfriend. He was quite good at keeping busy and self-medicating though. She only attacked him occasionally and was nice more often than not. I think I will check out the Verbal Self Defense book mentioned above.

My best wishes go out to those who find themselves drawn into the whirlpool of extremes that the BDPs create.
posted by asok at 3:26 PM on August 7, 2007

My mother had BPD. I grew up in an era when there was really no help, or diagnosis of the disorder. My father escaped the trauma and crazies by traveling all of the time for work - he knew she was mentally ill (she had seen a psychiatrist) but he had no stomach to take us and leave. My sisters and I lived in this strange hell that we told no one else about. It was the family secret, except, of course, for the neighbors who saw the fireworks - my mother attacking my father with a knife as he ran down the street, the ambulance arriving to get her after she drove needles into her legs, the police arriving because she pushed my father down the stairs.

Ironically, she was was well-loved by so many people outside our secret circle, and this only enhanced our feelings of isolation. It wasn't until I was able to break away from her and my father that I sought therapy to sort it all out. I somehow feared that I would soon manifest her behaviors and act that way with my own children. That's part of the trauma for kids who live with an untreated BPD parent- they grow up thinking that the psychotic behavior is some form of "normal." It wasn't until I realized that I was not going to go down that road that I was able to reunite with my parents. My mother, by that time, was ill with terminal cancer.

We were able to reconnect at some level before she died, but amazingly, she was even abusive to me on her deathbed. And, how can you call foul on a dying woman? A woman that all the nurses and doctors adore? We, my two sisters and I, suffered her abuse and manipulation right up to the day she died.

I feel nothing but relief now that she is gone. I only wish that there had been effective therapies available long ago, and that my father had had the strength to get help. The only positive thing that my sisters and I have left from all of this is a keen desire to mother our own children more responsibly.
posted by Flakypastry at 3:43 PM on August 7, 2007 [5 favorites]

I don't want to go into details but a lot of this stuff is so horribly familiar it has been sending shivers up and down my spine. Thank you for this astonishing post and discussion.
posted by motty at 4:10 PM on August 7, 2007

I somehow feared that I would soon manifest her behaviors and act that way with my own children. That's part of the trauma for kids who live with an untreated BPD parent- they grow up thinking that the psychotic behavior is some form of "normal."

My first reaction on reading this thread was fear because I recognized a little of myself in the criteria. It was only after some reflection that I realized that I have someone in my life who has a full blown case of PD and my behavior is a shadow of hers. Growing up with a parent with a PD, you may realize that strangling someone over a cereal bowl is not a reasonable thing to do but it's harder to realize that that level of anger is also not typical. There are still times when I need to stop myself and evaluate if I am crossing the line because I don't always have a intuitive grasp on where the line is. While it is not the only factor, one of the reasons I decided against having children is because I know myself well enough to know that I could never guarantee that I wouldn't turn into my mother, and I didn't want to raise any children in the kind of household I grew up in.
posted by deadlypenguin at 4:13 PM on August 7, 2007

PTSD arising out of having been a childhood sexual abuse survivor often causes many BPD traits, which may include self-mutilation, addiction, suicidal ideation, mood swings, dissociation.

PTSD arising out of trauma may manifest in BPD traits, mood swings, addiction, rages, severe fear of intimacy, black and white thinking, abandonment issues.

Well, I think you've got me pegged, there, Nickyskye. I do have PTSD stemming from child abuse and exhibit a number of BPD symptoms. I'd best go poke through all the links you've posted. Oh, and thanks!
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 4:33 PM on August 7, 2007 [2 favorites]

BPD is frequently linked to childhood trauma (I think it's rare in the absence of it)--and the whole issue of diagnosis is completely confounded by the fact that we create these clusters of symptoms and then call them diseases. But the diagnoses have nothing to do with their causes and as a result, we end up with virtually everyone who has one diagnosis having another as well.

So, you get a traumatized child and later he's got depression, ADD, PTSD, BPD and addiction: what you really have is the neural aftermath of trauma and self-medication attempts and all of these are simply aspects of it. Hopefully, eventually the DSM will reflect this.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy [link is to site of its inventor, Linehan] is, I believe, the only evidence-based treatment for BPD.

NickySkye, thanks for linking to childtrauma.org above-- those interested in this area might be interested in a book I wrote with the head of the ChildTrauma Academy, Bruce Perry, who wrote the paper you linked and who has done absolutely amazing work with child trauma victims who've survived things like being raised in cages and in cults and witnessing horrific violence.
posted by Maias at 5:09 PM on August 7, 2007 [6 favorites]

one of the reasons I decided against having children is because I know myself well enough to know that I could never guarantee that I wouldn't turn into my mother

deadlypenguin, my sisters and I went through the indecision re: having children that you describe. You are absolutely right that we children of BPD parents have an abnormal threshhold for out-of-control behavior. It helped me enormously to meet and marry someone who is calm, stable, and has never once raised his voice in the 25 years that I've known him. In fact, I'm sure that this was what attracted me to him initially.

I will tell you this: raising children (successfully) has been enormously healing for me. I used to say to my therapist that I lived with a monkey on my back, and that the trauma I experienced was so much a part of me that it ran through the blood in my veins. Realizing that there is a huge difference between getting aggravated with your kids, and screaming at them for hours along with throwing furniture was tremendously liberating. I was so afraid that I would repeat my mother's mistakes, when actually the opposite has been true.

They were old enough to see her psychotic behavior before she died. I cannot tell you how wonderful it was to be honest with them about her problems - I felt as though I was finally closing the circle by telling the truth about her, rather than let another set of children in another generation feel the pain and bewilderment and yes, the guilt.

