People seem to either have barely any knowledge of borderline personality disorder (BPD) or commonly misunderstand what struggling with BPD “means.” Although there are nine criteria for diagnosing BPD, much like other mental illnesses, BPD presents itself differently in each person who has it.
That is why we asked members of our Mighty mental health community who have borderline personality disorder to share what signs let them know BPD was the correct diagnosis for them. If you or someone you know is struggling with BPD or a new BPD diagnosis, know you are not alone and you deserve help, support and understanding.
Here is what they had to say:
1. “I read about feeling rejected and overreacting, making it difficult to keep friends. I learned I had BPD when I was 22. Looking back at my childhood and high school, everything suddenly made sense. Why I always felt like I didn’t have a ‘group.’ Why I’ve never had a friendship last longer than five years or so. It all made sense.” — Sarah A.
2. “The way everything is so intense to me, like having a third degree burn. I just can’t have a ‘normal’ conversation. One word can leaving me hurting for weeks. I feel so alone, like I have no one.” — Cora C.
3. “Extreme shifts in emotions that often can be overwhelmingly powerful — from placid to angry, love to hate, sadness to joy in seconds. I feel everything completely, to it’s fullest extent, or nothing at all. And I know with complete clarity and understanding that all of it will hurt at some point. A permanently broken heart would be the best way to describe it.” — Tommy H.
4. “Losing people. Even after losing those people, I still try to reconnect with them. My need to have a ‘favorite person‘ is also very much a sign it was the right diagnosis.” — Steff F.
5. “The intensity that I feel and understand. It’s like being able to feel everything physically and understand everyone, but not be able to stop it or change it. I think the biggest sign was the extreme love I could feel in an instant and my attachment issues.” — Jessica S.
6. “The ambiguous grip on identity. Finding new hobbies, friends and experiences felt like I had found where I belonged, when it was just my inability to stay grounded in a more solid identity. If it wasn’t that, it was my irrational fear of being abandoned. I always listen for keys or look for shoes when my boyfriend goes to smoke a cigarette.” — Katie N.
7. “Everything was black and white. There is no ‘little bit.’ I can’t love you a little bit. I love you with all my heart or I don’t. I can’t be a little bit sad — I’m devastated to tears and the world is over. I’m not a little bit happy — I’m on top of the world. I feel feelings on a different level than most people and it’s a beautiful thing when you learn to manage it. But it can also be detrimental until you do.” — Jenna K.
8. “I found myself changing to fit into others lives. I realized I didn’t know what my favorite color was or what I liked to do for fun. I just kind of copied everyone else. I cut myself off from people so I wouldn’t have to worry about being abandoned. I figured if there was no one I cared about, they couldn’t hurt me when they leave. I would put up all these walls and hide behind them. I always thought people were judging me or hated me, so in return I hated and judged everyone. It was exhausting to put myself into a mold that didn’t fit.” — Lauren I.
9. “I attach to people very intensely and extremely quickly. When this happens, the relationship becomes increasingly dependent and talking to [my] FP (favorite person) becomes a necessity. On days I don’t talk to them, I feel lonely and anxious. If my FP doesn’t respond to a text immediately, I worry they are abandoning me. It’s a never ending cycle, that neither me or my FP can ever seem to win at or put a stop to.” — Sam R.
10. “Feeling this hatred and anger inside of me for no reason at all. And having a hard time gaining control of something when I didn’t know what it was. I thought there was just something wrong with me.” — Hayleigh P.
11. “I act on my impulses, even without thinking if there’s a consequence I have to learn from, or better yet, what good it can bring too.” — Tatauq M.
12. “I could never explain why my relationships were always tumultuous and I was so emotionally unregulated all the time! It was very relieving to find out the reason and that I wasn’t just a terrible, flawed individual. The diagnosis gave me a jumping off point to start trying to cope and manage triggers.” — Kindra M.
13. “I noticed I usually left relationships before I could be left. Alongside that, any face or gesture that may seem ‘calm’ to any other person is a sign of judgment to me. Finally, I realized my diagnosis was correct because my fear of abandonment was so great. All of my symptoms rang true with those of BPD and what my doctor mentioned, and once I was diagnosed, I was able to develop coping skills.” — Marisol H.
14. “My sudden fits of rage. They would come out of nowhere and I felt so overwhelmed — I didn’t know what to do with all the anger. I used to take it out on the people closest to me and I’m still trying to learn healthier coping methods.” — Rebecca G.
15. “I cry so easily. I can’t handle separation from my significant other, even for him to go to work. It’s so hard on me. And the symptoms fit me to a ‘T.’” — Andie A.
16. “Impulsive suicidal behaviors and self-harm. I always knew these weren’t normal coping mechanisms that other people used and that’s what made me realize I was different.” — Morganne H.
17. “I never felt as though anxiety and depression was the full picture. When I got my diagnosis, it was like the jigsaw pieces fit into place. Reading the traits I related to felt like I could take a step back and see clearer.” — Emma H.
18. “How much my emotions were out of whack to insignificant things. For example, I refused to move from a store car park, sat down and took my shoes and socks off and sat in the freezing cold crying all because I’d forgotten my bank card. I felt my world had ended and was so mad and upset with myself for forgetting it. I could have gone home and got it and gone back without a care in the world, but I just couldn’t ever rationalize anything. I always overreacted to this degree.” — Amy W.
19. “I was always forming myself and my answers to make other people happy and to keep them close to me, wether they were toxic or not. I realized I was trying to keep my friends as close as possible. In a way, I was like a collector.” — Ciera G.
20. “Strong feeling of emptiness that I can’t explain, fear of abandonment, strong tendencies to be too much clingy, overwhelming emotions. It is impossible to mention only one sign.” — Lenka C.
21. “Never having an internal sense of identity. I always latched on to whatever I was doing at the time and that was who I was. It was all or nothing and when things changed, I was left crushed and lost.” — Amy S.
22. “Knowing that the majority of my distress revolves around interpersonal relationships was what solidified the diagnosis for me.” — Aurie B.
23. “The constant and unfounded fear of abandonment, the quick switching of extreme emotions, the ridiculous amount of ‘what if’ scenarios I played out in my head and planning for each possibility, and the realization that I was not able to correctly read other’s emotions/facial expressions.” — Renae B.
24. “I’m a different person every day. It’s a surprise when I wake up every morning who I will be today.” — Julia S.
25. “I’ve always wondered where my possessive qualities have come from. My diagnosis was a gift because it allowed me to understand why I am the way I am.” — Laura S.