- Overview of BPD
- Living with BPD
- Special BPD Topics
The symptoms and characteristics of Borderline Personality Disorder are closely related to the behaviors and dynamics of Love Addiction. These are frequently seen to co-occur and while Love Addiction is not a formal mental health diagnosis, it is commonly accepted as a condition similar to addictions of other sorts such as to substances, sex, or gambling. Both Borderline Personality Disorder and Love Addiction involve some of the same dysfunctional relationship dynamics. They often co-occur. Some of the shared behaviors, symptoms, and dynamics of Borderline Personality Disorder and Love Addiction are:
• Preoccupation with abandonment and rejection
• Idealization of another
• An unstable sense of self
• Quick and intense relationship building
• Inability to tolerate changes in intimacy
• Feelings of insecurity and anxiety
• Impulsive acting out in relationships
• The inability to see the faults of a significant other
• Frantic attempts to avoid abandonment or rejection
• Feelings of emptiness
• Difficulty being alone
• Difficulty maintaining lasting relationships
• Disordered interpersonal boundaries
• A history of trauma
• Fear of intimacy and commitment
Both individuals with Love Addiction and those with Borderline Personality Disorder are likely to have histories of trauma and attachment problems in their early lives. Abandonment or rejection by caregivers in early life is a common. Broken attachments in childhood through others’ emotional unavailability or abuse and neglect are common. A longstanding preoccupation with the pain of these early experiences is also typical in both as are adult relationships that seem to duplicate these early traumas.
In both conditions it is not unusual for there to be a series of dysfunctional adult relationships that involve rapid and intense attachment, a great deal of conflict and emotional upheaval, impulsive acting out, and issues of abandonment and rejection that are overwhelmingly painful, recurring themes in the relationships. There are also periods of significant distress throughout the relationships in which the partner or relationship is seen as less than perfect or is devalued. These periods can alternate dramatically in both conditions with feelings of optimism and happiness in which the partner and relationship are idealized.
In both conditions there is an unstable sense of self that is heavily dependent upon the environment and relationships. Identity is often gained through relationships rather than one’s own personality characteristics and achievements. Consequently, feelings of worth and self-esteem rise and fall with the status of one’s relationships. Without a relationship there is a sense of confusion about who one is and whether one has worth or not. The need for others’ validation and approval is intense and deeply seated for both those with a Love Addiction and those who have Borderline Personality Disorder.
When Borderline Personality Disorder co-occurs with a Love Addiction each may trigger the other leading to more acute symptoms and distress. Abandonment—whether real or perceived—can trigger intense fear, panic and feelings of desperation that create an emotional and psychological crisis. Self-harm and threats of self-harm may be motivated by genuine depression and hopelessness or frantic efforts to regain control. Such a crisis usually occurs when there is a change in the relationship and can be triggered by increasing or decreasing intimacy. A crisis can involve suicidal thinking and behavior or other impulsive acting out such as self-mutilation.
Depression and suicidal thoughts and behavior can occur in both Borderline Personality Disorder and Love Addiction. These typically occur in reaction to interpersonal betrayal, abandonment or rejection and can occur when such issues have only been imagined or wrongly perceived. Self-harming thoughts and behaviors can be used in an effort to cope with the overwhelmingly negative emotions related to a real or imagined loss in the relationship.
Self-harming thoughts and behaviors can also be used to communicate or negotiate with others during conflict. Manipulative and impulsive behaviors, for example, may target the partner in order to express the depth of suffering one feels, induce guilt, seek rescue, and regain control over the partner and to re-establish the relationship.
When negative and overwhelming emotions are triggered, dysfunctional coping efforts to soothe one’s self can involve the impulsive and self-destructive use of medications or other substances. Such behaviors may involve the use of illicit substances and/or alcohol and intentional as well as unintentional overdoses can occur. Other high-risk behaviors such as promiscuity may be used to self-medicate feelings of emptiness, anxiety, panic, depression and desperation.
Individuals with both Borderline Personality Disorder and Love Addiction are susceptible to relationships that involve emotional, psychological, verbal and physical abuse. The tendency to enter into intense and rapid relationships, to tolerate inappropriate behavior and to frantically ward off abandonment, are a few of the characteristics that leave people with both conditions vulnerable to domestic violence. Frequently high levels of emotional distress, efforts to control the partner and the tendency to impulsively act out further complicate relationships in which abuse occurs. Victims who become extremely distressed and who are impulsive may believe themselves to deserve abuse, accept responsibility for it and forgive their abusive partners in order to remain in the relationship.
Individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder and Love Addiction benefit from a variety of treatment approaches. A comprehensive treatment plan is developed for each individual’s specific needs. Various modalities of treatment are beneficial and care providers may come from a diversity of professional backgrounds. Some interventions include the use of individual and group counseling, education, couples and family counseling, Cognitive-behavioral therapy, supportive therapy and medication.
If self-harming thoughts and behaviors occur there may be the need for psychiatric hospitalization to ensure safety. Outpatient treatment with regular appointments and in a well-established and trusted therapeutic relationship is very beneficial. Learning the characteristics of healthy relationships, coping skills for emotional distress and appropriate interpersonal boundaries and interactions help to break the cycle of dysfunctional relationships and reduce depression, anxiety and panic.
Medication is often used to help improve depression, alleviate anxiety and control impulsivity.
For those with substance use problems or other problematic and addictive behaviors, co-occurring treatment is recommended.