I can't speak to your situation, but perhaps some therapy to sort out your mother's behavior and how it is different from yours will set you free.
posted by Flakypastry at 5:20 PM on August 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

Chiming in with a positive result from this amazing discussion. I read the story linked in the OP this morning, and I shared it with my partner. His sister has both bipolar disorder and BPD. She also has leukemia.

Her life has been, well, a trainwreck, to put it honestly. She abandoned her children when they were young, then spent years grieving losing them. She moved back and forth from Indiana to Florida, in and out of jobs, in and out of institutions. For a while she was homeless and camped on the beach. I'm not sure if that's where she was living when she got the leukemia diagnosis, or if she was living on the boat then, or camping in someone's living room. You get the picture.

With the leukemia diagnosis she was so freaked out that she called my partner from Florida, feeling that she had no one else to turn to. They had gone through the pattern of love and quarrels for years on end, but he kept thinking, "one more time, one more chance, where else can she go."

She came to live with us in San Diego and started treatment for leukemia. Within a month she was going off the deep end again -- anger, not speaking, sexual hook-ups, Alice-in-Wonderland behavior, etc -- and she was back to Indiana before five months passed. She moved. She moved again. Again. Family quarrels. She located and made up with her children, but refused to tell them about her psychological diagnoses.

After we moved back to Texas, she visited us here. I remember one time we took her out to dinner at a fancy restaurant, and she ordered prime rib. It came with horseradish and a baked potato. Thinking it was sour cream, she put several spoonfuls of horseradish on the potato, rendering it inedible. And she refused to send it back or ask for another. She "wasn't worthy," I suppose. She was caught up in that self-defeating negative feedback circle, and couldn't speak up. We didn't even know about this until she told us, when dinner was over.

She calls once in awhile. She thinks I "don't like her," so she lets the phone ring twice, then she hangs up. My partner sees her name on the caller i.d. and calls her back. I don't dislike her; I feel profoundly sorry for her. There isn't a single thing I can do to help, and there is so much destructive behavior. So I've distanced myself, and she draws her own interpretation.

We had not heard from her for a couple months. When my father died a few weeks ago, my partner sent several emails to all his family members, but we never heard from her. He was offended and hurt, feeling the lack of family support. The hurt was especially poignant because he heard from another sister that the two of them had talked about our loss last weekend. My partner was, finally, writing her off.

Then I saw this post. We read the blog linked in the OP. He decided, with a good deal of trepidation, to send that link to her.

She emailed. She called. She said that the blog "floored her." It is "exactly what she is going through right now." She knows now that someone knows what it's like.

Understand, she's still the same. This is not "progress." My partner says that the conversation was all about her. Nothing about us or what we're going through, no questions about his health, no inquiries about my family. Her world is her. That's the way it's always going to be. We understand that.

But, nonetheless, the two of them reconnected, for now. These bonds with the ones you love are so important. Of course, they will disconnect again. They will reconnect. And again. And again. But thanks to MetaFilter, this one reconnection was a little bit easier.
posted by Robert Angelo at 5:33 PM on August 7, 2007

bookish, I'd very much like to steal a few moments of your time via email if you don't mind. You don't have one in your profile, so if you see this and have a free moment and are willing, could you shoot me one?
posted by lazaruslong at 5:37 PM on August 7, 2007

I found this thread through Pastabagel's MetaTalk post, and I'm so glad I did. I'll repeat what I said there:

This thread is a welcome revelation. I think I finally have a term to describe my mother's behavior.

I was 35 years old before I "escaped" from her toxicity (I finally broke off contact with her when she started manipulating my children). There were so many abusive aspects to her personality (and I have many horror stories, but I don't feel comfortable telling them publicly just yet), but I couldn't ever put my finger on what, exactly, was going on with her.

Thank you to everyone who has shared their personal experiences in this thread. It's comforting (but sad, too) to know that I'm not the only one carrying scars.
posted by amyms at 6:05 PM on August 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

Very, very good discussion everyone. I especially like it because I feel strongly that productive intellectual investigation and discourse require both analytical abstraction and the detailed and personal. It's easy to misuse anecdotes, but they are very important, nevertheless.

That said, I found that reading this thread made me very sad. This comment gets to the nub of my relationship to this topic:

"My first reaction on reading this thread was fear because I recognized a little of myself in the criteria. It was only after some reflection that I realized that I have someone in my life who has a full blown case of PD and my behavior is a shadow of hers. Growing up with a parent with a PD, you may realize that strangling someone over a cereal bowl is not a reasonable thing to do but it's harder to realize that that level of anger is also not typical."

My father is either NPD or BPD. I was his primary target when I was a child, my mother his secondary target. He avoided interacting with my sister in order to avoid making the same old mistakes, and that caused an entirely different set of problems with her. Anyway, growing up with his abuse really affected my entire life. It's been a long struggle to work through all the effects it's had on my personality.

One of them is that I definitely had one of these personality disorders myself when I was a teenager and a young adult. Some of the traits bring back painful memories of myself. And one trait I still have, strongly, and that's a fear of abandonment. Well, I don't have any pathological behaviors in anticipation of it, but I still don't react well to relationship breakups.

Anyway, when I married in my mid-twenties, I slowly came to realize that I was treating my wife in ways similar to how my dad behaved. I was horrified. I finally "woke up" and became aware of how I would get enraged and suddenly I was able to stop letting my emotions control me. Since then, and in all relationships since, I've not had those problems.

But for a while, as a teen and young adult, I had a lot of these personality disorders because, I think, my dad was constantly screwing with my head. BPD people think they're awful—but my dad with his personality disorder was always telling me how awful I was. How could I not believe it?

But I don't believe any of those things anymore, and I haven't for at least 20 years or so. A lot of my progress in feeling better about myself had everything to do with enforcing boundaries for my dad.

