Resolution, Not Conflict

The guide to problem-solving.

Borderline Personality Disorder: The Sufferer's Experience

BPD has a bad rep, and understandably so. When a man or woman with a borderline personality disorder erupts in strong emotions, loved ones and even a therapist can feel under fire. At the same time, the person with bpd also suffers. A self-description sent to me by a PT reader diagnosed with bpd has helped me, a therapist, to empathize with the bpd sufferer's plight. Read More

I have read many articles on

I have read many articles on psychology today about bpd, at last one from someone who knows what they are talking about. thank you, fellow bpd sufferer.

Warmest thanks..

Warmest thanks for sharing with us (H.O. and myself) your appreciation of this article. H.O. totally seemed to me to, as you say, "know what she is talking about." I am very pleased to hear validation as well from a "fellow bpd sufferer."


You could have just responded, "Actually I don't have BPD, the person corresponding with me does. I'm so glad this article validated your feelings".
Seriously, that would have been so much easier than putting "know what she is talking about" and "fellow bpd sufferer" in quotations as an ineffective atempt at saying the same thing.
Tiptoeing around people and walking on eggshells in this way is offensive, it implies that the hearer is too stupid, too mentally ill, or too personality disordered to have a simple error politely pointed out.

could have, should have,

could have, should have, would have..if only....if only life were perfect!

you sound miserable


I grew up with a BPD it was a living hell, reading this article just further convinces me that there is no cure. My brother caused pain and suffering to our parents, me, our pets and still to this day feels he was the victim ... much like the writer of this article. Heaven help those who cross or attempt to treat these people ... you will never cure them....Self serving and unable to relate to others they want an audience! I disengaged myself and my family from my bpd brother.. I wish him and his family good luck!

Several points.

1. I am wholly in agreement with you, as I believe is the writer of the emails to me, H.O., that those who live with a BPD sufferer pay a terrible price. This post is not meant in any way to minimize the costs to them.

2. The writer in this article, H.O., is a very special person who, in spite of her bpd, dedicates her life to helping others. And while she does suffer greatly from bpd, she is very clear that she is not the victim of others' actions but rather the victim of a hyper-reactive emotional system. Please, readers, do not engage in wrongful insinuations about her motives or character.

3. In my office suite my colleagues and I have been developing new ways to reduce emotional hyper-reactivity. Our initial results look extremely promising. A cure for bpd may well soon be available. I will be writing more about these new techniques in subsequent articles.

4. When bpd emotional hyper-sensitivity is combined with narcissism, paranoia, Aspergers, sadism, sociopathy, addictions, or other co-morbid disorders, which is common for bpd, you get extremely hurtful people.

In this regard I see the diagnosis of bpd needing to be re-clarified. Right now many people assume that the problems from these additional disorders are part and parcel of bpd. That has not been my experience. Some bpd folks have them, others clearly do not, suffering only from the core bpd disorder of emotional hyper-reactivity.

So in sum, while I totally agree with you that your brother sounds like he was a profoundly negative influence in your family and your growing up, the aspects of his functioning that made him so toxic may have come from multiple co-occuring disorders in addition to bpd.

I hope this response has been helpful. Thank you so much for sharing your important perspective.

Was your brother diagnosed with BPD?

Whenever I hear reports of the abusive behaviour committed by those with BPD I always ask was the person diagnosed with the condition. So often the response is "No because he doesn't think he has a problem but I know he has because I read the 9 criteria and they all apply to him." So many of these anecdotal accounts are not accurate and should not be taken at face value.

Since the birth of DBT there are now numerous treatment methodologies that enable full recovery from BPD. Schema Focussed Therapy is proving the most effective so far but there are many to choose from including Transference Focussed Therapy, Cognitive Anlytical Therapy, Mentalisation Based Therapy and the list goes on.

There is no need for new treatments to be created but there is a dire need for therapists and clincians to overcome their prejudice towards BPD patients and train in techniques that work.

When someone with BPD is treated with an inappropriate therapy it makes them ill and causes terrible problems with counter transference when the therapist becomes frustrated with the patient for not responding well to treatment.

BPD needs to be retrieved from this septic contamination with discussion of other disorders. BPD is BPD is BPD. Many people with NPD are wrongly diagnosed with BPD by prejudiced professionals or simply because they are women.

HO is "right" and most PT articles and comments pejorative to BPD

I used to suffer from BPD and am now pronounced "cured". H.O> is describing an accurate portrait of BPD and how we are treated by psychology today articles and especially the comments.
It is extremely painful!!

Quite frankly I have shook my head in disbelief in many of your other articles that present BPD in a preparative way. (even calling them Bad seeds and evil others try to portray them as psychopaths and serial killers on PT it is a distorted view of BPD) The commentaries write volumes about how awful it is to be forced to live with a BPD but no one seems to show compassion for the sufferers of BPD and no one acknowledges how incredibly painful it is to suffer from the disorder.

