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Borderline personality disorder, also known as BPD, is a chronic mental health disorder that is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). The term “borderline” was initially coined because psychiatrists believed that its symptoms hovered on the border between psychosis and neurosis. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIH) defines a borderline personality disorder as an “illness marked by an ongoing pattern of varying moods, self-image, and behavior.” These patterns will often lead to reckless and hasty actions that negatively affect relationships. 

Individuals with a borderline personality disorder often struggle with relationship issues, lack self-esteem, have a poor self-image, and have an inability to appropriately self-regulate. Most commonly, BPD develops in early adulthood, often with more severe symptoms occurring in the early stages of onset. There are a variety of symptoms associated with BPD. For example, dissociation is highly common in individuals diagnosed with BPD, as studies have found nearly 75% to 80% of people with borderline personality disorder report experiencing stress-related dissociation.

Dissociation 

Dissociation is an overload response that serves as an ineffective coping mechanism. VeryWell Mind explains, “Dissociation disrupts four areas of personal functioning that usually operate together smoothly, automatically, and with few or no problems,” which include identity, memory, consciousness, and self-awareness/ awareness of surroundings. Dissociation is a psychological phenomenon that, according to the Australian Institute of Professional Counsellors, “describes a state in which the integrated functioning of a person’s identity, including consciousness, memory, and awareness of surroundings, is disrupted or eliminated.” Experts attribute the cause of dissociation symptoms to a break in the cohesive and automatic functioning of this system. 

Symptoms

The symptoms of dissociation can range from mild to severe and last varied durations. Common examples of symptoms of dissociation that an individual with a borderline personality disorder may experience can be broken into the following five overarching categories:

  1. Depersonalization: feeling detached from one’s thoughts, feelings, and body
    • Becoming fully engrossed in something (e.g., a movie, a book, etc.) to the point of becoming unaware of what is going on in one’s surroundings
    • Having an out-of-body experience (e.g., an individual feeling as though he or she is floating away or watching themselves from a distance)
  2. Derealization: feeling disconnected from one’s environment
    • Daydreaming
    • Zoning out (e.g., scrolling through social media and suddenly noticing hours have passed)
  3. Dissociative amnesia: experiencing retrospective memory gaps 
    • Unable to remember important information about one’s life, history, and/ or identity
  4. Identity confusion: feeling unsure of one’s sense of self or place in the world
    • Obsessive behaviors (e.g., an individual repeatedly looking in the mirror to check and make sure that they are real)
  5. Identity alteration: the sense of being markedly different from another part of oneself

Severe symptoms of dissociation could include perceptual alterations, emotional or physical numbing, distorted sense of time and space, unreal, unstable, or absent self, etc. Although common, it is important to note that not all individuals with BPD will inevitably experience dissociation.

The information above is provided for the use of informational purposes only. The above content is not to be substituted for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment, as in no way is it intended as an attempt to practice medicine, give specific medical advice, including, without limitation, advice concerning the topic of mental health. As such, please do not use any material provided above to disregard professional advice or delay seeking treatment.