However, when I moved back to Albuquerque, where he lives, I've had to have a relationship with him. And that relationship turned very bad last December when he suddenly relapsed into an irrational mode. And our argument ended up involving physical violence after he pushed me. I stood up for myself, I hurt him back. I'm a grown man, I decided many years ago that I wasn't going to deal with his shit. So this episode sort of crossed a line for me. I was very angry. Of course, he then saw himself as the victim. I don't know what he thinks now, we haven't spoken since.

I yelled at him for a long time that day, saying many of the things that I'd waited my whole life to say. One thing I remember saying, which I think made an important point, was that he'd gotten irrational, lost his temper and picked a fight—is this what he wanted? I asked him if he was happier than he had been an hour before. And I recall so vividly how he answered "yes". Because I really wasn't that surprised at that answer. I told him that he's systematically driven away everyone in his life that loves him. He's been married twice, and both women eventually divorced him after one episode too many. He's not on speaking terms with half his brothers and sisters. The only person left is my sister. I asked him if this is what he wanted.

But, you know, the whole time I was yelling, I'm sure he was thinking about how he was the wronged party. He has a long list of grievances against everyone he's ever been close to. It's funny how it's all our faults and not his.

It makes me sad, though, reading this thread because I had just been thinking that eight months was long enough to not talk to him and I had been thinking of reaching out to him. I mean, honestly, his health isn't very good and I don't think he has many years left. I'm scared of him dying while we're not talking to each other. And I was able to keep him at a distance for many years while still keeping some contact—I can still do that. But reading this thread makes me feel like I shouldn't. It's confusing.

I mean, I love him. He's old and lonely, now. I don't want him to end his life this way.

I also was involved with a girl in high school and then again a couple of years later who had pretty extreme BPD. Because of that, I can recognize BPD in women very easily. As BPD women will come on pretty strong, and often be attractive and alluring, I'll find that I'm getting pretty engrossed with them just in a matter of days before I recognize that they're BPD, and then I drop them. Which usually really pisses them off. But I don't do this without seeing some strong BPD characteristics. It's a bit confusing, though, because I usually have second thoughts. But growing up with my dad has made me pretty sensitive to very strongly not being involved with a crazy person.

I'm being less articulate than usual because I'm a bit swamped in strong emotions from reading this thread and talking about my dad.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 6:31 PM on August 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

After ruminating and reassessing since i posted yesterday evening I came back wanting to know if there is a correlation between Asperger's and BPD, and I see others have brought it up as well. My (diagnosed by me)BPD is my estranged husband and there are other instances of it in his family. A sister has been described by other siblings as some kind of Personality Disorder and avoided pretty much due to the trouble that often follows in her wake. Their father has been described as a narcissist and was a very difficult person, but also among the generation down, my children and nieces and nephews, all boys but one are diagnosed as Asperger's (that's 3/4) and one generation down from that, 3/3 grandnephews in the autistic/asperger's spectrum.
I am very familiar with Asperger's syndrome and would never label my husband as such.

these are people who are basically really, really, sensitive. They're incapable separating the current sentence coming out of your mouth from the one before or after, so if that one sentence, hell, if that one word is critical, they're feeling criticized and abused.
thanks anotherpanacea

I will continue to think about what do do with the knowledge i've gained from this. I have constant fear of unleashing the anger I have dealt with many times in the past and will continue to deal with in the forseeable future.
"Walking on Eggshells" is soooo apropo.
posted by readery at 6:41 PM on August 7, 2007

"Walking on Eggshells" is soooo apropo."

Yeah. My mom was married to my dad for 28 years. After she finally divorced him, she was almost overwhelmed with relief at not living her life walking on eggshells. She described it to me once in a way that seemed exactly right: "I can't explain how much of a relief it is to be able to go to the grocery store and not worry that I'm somehow going to make a mistake and buy the wrong kind of bread".

You never knew what would set my dad off. I think my mom and I both were trained to think about everything we did in terms of how it might affect dad.

I'm extremely attuned to my dad's emotions and state-of-mind. I became very aware of this at my sister's wedding in 2004. She was married in Winter Park, CO, and Dad and I drove up there together and stayed at the hotel together.

A big complication in all of this is that he, myself, and my sister all share this genetic bone/joint disease that results in chronic pain and disability. So all three of us are affected emotionally by how much we're hurting on a given day. Of course, in my dad's case, this became the main barometer of whether he was likely to be mean.

So, anyway, these days I'm doing much worse than my dad and my sister, because I'm the only one of we three who hasn't had at least both hips replaced. So I was having a hard time getting around Winter Park. Even so, I found that I was extremely aware of how Dad was doing.

Part of it is that I care about him and worry like anyone would about whether he's having a particularly hard time. (Although, again, that brings up the question of why I wasn't most concerned about myself and, secondarily, my sister.) But it's just habit, trained in childhood. I can almost read his mind. I could tell during the reception dinner after the wedding that he was hurting and ready to leave just by the way he obviously (to me) shifted uncomfortably and impatiently in his chair.

At some point it occurred to me to ask myself just why it was the case that probably half of my considerable empathy skills were focused entirely on him.

Of course, the fact that I have such unusually strong empathy skills is exactly the product of growing up with him. I'm very aware of people's body language and I'm always trying to see inside people's heads, trying to understand what emotions they are feeling. This can be a very good thing, but it can also be a bad thing, too.

But, you know, walking on eggshells.

If I did call him after these eight months since our fight, I wouldn't do so without a whole list of automatic things I'd consider even before picking up the phone. What time of the day is it? How has the weather been? Is he likely to be hurting these days (have I been)? All to try to guess his state of mind even before I pick up the phone. Because, you see, you don't go into a minefield unprepared.