Thank you for reaching out to address this and for helping to show this hyper-reactive emotional system disorder clearer for what it is bot by blaming the victim of the disorder. and if you suffer from BPD you are clearly a victim of the disorder because it is a very painful disorder.
I wish there could be more articles like this so that the families and supposed "normal" people could develop a greater understanding and compassion for what it is like to suffer from the disorder.

Forward ho...

Yes, I am hoping that my own forward movement in understanding, thanks to H.O., the ravages of bpd for the sufferer will parallel similar movement in the therapy world toward more understanding, and ultimately to a cure. I am optimistic.... Stay tuned for the rest of the articles in this series!

There is already a cure for BPD

If fact there are several! Many people have now fully recovered from the condition. Why are you still looking for a treatment when there are plenty out there? Train to deliver Schema Focussed Therapy and you can cure people with BPD. We want the treatment despite what people say about us, the problem is in finding therapists who are willing to train.

Plenty of treatments already!

H.O. says that most of the treatments out there now help people with bpd to cope more effectively with their hyper-responsive amygdala. We are looking to calm the amygdala so it functions more normally.

I'm usually highly skeptical

I'm usually highly skeptical of apologies that are framed "I apologize if..." and "not my intent." You can't apologize for things you didn't do or for someone's perception of your actions. You can apologize THAT you did something, regardless of intent, that caused offense. I find the "I'm sorry if" phrasing is passive-agressive and very common among therapists as away to try to seem apologetic but limit liability and take little ownership. I do however appreciate your willingness to learn and change in regards to your email exchange.

If versus that

I like your idea that "I'm sorry that..." is more potent in apologies than "I'm sorry if..." I'm not sure if you are right, but I think so.

For me the main thing I listen for in an apology is whether it is going to lead to learning and change. I very much appreciate your having noted that aspect of my response to the initial critical email. Thanks for commenting on that!

Here's hoping for more effective treatment for bpd

I truly hope that you and your colleagues can develop more effective therapies for treating borderline pd, as an adjunct to dialectical behavioral therapy which currently seems to have the best track record with improved outcome for bpd patients. A lot of the research papers I've been finding seem to agree that multiple areas of the brain are not functioning properly in those with bpd, particularly the amygdala area and the executive function area of the brain, so a multi-disciplinary approach to treatment of a disorder which is at least partly organic and genetic in nature would seem to be the logical course of action.

And I'm glad that H.O. wrote what it feels like to have bpd, and that you shared your correspondence with us here. The emotional pain she has experienced is all too heartbreakingly real and severe and seems to be all too freqent in those with borderline pd, although from what I've read, there also seems to be a spectrum of severity of the disorder.

I have to say that H.O.'s description of what it feels like to have bpd corroborates my experiences RE having been raised by a mother with borderline pd. I frequently witnessed my mother's emotional pain and experienced the dysfunctional ways she dealt with it.

If a person is feeling frequent and intense mood swings causing severe levels of emotional pain; if a person is engaging in self-harming or suicidal behaviors often, or is often engaging in blaming, or is helplessly triggered into raging behaviors as the result of or in an attempt to cope with the emotional pain, then clearly that individual is not healthy enough to be raising children alone and/or unsupervised.

A child is highly vulnerable to being traumatized by such behaviors coming from their mother or father, and highly vulnerable to having their own normal emotional development derailed by an emotionally dysregulated, unstable, highly impulsive, erratic, unpredictable primary caregiver.

No child is able to cope in a healthy way with a mother who may act loving towards her child one moment, then become hysterical or enraged at the child the next moment, may perhaps leave her small child alone for half a day to impulsively go to an entertainment event with friends, or perhaps drive erratically (rage driving) with her child in the car, or may begin cutting herself in front of her child, or threaten to shoot herself, or other impulsive, self-destructive or other-destructive behaviors in the presence of her terrified, bewildered child.

This is my main point:

Yes, those with borderline pd need help, and empathy and support, and intensive therapy, but their children also need help, empathy and support to the same degree of urgency, if not moreso.

Empathy is, or should be, a two-way street.

My best wishes to you and everyone who is determined to develop more effective treatments for bpd; here's hoping you succeed sooner rather than later.


As always when you post, you crystallized something for me...

@Annie, your comment crystallized for me that treatment for bpd needs to combine therapies that that eliminate the biological dysfunctions and that build the skills for healthy day-to-functioning. As you wrote, bpd needs "a multi-disciplinary approach to treatment of a disorder which is at least partly organic and genetic in nature."

I am delighted to report that we (Dale Petterson, the energy therapist in my office) and I seem to be closing in on a multi-disciplinary cure.

Biologically, we repair the amygdala so it reacts like a normal amygdala to end the emotional hyper-reactivity and raging. We rearrange energy distribution in the two pre-frontal lobes so that the distribution is characteristic of folks who are happy and not of people who are depressed. Believe it or not, these treatments together take less than an hour and require no medication or invasive procedures.

