7 Stages of Healing for Those with Borderline Personality Disorder
By: Christine Hammond LMHC
Being diagnosed with a personality disorder can be discouraging at first. But if a person has to have one, Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is the best. Of all the disorders, BPD has the highest rate of mindfulness and is even marked as having the ability to fully recovery. No other personality disorder can claim such status.
The reason for this is that a person with BPD has a heightened level of emotional awareness and expression that is very transparent. Their ability to be instantly in-tune with their emotional reaction allows for many therapeutic methods to successfully work on the management aspect. In other words, there is no false façade that needs to be broken down first like with other personality disorders. What you see is what you get.
While the tell mark characteristics of BPD are readily noticeable to others, it is not always as initially apparent to a person with this disorder. But after reflection and a few steps along the way, most persons with BPD learn to embrace their uniqueness and wear it with pride. Here are some of those steps.
1. Denial. All initial stages of awareness begin with a defense mechanism such as denial. It is far easier to reject a problem, issue, death, or divorce than it is to confront it. Admitting to a disorder requires accepting responsibility. This in turn forces a person to acknowledge the string of broken relationships, repeated conflicts, an inability to handle stress, and some type of work history impairment. Denial is a far easier response in the beginning.
2. Confusion. After a while, it becomes impossible to ignore life’s difficulties, especially when others seem to not have the same level of daily frustration, conflict, or intensity. This leads to seeking out help to figure out what is wrong which results in the first exposure of BPD. Many quickly return back to dissociation as a defense mechanism. One of the defining characteristics of a person with BPD is the ability to slip outside of themselves during a traumatic situation. This frequently results in a temporary memory gap which only increases the confusion.
3. Resistance. The increasing awareness of memory gaps returns a person to learning more about BPD. But the resistance towards diagnosis is strong because another defining characteristic is impulsivity in dangerous situations. Accepting responsibility for a disorder coincides with accepting responsibility for high-risk behavior. This is uncomfortable for anyone but for a person with BPD, this can be overwhelming and traumatic. Instead it is easier to resist the disorder and continue to blame others for the damage.
4. Anger. Persons with BPD feel emotion more intensely than others which are especially evident in their anger outbursts. When they can no longer resist the diagnosis, the go-to emotion is anger which is frequently taken out on family members or anyone who tried to help along the way. Sadly, their response leads to further isolation from others activating an intense uncontrollable fear of abandonment. Others are confused by the pushing away with anger followed by the pulling in when feeling abandoned. Thereby triggering the next stage.
5. Depression. Deep sadness over feeling alone, misunderstood, and rejected by others settles into the person with BPD. This is precisely when another characteristic of suicidality becomes apparent. Not only is the person with BPD just now beginning to comprehend the vast difference between the level of intense feeling they possess in comparison to others but they are also grasping at huge missed opportunities and relationships. The impact of their disorder on others has hit them very hard. The period of time between depression and acceptance is different for everyone. But the depression is needed to spark the motivation to move forward.
6. Acceptance. This is the best of all the stages because they are starting to open up to understanding the disorder. No longer is it some horrible diagnosis, rather it seen as a gifting. Persons with BPD have a unique talent to not only be aware of their emotions but also the emotions of others. Frequently they can know a person is upset way before the other person even realizes it. This is so useful in many occupations where it is essential to accurately perceive another person’s feelings. Learning how to harness this gift is part of acceptance.
7. Therapy. Now the work begins on developing coping mechanisms for handling stress, understanding the impact of the disorder on others, and healing from a series of traumatic events. Unfortunately this entire pattern is frequently repeated during the therapeutic process as new insights are obtained and consciousness of emotion is achieved. But once a person is on the other side of the process, they function very well and most new people will have no idea they even have this disorder.
It requires a good deal of patience from everyone involved to successfully reach the end of the stages. But once there, the change is beautifully dramatic.
To schedule an appointment with Christine Hammond, please call our office at 407-647-7005.