For anyone wondering why so many people in this thread are talking about giving up and cutting-off BPD people from their lives, it's because of all this. It's because we usually have years, even lifetimes of being forced by BPD people to immerse ourselves in their craziness. And when it's a parent or a child or a spouse, you love these people and it's very hard to disengage. It's not something you decide to do lightly. But you do it, eventually, because being in a relationship with them is destroying you. Worse, as someone has said, being in the relationship usually doesn't help an NPD or BPD personality. You want to think that loving them will help make them better, but it doesn't. If anything, it feeds their disorder.

My dad has only improved his behavior when he's actually had to face consequences from it. That is to say, when people cut him off. It's the only thing that has ever made a difference.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 7:00 PM on August 7, 2007 [5 favorites]

Ethereal Bligh said: My dad has only improved his behavior when he's actually had to face consequences from it. That is to say, when people cut him off.

It's the opposite with my mother. Whenever someone stands up to her, or calls her on her bullshit, or confronts her with her bad behavior, or cuts off contact with her, she just moves on to new victims. She's been married 5 times and has had countless other failed relationships, her siblings have disowned her, etc. etc., but she always seems to be able to surround herself with sycophantic new friends and husbands/lovers (almost all of them become unwitting enablers) until the cycle starts all over again. She is always the "victim" when the new friends ask why her family isn't around.

I often wonder if she really does think of herself as blameless, or if there's some small part of her that recognizes that she, and she alone, is the architect of her own failures. I wonder if she ever feels any remorse for the people she's destroyed (or in my case, I should say she tried to destroy. She wasn't successful, but the wounds and flashbacks have long-reaching effects).

I was only able to find peace when I finally chose to cut her out of my life. I have no regrets about that, because it was the healthiest decision I've ever made. I've often thought about how I'll react if and when I find out she's on her deathbed. To be brutally honest, I think it will be a great relief.
posted by amyms at 7:56 PM on August 7, 2007

readery , is a correlation between Asperger's and BPD

No. Yes.

No in that the Axis II Cluster B disorders are in great part to do with being shame based. Asperger's has nothing to do with shame. No in that the Cluster Bs have at core shame-blame-rage, which they spew on those who get or attempt to get close to them. No in that Asperger's is not associated with being abused as a child, the Cluster Bs almost always survived severe trauma, smothering/obsessive over-controlling, sexual or physical abuse. It's a nurture issue as well as nature. People with Asperger's are not usually abuse survivors. No in that people with Asperger's are considered to have "extreme male brain". That is not considered to be the issue with the Cluster Bs. No in that people with Asperger's are usually meticulously truthful and exact. People with Cluster Bs (but less so the BPDs) are usually considered to be pathological liars.

Yes, in that Asperger's and the Cluster Bs struggle connecting with others emotionally. Yes, in that both people with Asperger's and the Cluster Bs have a genetic tendency to be susceptible to the disorder.

Ethereal Bligh, Boy, you've really survived a lot EB. So sorry to hear you're struggling physically as well. Do you think you'll get your hips replaced now? Sending you loving thoughts.

BPD women will come on pretty strong, and often be attractive and alluring

Yup, intense seductiveness, a trait I didn't mention. Like that Eileen Wuornos scene in Monster, at the skating rink, to the song, Don't Stop Believing. A glittery-eyed allure.

amyms, Your comments are deeply moving. I suspect your momster may be NPD. I'm so sorry that you survived that. Just want to let you know I survived a BPD/ASPD traited NPDed momster. Extremely painful to endure. Many horror stories. You might consider joining the group I linked for adult children of BPDed parents? If only to read. It's comforting to know one is not alone and that it's less personal in some ways. It's easier to detach and arrive at a meaningful compassionate distance. But perhaps you've already done that.

In the brutally honest department, I'm having a Ding Dong the Witch is Dead party. Should I live that long. They usually outlive everybody. So the best thing to do is move on and have a life of one's own at a safe distance.

An aside. My best friend had a stormy relationship with someone with BPD. There were many middle-of-the-night packing scenes, so many that my friend ended up calling large garbage bags BPD luggage.

Robert Angelo, Touching to read your kind hope. Knowing people with PDs it's essential not to succumb to malignant optimism, while remaining with a loving heart. It's a difficult balance. With BPDs, if they want to work on healing and make the effort, they can achieve a lot.

Maias, Am a big fan of your writing and pleased you joined this thread, sharing your insight. Your work with Bruce Perry is awesome: The Boy Who Was Raised As a Dog: And Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist's Notebook: What Traumatized Children Can Teach Us About Loss, Love and Healing by Bruce D. Perry and Maia Szalavitz

To add to this thread, in the event it may be of use to anyone in the future, is the legal resource of Helen McGonigle, an empathic and brilliant attorney in Connecticut (which has a 30 year statute of limitations), who specialises in helping those who have survived abuse, like that written about in Maia's book.

The Neuroarcheology of Childhood Maltreatment by Bruce Perry is exceptionally informative. I'm grateful you brought up serious horror issues like "child trauma victims who've survived things like being raised in cages and in cults and witnessing horrific violence" because it's hard for civilians who haven't experienced that, to comprehend it really happens.

The Great Big Mulp, Adults who are childhood abuse survivors, whose recovery begins and ends only with blaming the abuser never really recover. They get stuck in Victim Mode. It's when people see the wounds in themselves as adults and work on their own healing that real recovery takes place. I commend you on your honesty. I too had BPD traits (depression, emotional volatility, unresolved rage, and as a teen suicidal ideation, promiscuity and self-mutilation) and worked hard on healing. I do believe these days I have arrived at a peaceful, workable and emotionally happy life. So I encourage you. :)

imo, recovery comes in 3 overlapping stages for abuse survivors.

