Have you ever encountered someone who seems to fit in with a group perfectly? As you get to know them better, do you find that they seem to mesh well with another, very different group? Does the person seem to abandon projects and relationships after a while? Do they pick up the relationships sometimes as if nothing really happened in between? Do they seem to expect you to be there for them any time they call? These are some of the trademark characteristics of Borderline Personality Disorder.
Borderline Personality Disorder: a pattern of instability in interpersonal
relationships, self-image, and affects, and marked impulsivity. (DSM-IV) This is part of the Cluster B grouping of personality disorders, which appear as dramatic, emotional, and/or erratic behavior. Included in this group are also Antisocial, Histrionic, and Narcissistic Personality Disorders.
Many individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder appear to be fully-functioning, especially in social settings. This is mostly due to their need for social interaction and approval and a deep fear of abandonment. They may begin a relationship (friendship or romance) intensely and seem to invest a lot of time and effort into it. However, after a while, they may abandon the relationship in pursuit of a new one. Once the new relationship wanes for them, they may either seek another relationship or attempt to rekindle a recent one. However, Borderline individuals are not very good at maintaining long-term relationships. They expect others to do all the work without realizing that this is their expectation.
Most fully-functioning individuals understand that maintaining a relationship requires both parties to keep the lines of communication open, both parties to make an effort to keep in touch. A Borderline individual usually makes no effort to contact "old" relationships unless they are desperate for some kind of contact from anyone because their current relationships are not meeting their needs. This is why I refer to them as the "doll people". They seem to "put you on a shelf" when they don't need you and expect you to stay in place just in case they need you again. Fully-functioning individuals understand that others do have lives outside of their relationships. Fully-functioning individuals understand that if another person is not instantly available it is not necessarily a personal affront but simply the other person being busy. A Borderline individual does not seem to be able to grasp this concept and they may become very upset if you are not readily available when they want to interact with you.
Another characteristic of Borderline Personality disorder is the intensity with which they begin a project or hobby. They may seem to be consumed by the project, and any social interaction surrounding the new activity such as online forums or local interest clubs. However, their intense interest will quickly fall to the wayside, not necessarily because something else comes along but because they are not capable of maintaining the intensity of interest for extended periods of time. This sprinting of interest also extends to potentially harmful behaviors like over-spending, sexual promiscuity, substance abuse, alcohol consumption, overeating, gambling, or reckless driving. The plus side is that their extreme interests in these detrimental behaviors will be short-lived. The down side is that some damage may already be experienced before the disinterest occurs.
Borderline individuals may experience moments of intense dissatisfaction and disinterest with life, irritability, or anxiety about abandonment. These moments do not generally last longer than a couple of days, however. The individual may also experience chronic feelings of emptiness between these episodes. Occasionally, they may have problems controlling their anger, frequently displaying intense temper tantrums or even violent fits of rage at inappropriate times. They may not always have a full grasp of the actual source of their anger, either.
They may engage in frantic or desperate behaviors to avoid real or imagined abandonment, sometimes to the extreme of "dumping" a person before they are dumped themselves. They may also engage in suicidal behavior--threats, gestures, self-mutilation--that are not necessarily related to depression or suicidal desires. Rather, these behaviors may be an attempt to pull a person into a care-giving position for the Borderline individual. The suicidal behaviors may (or may not) also be related to the Borderline individual's identity disturbance--unstable self-image or sense of self--which is where the label derives its meaning. They are "borderline" because their personality is not stabilized. It is dependent upon their relationships with others, even though they are not capable of maintaining those relationships themselves. A Borderline individual may also experience paranoia regarding another person's abandonment of them.
What makes Borderline Personality Disorder a dangerous situation is the volatility of the behavior of the individual. The unpredictability and their constant shifting of interest from intense to complete disinterest makes them mostly unpredictable. You don't always know when they may explode or abandon you because they don't know. You may feel like they are the perfect lover, husband, wife, mother, father, or friend one moment, and the next moment they drop you like a hot potato to pursue another relationship. If things don't go smoothly in that new relationship, they may call you up as if nothing really happened between you. They require a stabilizing force in their lives in order to solidify their personality, but the very nature of their personality disorder prevents them from maintaining the stable relationships.
Unless you have saint-like patience and devotion, beware the doll-people.