Don't worry…it could just be borderline personality disorder…

Isn’t that term scary? Borderline personality disorder? Isn’t a personality disorder something like schizophrenia? Something serious?! Come to find out, BPD is just a fancy word for someone who’s emotions or moods are out of control.

The Mayo Clinic says,

“The name arose because of theories in the 1940s and 1950s that the disorder was on the border between neurosis and psychosis. But that view doesn’t reflect current thinking. In fact, some advocacy groups have pressed for changing the name, such as calling it emotional regulation disorder. “

I want to talk about BPD for two reasons. One, the psychiatrist my son and I visited today thinks that this may underlie some of Marc’s current emotional issues. In fact, after reading up on it, I agree. I also think that most every teenager may have trouble regulating their emotions…there are SO MANY biological based changes in an adolescents’s body that any number of chemicals can cause moodiness and extremes in emotional reactions. At least, that makes sense to me.

The second reason I want to talk about it is because the symptoms of borderline personality disorder closely resemble the symptoms of abuse victims. In fact, many people with BPD were abused as children – usually physically or sexually, but neither of those types of abuse apply to my son. (I strongly disagreed with my husband’s use of the belt to discipline the two or three times he used it, but I do not think those episodes were “abusive” as described in the BPD literature.)

Along the same lines, the symptoms of BPD also closely resemble my husband’s behavior. Again, from the Mayo Clinic’s website,

“Your relationships are usually in turmoil. You often experience a love-hate relationship with others. You may idealize someone one moment and then abruptly and dramatically shift to fury and hate over perceived slights or even minor misunderstandings. This is because people with the disorder have difficulty accepting gray areas — things are either black or white. For instance, in the eyes of a person with BPD, someone is either good or evil. And that same person may seem good one day and evil the next.

Now, I don’t know if that is how my husband feels or thinks, but it is certainly the way he acts toward me. And increasingly, that is how my son is acting toward me.

The Mayo Clinic also admits that the causes of BPD are under investigation. However, genetics, environment, and body chemistry can all contribute to this love/hate feeling that causes such emotional turmoil (and in our family’s case at least, seems to result in anger).

At this point, I can hear my husband saying something negative about me even discussing this topic with myself – even considering it. To him, all psychological research is rubbish (but yet he employs this “rubbish” in his work and at home). And then I hear him telling me that these people are only telling me what I want to hear, or what will keep his insurance money pouring into their pockets. And don’t forget the snide comments about how I “believe everything” anyone tells me, whether it’s from an educated professional or from some other credible source. I believe some of his exact words were “everything those fuckers who write those books want you to believe!”…

Ugh. To get that voice out of my head so I could hear myself think would be a blessing.

Although I cannot pretend to diagnose my son (or anyone else) with any mood or personality disorder, I can read the symptoms, supposed causes, and line them up with my son’s behavior and see that they’re a pretty square match. Nevertheless, like the doctor we spoke with today, BPD is not a diagnosis at this point. Right now, it’s obvious that Marc is having trouble regulating his emotional reactions and emotions in general; the doctor wrote a prescription for Abilify, but left the decision to take it or not with my son.

The next step is a series of psychological tests, MRI’s, and blood tests during a two-day period at the hospital (outpatient, not overnight). Basically, any chemical imbalance, abnormal brain activity and/or cognitive issues that could affect Marc will be discovered during these two days. This is what my husband and I wanted – physical proof of any issue, or confirmation of lack of proof.

I don’t know if Marc will take the Abilify or not. We didn’t talk about it after the session because we were accompanied by Eddie and because the session itself was pretty intense.

BTW, I really liked visiting a psychiatrist instead of a psychologist. There wasn’t any “touchy-feely” talk (God knows we’ve had a LOT of that!). It was simply a factual reporting of events and a sharing of ideas between my son and the doctor about the medicinal uses of pot. (Note to self * look up “amotivational syndrome”)

Well, he’s back in the house, so I’m going to go talk to him before I go to sleep.

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About Kellie Jo Holly

Kellie Jo Holly passionately advocates against domestic violence through her writing and mentoring service. She loves helping women cope with abuse while in the relationship and supporting them as they leave the relationship and begin to heal. You can also find Kellie on Google+, Facebook and Twitter. You can buy her books from Amazon.


  1. Remember – we talked about abuse being a mental disorder.

    I have a comment. Two posts ago, you talked about being “selfish” because you realized it was time to take care of YOU and make YOU into who you want to be.

    I totally understand wanting to research the BPD for Marc’s sake, but keep the big one out of it. You know he won’t take anything for it; and he won’t go and talk to anybody about it. He is what he is. Let him be. Understand this for Marc, but leave your husband out of it. You know he won’t change. He has TOLD you he won’t change.

    Focus on your boys and YOU.

    And I was thinking – if you have to see yourself as being “selfish” then do it! We MUST take care of ourselves before we can take care of those we love (to the extent we WANT to be able to take care of them). There is NOTHING wrong with putting yourself first. If you have your head in the game – the boys will follow.

    I wonder if Marc will be upset if I tease him about being crazy like he was when I teased him about the hiccups… do you remember that? 🙂

    (I won’t tease him unless he teases me first.)

  2. I wonder if this is a case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. I mean, psychiatry and psychology are supposed to be intertwined. So why aren’t the psychologists latching onto the idea the psychiatrists already have? Namely, BPD?
    Where’s the disconnect? It makes perfect sense to me.

  3. Dear readers
    I have been verbally abused for as long as I can remember. I have spent years attempting to work things out & finally found a book: the verbally abusive relationship by Patricia Evans and also a book that explains the reasons for poor emotional regulation called Why Love Matters by Sue Gerhardt. Also in my GP practice there was a post with the following web address: On there is a manual you can print off – bit like the 12 step programme for alcoholics but adapted for emotional/physical/sexual abuse victims. It is difficult reading, shocking and at the same time truly life saving. I hope this may help give anyone who reads this balance. Clare x

    • Clare, thank you for your suggestions. I also read The Verbally Abusive Relationship by Patricia Evans, and it is truly a wonderful, eye-opening book! I have not yet read Love Matters by Sue Gerhardt, but your description of it sounds similar to a book I am currently reading called How To Keep People From Pushing Your Buttons by Albert Ellis and Arthur Lange. Does Love Matters talk about Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)?

      What is your GP practice?

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