1. See the abuser clearly, the nature of their disorder and set appropriate boundaries.
2. See the wounds caused in oneself and work on healing them.
3. Create a healthier life for oneself, which, for abuse survivors, is harder than it would seem and among many things, requires major editing of one's address book.

Flakypastry, love your honesty and clarity. wow.

maryh, anyone can temporarily be a jerk or an asshole. The Cluster Bs are defined as being rigid, all pervasive. There's a real stuckness with NPD, ASPD and HPD. BPD is the only disorder of the Cluster Bs that in some cases is really treatable. I think the treatability depends on how much of a sustainable true self the person with BPD has, if they are capable of healthy empathy, willing to work on their issues, achieve healthy behavior modification, take the meds and do the appropriate therapy.

It's hard for a family to look at one BPDed member because it may well mean talking about possibly hidden issues in the entire family, airing dirty laundry, looking at overall family dysfunction and family secrets. It's a big deal. Sometimes people are too ashamed or feel it's taboo to talk about family stuff honestly. It's not easy for many people to come out of denial, that famous river in Egypt.

Another big issue with BPDs is not practising healthy boundaries. Like their touching people inappropriately, sexualising things too much or exposing too much of their body inappropriately.

TheLastPsychiatrist , No one "has" it or doesn't have it. It's not a disease

The correct shrink lingo is diagnosed with, is disordered or is [ ] traited.

But a person can have traits.

It is a disease: "A disease is an abnormal condition of an organism that impairs bodily functions. In human beings, "disease" is often used more broadly to refer to any condition that causes discomfort, dysfunction, distress, social problems, and/or death to the person afflicted, or similar problems for those in contact with the person. In this broader sense, it sometimes includes injuries, disabilities, disorders"

And it exists only in relationship to someone else, to society. It is context specific

wow. You just blew my mind. In 20 years of talking with shrinks and thinkers, you are the very first person I've heard say that. Yes, it IS context specific. So why do shrinks not talk about the DAMAGE Cluster Bs do to others?

I've speculated that the pathological narcissists, ASPDs and HPDs, who go in for therapy may have big money and shrinks don't want to lose the business by blaming them for the damage they do in society. Why is there not more writing about the social impact, the context specific impact of Cluster Bs?

Loved your comments on your blog about the Sopranos Finale.

Anyone for a group hug? :)
posted by nickyskye at 9:09 PM on August 7, 2007 [9 favorites]

I want to repost something flakypastry said:

deadlypenguin, my sisters and I went through the indecision re: having children that you describe. You are absolutely right that we children of BPD parents have an abnormal threshhold for out-of-control behavior. ...

I will tell you this: raising children (successfully) has been enormously healing for me. ... I was so afraid that I would repeat my mother's mistakes, when actually the opposite has been true.

Reading this thread only confirmed something I'd already realized: I got a winning ticket in the mom-and-dad lottery. My cousins, on both sides, weren't nearly as lucky.

I was just visiting one of these cousins. Kate's mother was clearly, in retrospect, a classic NPD, wrapped in the sweet flouncy southern-gal razor-ribbon of learned helplessness/suppressed rage. Kate's father (my father's brother) stuck it out until Aunt Belle's shrink told him that neither staying nor leaving would make much difference. After that, he was a loving but largely absent father, financier of the whole rickety enterprise that arose around Aunt Belle and her activities and enterprises, and their vast, disastrous consequences.

So — thirty years on, Kate has a professional degree and a job she likes, a husband she loves, and three engaging lively children. Kate said that she always knew that she had to be a mother because she'd never had a mother herself and, just as flakypastry has said, the experience has been enormously healing for her. Which I was very happy to hear, for her sake, but the real point is — her kids are fine. She's a good mom. She's married to a good dad. It is possible.
posted by vetiver at 9:38 PM on August 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

I've only read three quarters of the thread so I don't know if anyone else has already mentioned it, but I just wanted to say that BPD tends to get better with age. That is, by the time sufferers (which incidentally seems like a very appropriate term in this case) reach their late thirties or forties. The problem is for them to reach that age, as many sufferers die young due to suicide, drug and alcohol abuse/overdose, road rage etc. Obviously there's no substitute for meds and therapy, but age alone, particularly in conjunction with the ongoing presence of a partner or friend who has stuck by them in the long term, tends to lessen the worst symptoms/behaviors somewhat.

I was in a relation with a woman with BPD, and it was everything people in this thread have said. There were extreme highs and lows, but ultimately I had to leave for my own sanity's sake. I did love her, and will always worry about her.

Oh, and this discussion and seeing the expression "bunny boiler" again reminded me of an interview with Glenn Close in which she discussed Fatal Attraction. As many people already know, the ending is different from the original one in the script. In the original ending, her character cuts her own throat and implicates Michael Douglas' character, who is then hauled off to jail, but test audiences wanted the borderline Glenn Close character to suffer and for the family to remain intact, much to Close's disgust, who had researched BPD and saw her character as a "wounded creature" rather than a psychopath.
posted by Devils Slide at 9:44 PM on August 7, 2007 [2 favorites]

posted by Devils Slide at 9:52 PM on August 7, 2007

I created this account just to post, and it's taken me all day.

My parents are the classic NPD (father)/BPD (mother) couple.

My mother's half of the equation was always the most devastating. She never had any close relationships besides my father (distant from a large sibling group, never any "girlfriends" or confidants), and my father is similarly estranged from a large extended family and friendless as well, so there was never any reality checking going on--her version of reality has always been unchallenged.

Her brand of splitting meant that I--the only daughter, and therefore the chief rival for my father's affections, in her eyes--was the "all bad" kid. To have the experience of watching an incredibly abusive parent act in a loving and attached way to siblings made it nearly impossible for me to believe it wasn't somehow my fault. That pain of knowing that she was capable of being a loving mother, just not to me, is something I still struggle with.

