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Borderline Personality Disorder?

by Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Do you think I have borderline personality disorder or similar? I’m a female 17 year old college student in my second year and I just want to know if I have any diagnosable mental problems and how severe they are. So I’ll list the symptoms I can think of.

Anxiety- feeling anxious about how people perceive me, finding it difficult to make new friends, needs to suss people and situations out before even thinking about forming friendships. I worry constantly about the past- can’t seem to get rid of the regrets from years ago, keep pondering over what I should have done to the annoyance of my friends

Obsession- throughout life I have fastened onto one friend and have a great fear of losing them. In year 10 I only really had one true friend, although I was in a group of several girls, I never really spoke to the others and when me and that friend had a major fall out ( I didn’t even know why that was but I was so afraid of upsetting her and making things worse that I didn’t confront her and just sat there in silence, trying to always be around my “friends” to prevent them from bitching about me) I used to get so paranoid and used to write down the things I was planning to say to her that day, things like that. The isolation went on for months from about late September/early October until about early December, I hardly spoke to anyone during this period of time. But I made friends from a performing arts class and joined a new group of people. Other than the happiest part of my life (Year 10 after Christmas) where I had four best friends and others besides until that broke down as my 2 sets of 2 friends began kind of fighting because of me not spending enough time with them and a couple of other things. Since and before then I have always latched onto one person and become almost completely selfless to them. That’s not to say I don’t have my own opinions and tell them off for minor things, but I always care more than what’s natural about what they think and feel. I form a massive emotional attachment to them and feel oblivious to everyone else and that I don’t deserve them. It’s how I feel most safe, but I know that when they move on or fall out with me etc then I’ll have no-one.

Jealousy-the best friend I’ve had for 4 years now is a guy, but I constantly feel jealous of both his male and female friendships. Even how close he is to his family.

Low self esteem- some outwardly but none inwardly. Constant images of failure in life.
Bad performance in exams and essays- leaves essays to last minute because I dread them. Goes into exams and doesn’t worry about it properly until I’m in the room where my mind goes completely blank and I panic.

Rages and easily irritable- seem to be close to anger a lot of the time and small things can trigger it, like my English lessons last year, I associated them with being angry so I was. Sometimes I’ll say a comment about one of my friends behind their back then say it to their faces on impulse when the opportunity arises. I get some sort of sick pleasure from this “honesty”.

Over-analysing- I over- analyse everyone and everything including myself so I recognise flaws in people that others don’t notice. I take part in demolishing views of so-called “good” people by pointing out the bad points about them and maybe manipulating (if that’s the right word) others into doing the same as I always believe the worst in people and don’t believe that anyone’s motivations are as pure as people believe. Spend hours a day thinking and analysing things and get anxious and frightened if I’m too busy to do it.

Taking pleasure in creating uncomfortable, awkward circumstances-through giving short answers to questions or telling people what I think of their views etc. This isn’t for everyone by any means just for a few people where I play God in wanting to chop down their over-inflated egos.

Binges on food and has guilt over what I’ve eaten at all times.

Completely different moods- the happiest I’ve ever seemed to my family at home is whenever I’m going through the worst times at school or college. Then vice versa as well. Sometimes my mood changes very fast for no reason and I shun everyone around me if it turns bad, or one little thing triggers it at any time. My friends and family noticed this when I was about 13.

Impulsive- like the other week when we were having an induction to work this lad who I’d gone to primary school with but had never really spoken to had a little moan about having to walk home, so i just immediately asked him if he wanted a lift. This was really awkward and “socially wrong”. I felt embarrassed as soon as I’d said it.

Solitude- hates constant company. Got really angry just spending 3 days alone with my two best friends for my birthday in London. Shouts at family if they disturb me etc.

Hates change- long amounts of time to adjust to some things. Difficulty sleeping in unknown places. Inexplicably tearful at sleepovers. Not being able to sleep in a new place until entirely comfortable eg going round at 2 in the morning tidying and popping balloons in our hotel because I couldn’t sleep with them there. I’m either very impulsive at times but mostly hate not being able to mentally plan everything out days in advance. Compulsive list-maker.
Over-honest about everyone and myself to the point of sounding horrible and completely pessimistic.

