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borderline personality traits

How Borderline Personality Traits Affect Relationships

Borderline personality disorder is an especially devastating mental health condition. It is associated with impulsive behavior, a distorted self-image, and wild mood swings. However, the negative effects of BPD aren’t limited to the person with a diagnosis. Loved ones are also impacted. Research published in EvoS Journal highlights a possible connection between borderline personality disorder traits and estranged relationships.

Borderline Personality Traits That Harm Relationships

On a fundamental level, human beings are social creatures. What could drive them apart? State University of New York at New Paltz psychology professor Glenn Geher designed a study with this question in mind. As an evolutionary psychologist, Geher sought to determine whether certain traits associated with BPD would alienate others. He found three traits significantly correlated with estrangement.

Impulsivity is characterized by a pattern of irresponsible, split-second choices. Making rapid-fire decisions without considering possible consequences creates frustration for loved ones. Examples of impulsivity include massive shopping sprees, losing control and yelling in an argument, or destroying someone’s property in the heat of an argument.

Borderline tendencies include issues with maintaining relationships, black-and-white thinking, difficulty regulating one’s emotions, and self-destructive behavior. These traits create a pattern of instability that can drive significant others, family, friends, and co-workers away.

Risk-taking occurs when someone engages in activities that could harm themselves or others. Risk-taking behaviors include binge drinking, drug use, shoplifting, driving under the influence, gambling, or having unprotected sex. Because these actions can result in serious consequences, loved ones tend to distance themselves from the person exhibiting them.

Understanding Estrangement and Borderline Personality Disorder

For the purposes of this study, estrangement was defined as the end of a relationship. The author told participants that they would be estranged if they considered the other person “dead to them” and never planned to contact them again. Why would borderline traits inspire such a harsh reaction?

The first thing to consider is that in some cases, people with BPD may actually be the ones initiating estrangement. Isolation is a negative and harmful coping mechanism. If a person with borderline personality disorder struggles to maintain relationships and regulate their emotions to begin with, they may decide to cut out anyone who upsets them. This is in line with the black-and-white thought process associated with BPD. They may also have a co-occurring substance use disorder, which increases the likelihood of isolating behavior.

However, the study authors also assert that others may choose to create distance between themselves and those with BPD traits. Being around someone with an untreated personality disorder can be taxing. Without proper support or clinical intervention, the average person may feel unable to handle such a relationship. Fortunately, there are steps that those with BPD traits can take to prevent estrangement, make amends, and move forward.

A Quick Guide to Healthy BPD Relationships

If you are a person with borderline personality traits, you can still thrive in your relationships. Here are a few tips for maintaining your friendships, romantic partnership, and familial relations.

  • Make the other person feel heard. Whether you’re having a casual conversation or a heated discussion, be sure that you’re actively listening to the other person.
  • Think of you and the other person as a team. Remember that arguments are problems for you to solve together, not battles that you want to win.
  • Educate your loved ones. When your friends and family know the facts about BPD, they’ll better understand your behavior and reactions.
  • Avoid isolating yourself. Spending time with others will improve your mood and preserve your connection with others.
  • Get the treatment you need. Find a therapist, join a support group, and attend an addiction treatment program if you need one. Taking care of yourself empowers you to be at your best for family and friends.

Finding Help for Addiction and Mental Illness

May is Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness Month. At Vista Taos, we have seen the considerable overlap between BPD and substance use disorder. If your symptoms are affecting your relationships, help is available. Our recovery center specializes in holistic care to address addiction and co-occurring disorders. Contact us today to learn how we can help you to heal.

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