I can't remember a time when I wasn't hearing from her--directly or indirectly, through her complaints to my father, brothers, neighbors, etc.--that I was ugly, rotten, spoiled, out to get her, nasty, etc. There were death threats in my elementary-school lunch boxes. The entire contents of my drawers and closet would be dumped in a big pile in the middle of my room when I returned from school some days because I was "messy and disgusting." She prizes herself greatly on her looks; when I was 12 she told me "not to worry about not being pretty" because when she was married to her first husband, the factory worker, "all those guys had affairs with the most horsey faced gals you've ever seen--so men don't actually care what you look like, they just use you for sex so you'll be just fine". She accused my father, who barely paid attention to any of us, of having a sexual interest in me when he did spend time with me talking about books (she never liked to read, so that was a sore spot). Anything I had that gave me pleasure or freedom she felt she herself had been denied (a summer job, access to friends, etc.) she took away whenever she could. The list goes on and on and on--these are the examples that are the most superficial, the least painful, the easiest to write about.

It is especially crazy-making and isolating because it is the kind of thing that doesn't make sense to anyone who can't imagine a mother who can be crueler, more selfish with a daughter than most people could be with a stranger. I'm always afraid of being accused of lying. And in fact, at least in my mother's case, her own perception of herself as "a perfect, all-good, all-sacrificing mother" means that she literally cannot remember doing or saying anything abusive or inappropriate--even the most obvious or undeniable examples. She literally says, "Well, that just doesn't sound like something I would say/do"...it must be something that the all-bad, all-crazy one (me) has fabricated. Her world is the size of just one or two people and a toy poodle, and this brand of psychosis passes as reality in that tiny suburban hell. It's the only family I have, and it's been an enormously painful struggle to finally accept reality myself and cut bait.

I still sometimes feel tormented with the thought that no one could possibly believe what she's really been like.
posted by sock it to me monkey at 10:34 PM on August 7, 2007 [13 favorites]

nickyskye, thank you for your kind and comforting words... One thing you said really stood out for me: They usually outlive everybody. So the best thing to do is move on and have a life of one's own at a safe distance. That's certainly something I've wondered about... lol... She's so determined to be "right," she'll probably outlive me just so she can have the last word.
posted by amyms at 11:03 PM on August 7, 2007

sock it to me monkey said: I still sometimes feel tormented with the thought that no one could possibly believe what she's really been like.

Don't worry, people DO believe you.
posted by amyms at 11:06 PM on August 7, 2007

I still sometimes feel tormented with the thought that no one could possibly believe what she's really been like.

There are more people than you would guess who would not only believe you, but whose experiences were startlingly similar.

It's really bizarre how identical some of the behaviors are. Even the weirdest stuff, things you would think more than one person couldn't come up with on their own, pops up over and over again. I don't know how that happens.
posted by lemuria at 11:46 PM on August 7, 2007

sock it to me monkey, Welcome to MetaFilter. :)

ah, So you survived that nightmare. It's a miracle you are alive, sane and awake to what happened. Congratulations! That itself is an extraordinary and courageous achievement.

It's almost 3am here in NYC but a few suggestions in regard to your comment:

Cluster B parents have an idealise-devalue cycle, pedestalising one child, scapegoating the other. I was the pedestalised one. You didn't miss anything. It wasn't love. But it looked like that to my siblings, which broke my heart. They couldn't see what I got was empty and toxic too. It was Golden Crumbs. These crumbs were coveted by my siblings, as if they were nourishing, which they weren't. It alienated them from me, which increased the sense of loss.

The paradox is the devalued child is the closest to the Cluster B parent. Valued as devalued. That's the position of Secondary Narcissistic Supplier.

Adult children of Cluster B parents often end up becoming addicted to self-deprivation in one form or another, partially because it feels familiar and is associated with a sense of family and also as a kind of fear things will be taken away, so better to have nothing. Robert M Young as described some of this deprivation in his writing about anorexia and bulimia and Patrick Carnes in his brilliant book, The Betrayal Bond.

There is a lot of support and information on the web to help you in your recovery process and to reassure you that you are not alone in having endured what you did. For your immediate comfort I'd like to recommend a very active and good group for Adult Children of Narcissistic Parents.

Wishing you well on your journey. And see you around the Metafilterhood.
posted by nickyskye at 11:49 PM on August 7, 2007 [6 favorites]

Oh, and at the risk of seeming like a Narcissistic Supplier, I want to add to the chorus and say, Nickskye, you da bomb. Thanks for the thread.
posted by betteryeti at 12:40 AM on August 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

“Adult children of Cluster B parents often end up becoming addicted to self-deprivation in one form or another, partially because it feels familiar and is associated with a sense of family and also as a kind of fear things will be taken away, so better to have nothing.”

Huh. One thing that my family (my mother and sister and relatives) don't understand about me and that I don't understand about myself is that I stay pretty distant to everyone, even though I love them quite a bit. I don't see my family here in Albuquerque very much, including my maternal youngest aunt and her family, all of whom I'm very close to. And my mom despairs about how I don't talk to her very often on the phone and don't visit her in Kansas City that much. And my sister just plain doesn't understand it at all, she thinks I'm selfish because of it.

Part of it is that I'm introverted and so socializing with anyone, and especially more than one person at a time (which is always the case when you visit someone somewhere), just is very tiring to me and I don't like to do it that much, even though I like and love my friends and family.