Never seems to feel happy- for longer than a couple of hours or occasionally a day, can go into what probably is depression for months. I isolate myself, get completely over-emotional and have a kind of hopeless view on the world and man-kind itself almost daily but then my mood changes and I think how stupid I was to feel like that.

Thank you for the very detailed letter. I responded to each symptom that you have described. It’s also important to mention that I am not able to offer you an “official” diagnosis. It’s always best to be evaluated in person to receive the most accurate diagnosis. If you’re a regular reader of my column you may know that I typically give this advice to most people who want a diagnosis.

  • Anxiety: It’s not healthy or normal to constantly feel anxious. You’re preoccupied with the past and find it difficult to control the anxiety. This is something that could be treated with counseling. Counseling could teach you how to stop focusing on things that you can’t control and to “let go” of the past. There are many skills that you could learn to control anxiety.
  • Obsession: The manner in which you interact with friends is unhealthy. You become fixated on one particular individual and have a major emotional reaction at the thought of losing them. The hallmarks of borderline personality disorder are unstable relationships and the fear (real or imagined) of being abandoned by those around you. The relationship dynamic you have described is characteristic of individuals with borderline personality disorder.
  • Jealousy: It is a sign of insecurity. It’s not a symptom of borderline personality disorder per se, but many individuals with the disorder do tend to experience jealousy.
  • Low self-esteem: Regarding low self-esteem, you say that you are not doing well on essays and exams. You dread the essays and exams therefore, you don’t study and panic when you have to take them. That may be related to not being prepared or perhaps not knowing how to prepare for exams. The low self-esteem may have resulted because of low scores on tests and exams. Low self-esteem or a persistently unstable self-image or sense of self is a characteristic of borderline personality disorder. It is not clear whether your low self-esteem is tied to failing school work or if you have an overall unfavorable self-image. It may also be both.
  • Rages and easily irritable: That is another characteristic of borderline personality disorder. It’s very common for individuals with the disorder to feel intensely angry. Many individuals with the disorder also feel that they have little or no control over their anger.
  • Overanalyzing: That may be related to anger and irritability. It’s common for individuals with borderline personality disorder to display sarcasm or bitterness towards others. You may feel bitter toward “good people.” You may be jealous of people who are perceived as good and your way of changing this is to “prove” that they are not good by pointing out negative things about them. As you said, what you’re doing is manipulating the situation to present these “good individuals” in a bad light. Relatedly, you talked about feeling like God and liking this feeling. That feeling is related to power. Perhaps you feel powerless and pointing out negative things about “good” people is your way of gaining power.

    You also reported believing the worst about people. Perhaps you do this because others have treated you badly in the past. If your experience with caretakers or parents (people who were supposed to protect you) has been negative and they have treated you unkindly then it makes sense that you’d come to expect this type of behavior from other people. The act of putting people down, feeling powerless, and trying to gain power by targeting “good” people all seem interrelated. Because other people have possibly had the power to do negative and harmful things to you, you find it pleasurable and desirable to inflict pain on others. It may be a way to get back at people for harming you and it makes you feel powerful.

  • Moodiness and impulsivity: Those are common symptoms among individuals with borderline personality disorder.
  • Hates change: Being resistant to change is another sign of the disorder. It’s not unusual for individuals with the disorder to experience rigidity in their thinking and behavior.
  • Never feels happy: That may be related to moodiness/irritability and perhaps depression. Mood instability is another feature of borderline personality disorder.

I’ve gone through all the symptoms that you have described. You do meet many of the criteria for borderline personality disorder. As mentioned above, I cannot give you an official diagnosis over the Internet. It would be helpful to be evaluated by a mental health clinician. You may also want to educate yourself about the disorder. One book that I have found particularly helpful is titled I Hate You Don’t Leave Me. I believe it is one of the best books written about borderline personality disorder. If you do a search on Amazon.com you’ll likely find that you can buy a used copy of the book very cheaply. You might also be able to locate a copy at the library.

If you decide to see clinician about gaining a diagnosis, then you should also consider treatment. The issues that you have written about are assuredly negatively impacting your life. Borderline personality disorder is treatable, but that it is not something that can be cured overnight. It is treatable with the help of a seasoned and competent clinician who is specifically trained to help individuals with this disorder. I hope that you will consider treatment because it could significantly improve your life. Thank you for your questions and I wish you the best of luck.

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