People with Borderline Personality Disorders (BPD) are difficult – difficult to live with, difficult to get along with, and difficult to treat. Symptoms can include a history of unstable relationships, a fear of abandonment, impulsivity, suicidal or self-mutilating behavior, mood swings and anger management problems, among others.
As an author, the symptom that I think is so wonderful is their ability to first idealize and then to devalue. A woman meets a man, fawns all over him, is overtly seductive and sexual, tells him that he’s the most perfect guy she’s ever met, and proceeds to do everything in her power to show her love.
But, it doesn’t take long for Mr. Perfect to disappoint Ms. Borderline. He goes out with his buddies, watches a little too much basketball on TV, or stares a little too long at Angelina’s tattoo. Ms. Borderline goes bonkers. She becomes overtly depressed, explosively angry, and can’t stop telling Mr. Perfect that he’s a jerk. When Mr. Perfect can’t take it anymore and decides to end the relationship, Ms. Borderline becomes clingy, sexually seductive, and tells Mr. Perfect how sorry she is and that she really loves him.
So Mr. Perfect changes his mind and decides to stay. Two days later, he comes home ten minutes late, and Ms. Borderline again goes nuts. She rants, she threatens, and she’s verbally and even physically abusive. When he again decides to leave, she becomes suicidal and threatens that if he leaves, she’ll kill herself. Then Mr. Perfect feels sorry for her and decides to stay.
So what’s the wonderful part of this nightmare? USE MS. BORDERLINE AS A CHARACTER IN ONE OF YOUR NOVELS! She’ll make a wonderful, homicidal, jilted lover, like The Glenn Close character in Fatal Attraction, or a wonderful, difficult heroine, like Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind, or a hostile, bully father, like Bull Meecham in The Great Santini.
Since the heart of a novel is the tension and conflict that the author creates between his characters, Borderline Personalities are built for conflict. Their all-or-nothing, black or white, approach to life is the perfect way to drive another person crazy. Since you hopefully don’t have to live with one, have her, or him, torture your protagonist.
If you’re living with a person suffering from a BPD, stop being an enabler and seek therapy. If she refuses, make an independent decision to do what you need to do to have a better life.
Art Smukler MD is the author of Skin Dance, a mystery, Chasing Backwards, a psychological murder mystery, The Man with a Microphone in his Ear, and the blog, Inside the Mind of a Psychiatrist.
9 thoughts on “BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDERS CAN BE WONDERFUL…OR NOT, by Art Smukler, author & psychiatrist”
Amen to this post. I grew up under a BPD mother, fought really hard to make my own life and my children’s lives less chaotic, and have watched a relative’s wife tear her children apart the same way I was torn. It’s still too raw for me to use in fiction, though. And frankly, asking the average reader to believe that ANYONE would put up with a BPD after the first few episodes, much less love them until death do them part, is beyond my skill as a crafter of fiction. It may happen in real life, but that doesn’t make it an easy sell in fiction.
Excellent article. Clear and concise and true. Bravo Doctor Smukler.
Ed Caine M.D.
Art, this is the best summary that I have ever seen on the Borderline Personality!!! Bravo! Bernie
I lived with one for forty-five years, The past six years have been much better. He died of COPD because he couldn’t stop smoking. He was everything described in this article. I would have to look long and hard before I get into a relationship again. Most of the good guys have one foot in the grave or are wearing wedding rings.
I looked up “bonkers” and “nuts” in my official psychiatric dictionary, but couldn’t find them 🙂
Maybe you were on the wrong page?
Art, I’ve shared this article everywhere. You’re a genius making a very complex disorder understandable and recognizable to the layman.
Great post! I agree, what a perfect inspiration for a character in a crime novel.
There are Mr. Borderlines and Mr. Cluster B.s, let’s not forget. And he does make a great character in a novel. From fearing abandonment to thinking he’s entitled to EVERYTHING he desires, Mr. Cluster B oscillates between narcissistic to down right sociopathic in a matter of seconds. But thank God he’s out of my reality and only a character in my book and blog posts. 🙂