But there's something deeper going on and I wonder if this isn't it. In my isolated world alone in my apartment, things are very regular and my emotional life is very smooth. I might be depressed, but it's pretty much a slow up and down process. Dealing with family is fulfilling in the respect that I love them and enjoy them, but I think in another respect it makes me very emotionally nervous because I feel exposed to other peoples' emotions and the unpredictability that causes.

I didn't used to be this way. But as I got more emotionally stable and happier with myself, I also got more distanced from everyone. It seemed like it was part of the cure, but maybe it's still a symptom of the disease. It's not as if anyone else but my dad is a toxic person to be around. In particular, my mother is a warm, loving and wonderful person that I think the world of, yet I still keep her at arm's length, which she doesn't understand and, frankly, I don't really understand it, either.

But what you've described is part of it.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 12:57 AM on August 8, 2007

Flood in my apartment as the skies opened up this morning in NYC, water trickling out of the ceiling onto my bed and hither and thither. Comic running around in my nightie half asleep to protect the computer, yank electrical cords out so there wasn't an electrical fire too. Mess cleared up but adrenalin still pumping. So came here to chill before re-hitting the hay.

betteryeti, Well it's only NS if I'm an N. Otherwise it's a lovely compliment. Thanks. :)

EB, Sometimes it's just good to stay away from anyone who opens up the olde can of worms. Maybe it's nice to have some peace of mind?

Tumbling back into bed for some shuteye...at least the plants on the fire escape look happily watered.
posted by nickyskye at 4:23 AM on August 8, 2007

if civilization and evolution have made most of us less.... extreme these days.

That's a reasonably popular position in sociology. In The Civilizing Process, Norbert Elias has a lot to say about what he sees as essential differences between socialised, urbanised populations in the modern era and those from pre-modern eras. The cluster of behaviours commonly labelled as BPD may in fact have been less visible in former eras, and their recent prominence may be a signifier of social evolution of unusual rapidity.

The fact that the non-US, WHO-based ICD-10 diagnostic correlate for BPD classifies it as a subset of pathologically unstable or diffuse personality assertion, while the Chinese CCMD diagnostic correlate reduces the relative significance of the narcissistic behaviours while increasing the relative significance of the impulsive behaviours says a lot about the cultural specificity of mental health diagnoses. Going back to an older model, it's very much to do with how much "function" is ascribed to the 'super-ego'. But then I tend to take more of a object relations slant than most.
posted by meehawl at 10:24 AM on August 8, 2007 [2 favorites]

Interesting points meehawl. It makes sense especially in light of object relations theory.

Links to your references:
World Health Organisation (WHO) classification of diseases, International Classification of Diseases, ICD-10 (10 refers to the 10th edition).

The European BPD description.

Chinese Classification of Mental Disorders.
"Rather than borderline personality disorder as in the DSM, or emotionally unstable personality disorder (borderline type) as in the ICD, the CCMD has impulsive personality disorder.

Diagnoses that are more specific to Chinese or Asian culture, though they may also be outlined in the ICD (or DSM glossary section)"

posted by nickyskye at 12:35 PM on August 8, 2007

Wow, a really engrossing thread. A sincere thank you to everyone who shared their stories.

I think one of the hardest things about having a parent with BPD is that you somehow don't feel justified in being angry/sad/whatever about the things they did. My mom is such a highly functioning BPD that I frequently felt that no one would believe me if I told them what she was really like. Reading Walking on Eggshells was a big step for me in feeling validated in my anger/fear/disappointment. Like another poster said, it was heartbreaking to see what she was capable of - and what she denied me.

Flakypastry, your comments really struck a chord in me. I too was afraid of parenting because of the fear that I would repeat my mother's behavior - and I too have found parenthood to be immensely healing. Thank god I'm not like her. Thank god my children don't have to grow up with that. I was inspired by your description of your children having witnessed her illness - I've been wondering what to tell my kids as they get older, whether to try to pretend to them that she's OK or whether to be honest about it.

I also have fantasized for years about the relief I will feel when she is finally dead - but usually it's immediately followed by the fear/guilt of not having made up with her before she dies. The fact that she abused you, Flakypastry, even on her deathbed almost made me laugh because I know that's what she will do as well. Which makes me feel less guilty about not bending over backwards (again) to improve our relationship.

It's a long, long road.
posted by widdershins at 1:47 PM on August 8, 2007

It would be interesting to collect adult children of Cluster Bs' deathbed stories. It might be releasing for the adult children who have detached and can't help wondering if their Cluster Bed parent might miraculously change for the better before dying.

Patricia Cornwell
has a story.

Of course there is Joan Crawford and her beyond-the-grave malice, which is common with Cluster Bs. She disinherited her adopted children Christina and Christopher. Stating in the will that it was for "reasons well known to them".

"When the woman realized that Joan was dying, she began praying softly, then a bit louder. Joan heard the words, and said, 'Dammit, don’t you dare ask God to help me.' She died shortly after that."

Dear amyms, I wrote I'm so sorry that you survived that, meant to write sorry you had to survive that. I'm very glad you survived.
posted by nickyskye at 2:37 PM on August 8, 2007

lol nickyskye, I knew what you meant :)
posted by amyms at 4:33 PM on August 8, 2007

I have the suspicion that the primary difference between asperger's and NPD is the point of diagnosis. If it's before one learns to emulate emotions, you get labelled an aspie. Afterwards, a pathological narcissist.
posted by bunnytricks at 6:51 PM on August 8, 2007

the primary difference between asperger's and NPD is the point of diagnosis. If it's before one learns to emulate emotions, you get labelled an aspie. Afterwards, a pathological narcissist.

Not true.

Misdiagnosing Narcissism - Asperger's Disorder

"Asperger's Disorder is often misdiagnosed as Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), though evident as early as age 3 (while pathological narcissism cannot be safely diagnosed prior to early adolescence).

