The very nature of borderline personality disorder (BPD) — the splitting, mood shifts and fear of abandonment — can affect how people with the disorder relate to others and the world around them. And because their behaviors can directly affect relationships, if you don’t know much about BPD, it can be hard to understand why a person is acting the way they are.
To try to get a better understanding, we asked people in our mental health community who have borderline personality disorder to share with us one thing people don’t realize they’re doing because they have BPD.
Here’s what they shared with us:
1. “Always overanalyzing everything, from something as simple as taking longer than usual to reply to a text message to saying ‘hello’ instead of ‘hey.’ It’s exhausting.” — Grace D.
2. “Losing my temper. At times I have actually scared/worried the person I’m with because my anger is so bad. I shout, cry, swear and afterwards cry even more because of the amount of embarrassment and shame I feel for being so vile. It feels uncontrollable at the time, and yet when you reflect, you feel like you should have been able to stop it. It’s frustrating.” — Claire G.
3. “Sleeping. People don’t understand how often I have to ‘recharge.’ Simple things are exhausting, especially when there’s social interaction. Even my family gives me a hard time about sleeping 12-plus hours, but what they don’t realize is I’m not sleeping the whole time. Even with medication it takes forever for my brain to shut off. I’m not being lazy when I sleep all day. My body and brain clearly need a break.” — Ashleigh T.
4. “I pick little fights to test you and see if you will leave me.” — Leigh D.
5. “I ask a lot of questions I know the answer to because of my fear of failure.” — Aislinn G.
6. “People don’t realize I don’t ask for help when I really need it due to the anxieties around rejection and abandonment.” — Charlotte S.
7. “I can’t be alone at home. I last maybe 15 minutes, then I get in the car. Even if I’m driving around for an hour till someone replies to hang out or someone is home. Otherwise my feelings of loneliness are overwhelming and I can’t move.” — Becky L.
8. “Neutral and mundane words, situations and facial expressions are often distorted in my perception and interpreted as threats of abandonment and rejection. The smallest real or perceived slight can send me into panic or desperation. It’s hard to simply have a conversation sometimes or go home at night and fight off the constant anger or panic. It hurts so bad and can last a long time. This then leads to other difficulties like impulsiveness and insecure attachment patterns. It is exhausting.” — Kellyann N.
9. “Because of my fear of abandonment and rejection, I often overreact when I feel like someone has slighted me. You didn’t reply to my message? You texted me without a smiley face? You walked by me in the hallway without saying hi? You cancel plans we had? I immediately assume you’re mad at me, that you’re avoiding or ignoring me. And my reaction to that is to go into defensive mode. I’m angry at you because you’re ‘obviously’ angry at me and I don’t know why (although I run through a thousand possibilities in my mind). I shut down. I avoid you so I don’t have to face you outright rejecting me. I get unreasonably upset. And then people don’t understand why I’m upset because as far as they know they didn’t do anything wrong. I wish there was a way I could make people understand how my mind and my emotions work and that I can’t help overreacting to something that seems irrelevant to them.” — Mikal P.
10. “I self-sabotage everything. Things could be going well, but I find a way to destroy it.” — Andrea C.
11. “Being tired all the time — most people think I choose to stay up all night and sleep most of the day. I don’t, I’m just always really tired from having to deal with life and my head.” — Isobel T.
12. “Apologizing a lot.” — Clincie B.
13. “I’m constantly holding back my feelings because they change so often that I never know how I actually feel about something until way later. They are influenced by everything around me. I can love you one second and I hate you in an hour. That is why I can never commit to an emotion because I don’t trust that it won’t change.” — Marie D.
14. “I change the subject of the conversation immediately if the subject is unpleasant and causing a reaction — anger, sadness, fear, etc. I avoid those and so I change the subject so often that not only my friends, but I also, get lost in the conversation.” — Lenka W.
15. “Sending a long text, ending it with “you don’t have to answer” because I don’t want to be a burden, and then getting mad when they don’t answer because even though I said it was OK, I think if they really cared they would have responded.” — Cheryl D.
16. “When I’m quiet, it’s not because I have nothing to say. I’d rather let the emotions storm inside me than say the wrong thing and hurt you.” — Ali R.4
17. “Asking people if they are mad at me.” — Angela J.
18. “My emotions, good and bad, are amplified, and often times, my reactions can seem like they’re an overreaction. In reality, I feel everything too intensely and react accordingly.”1 — Tiffany I.