In both cases, the patient is self-centered and engrossed in a narrow range of interests and activities. Social and occupational interactions are severely hampered and conversational skills (the give and take of verbal intercourse) are primitive. The Asperger's patient body language - eye to eye gaze, body posture, facial expressions - is constricted and artificial, akin to the narcissist's. Nonverbal cues are virtually absent and their interpretation in others lacking.

Yet, the gulf between Asperger's and pathological narcissism is vast."
posted by nickyskye at 7:48 PM on August 8, 2007

Let me add to the Asperger's vs. narcissism subthread, it should not be difficult to distinguish between the two. the behavior in narcissism is completely conscious, completely volitional, the opposite of Asperger's. When an aspie is talking to, say, a girl, and talks about himself, and misses the cues that she's bored, that's a problem only secondarily with empathy; the real problem is information processing. Data in, wrong interpretation out. ("She's not telling me to stop, so I should continue.")

The narcissist, on the other hand, can't fathom that she wouldn't be interested (lack of empathy), BUT-- and this is the important part-- simultaneously is hyperacutely aware that she's bored but believes he will be able to "con" her into being interested. "If I can just get to the part about how I love Kierkegaard, but not make it sound contrived, I know she'll realize I'm an intellectual..." These two pieces occur exactly at the same time and in the same psychic space, even though they are logically inconsistent.

Narcissists don't have a lack of empathy, as commonly stated-- they are extremely sensitive to other's emotions. They simply don't care, except as it relates to the,

If your psychiatrist can't see the difference between these two-- simply in how you relate to him-- you need a new shrink.

And thanks to nickyskye for both liking and linking my Sopranos post.
posted by TheLastPsychiatrist at 11:00 PM on August 8, 2007 [5 favorites]

As the mother of an Asperger's adolescent, I thank nickyskye and TheLast Psychiatrist for outlining the difference for the misguided person who equated Asperger's with NPD. Sheesh, Asperger's people are marginalized enough without someone coming along and accusing them of traits they don't have.
posted by amyms at 12:50 AM on August 9, 2007

Narcissists don't have a lack of empathy, as commonly stated-- they are extremely sensitive to other's emotions

Again, TheLastPsychiatrist, you are the only psychiatrist I've heard state that and in my experience and understanding that is true. Empathy is routinely linked with sympathy and compassion. As if having empathy guarantees benevolence. People mistakenly define empathy as being compassionate.

In an emotionally healthier person empathy is expected to have two parts, putting oneself in another's shoes and responding appropriately with sympathy.

The only article I've read that discusses this is the partial empathy of the psychopath.

I think narcissists have sadistic empathy. If narcissists didn't have empathy (the "ability to recognize, perceive and directly feel the emotion of another) they wouldn't know how to be such precise sadists.

Do you know why the DSM says that narcissists "lack empathy"?

You said "Two narcissists don't mesh". I don't agree in that I think they can mesh but one may play Inverted Narcissist. Ronald and Nancy Reagan for example.

You said "So a borderline in one relationship may be a narcissist in another relationship, if the second partner has an even less defined ego than she."

Yes, really agree with you there.

It's excellent speaking with a psychiatrist online about BPD and NPD. I'm so pleased you joined this thread.

When it comes to Axis II in the DSM being personality disorders and mentally retardation, do you have any thoughts about why both are on the same axis?
posted by nickyskye at 5:48 AM on August 9, 2007 [5 favorites]

*mental retardation, lol
posted by nickyskye at 9:30 AM on August 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


I saw your posting in the MeFi sidebar, and I had to give it another read.

And I still agree with the poster you're responding to -- the one who said that sane people should avoid BPDs at all costs. I agree with him precisely because of what you wrote in your posts about your own behavior in response -- how you've constructed webs of lies to lash out at people, how you lied so much you didn't even know what the truth was... and then you go on to talk about you, you, you. Your issues. How you got better. Why you shouldn't be a pariah. NOT A WORD ABOUT THE PEOPLE YOU HURT!

You really want to prove to me that BPDs aren't perma-toxic? You really want to demonstrate that you're better? How about something like this: make amend to the people you hurt. Go to the communities to which you lied. Tell them what you did. Tell them why you did it. Tell the people you vilified and gaslighted and slandered that you're really sorry. Tell their families that you made it all up. In short, take some responsibility, rather than continuing the BPD-ish tack of continuing to masturbate your own pain, and of somehow making it (still, always, eternally) about you. You, you, you.

I was falsely accused by someone like you. Before it happened, I was trusting, open, happy -- and yes, a little naive. But it took one disturbed BPD and a campaign of lies to show me how really, really dark life can be.

And how really, really, really much I want to underscore to everybody how they should stay away from people like you.

The only way that people like you will ever demonstrate to people like me that you're "better" is to take responsibility -- and not in an anonymous, support-group-style context. Do it where it counts: in the communities and families where you did your damage.
posted by betteryeti at 1:25 PM on August 16, 2007 [7 favorites]

Sorry to rattle on, but I also thought that it would be valuable for readers of this thread to be aware of the case of John Fund, a journalist who had the misfortune of getting involved with a BPD who accused him of all kinds of horrible things, including battery and rape. It pretty much killed his career, even though his accuser did a mea culpa and copped to a BPD diagnosis and of having made the whole thing up, but now she was getting better.

Oh, but, bonus: later she said her confession was coerced, and that Fund had stood over her, fists at the ready, threatening to pummel her if she didn't sign the confession. So much for getting better.

And Bookish asserts people should take it at face value when a BP says they're all better? Why the heck would anybody want to take that chance?

I'll stop now. The Fund story is at

It's pretty grim, but very much like what I went through. It was BPD hell.
posted by betteryeti at 2:00 PM on August 16, 2007 [2 favorites]

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