We clean out negative energies from prior hurtful experiences via a speeded-up version of psychodynamic work called Emotion Code (created by Bradley Nelson).

Third, we expand practical living skills with dbf-type skills for individual functioning and with teaching collaborative dialogue and win-win-conflict resolution skills so both intra-psychic and interpersonal interactions both flow more smoothly.

And then, voila, bpd essentially disappears. No more raging, no more depression, normal functioning, relaxed loving relationships.

Sound unbelievable? We are working now on video-taping what we do. Our research team, which also includes H.O. who is a physician and another bpd sufferer who is a nurse, is making the videos and preparing them to put up on YouTube over the next few months.

I'm hoping someone with research capacity will then take these methods to the next step which would be large-scale double-blind or equivalently scientific testing.

I share you concerns for the children who suffer from bpd parents. That's part of what gives me a strong sense of urgency to get our new treatment methods consolidated and tested, train professionals who can do them, and get the word out, all asap.

That is such exciting and hopeful news!

If your multidisciplinary theraputic approach to BPD works and demonstrates valid and reliable positive results across multiple clinical trials (and the results hold; you'll need followup studies as well) you will have done a great service for humankind.

My best wishes and emotional support go to you! I look forward to seeing your YouTube documentaries.


amygdala repair

I am very interested to hear more about your work repairing the amygdala. I have been studying the way the amygdala handles fear and how this effects attachment disorders. Very interested for any more information you might have on this.

a you-tube video

I have been preparing a youtube video of the work of Dale Petterson, an energy therapist. My plan is to post a PT article with a link to it once it's ready. The goal of the video is to interest researchers in following up.

Are you associated with a lab that can study the amygdala changes that seem to occur with this treatment? That's what I'd love to find.

Another of my associates uses Body Talk, an Australian technique, to quiet the amygdala. She's been getting outstanding results. You can google Body Talk for more information on these techniques.

Thanks Tracy for writing in.

Relationship Help

Thank you for helping people to understand Borderline Personality Disorder.Borderline Personality Disorder requires patience and an educated understanding since it's not a choice that one can make on whether to have it or not. Recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder requires rebuilding trust. Borderline patients must trust the people who are helping them. Their sense of security must return so that they can feel safe and the people who can really help them overcome these outcomes are there family members who love them enough to help them in their healing. The family members should be tolerant of their vulnerabilities. They must have the willingness to take care of them.

So true.

Both the person with bpd and the family have key roles in recovery.

In addition, it takes a very knowledgable and firm therapist to help. Kindness plus clarity about the need for new habits from everyone in the family system.

A video of new energy therapy methods

This video is of energy therapy treatment techniques for depression.

To adjust the amygdala we use similar techniques, asking first at what level, from 0 to 10, the responsivity of the amygdala is currently set, and then resetting it to a more optimal level. Most borderline folks reset from 8, 9 or 10 to about a 4, which is typical for "normal" people as well.

This reset is temporary. To teach the amygdala to stay at this calmer level, we teach temporal tapping (there's videos of this on youtube). As they tap people say "My amygdala is set at 4." They repeat the tapping 3 to 4 times a day until it seems to stay without the repeated tapping reprograming.

Who is/are the real victims?

I am currently in a relationship with a man with BPD. I am so angered by what I am reading here that the person with the BPD only needs love, love and more love! This personality type is the most unlovable personality I have ever known. My father was a BPD, alcoholic; beat his wife and children and ruined the lives of his children. I will never forgive him. Maybe I need therapy for this, maybe if his family had just given him more "love and understanding.
Give me a fuckin break.

The reason bpd people need love...

The reason that bpd people feel so love-starved is that they act in ways that are incompatible with people loving them. Would you pet a gnarling dog? Hopefully not. And if the dog bites people, you would, hopefully, remove the dog from your life-space.

The point of this article is to understand more compassionately what people with bpd experience. At the same time both H.O. and I would advise that self-protection has to be a first consideration. Compassion from afar is one thing. Staying close to someone who acts in a manner that is emotionally or physically harmful to others is a big mistake.

Also, I/we agree that bpd is not just a matter of a family not having given enough "love and understanding." It results, we think, from a mix of genetic predisposition and childhood trauma, plus insufficient anger management strategies. Toss in additional bad habits such as alcoholism and abusive behavior and you have someone like your father.


Thanks for this article - it's always good to see a therapist gain a more empathic view toward those with early trauma.

As I have noted in other articles on this site, I'm a former borderline who has recovered to live a very functional and good life. After once having all 9 borderline symptoms, I have been free of all of them for the last few years. My account of how I made this progress is on my site at bpdtransformation (dot) wordpress (dot) com .
If you are interested in an unconventional perspective on BPD and how to recover from it, I encourage you to take a look.

Excellent resource

Thank you Edward for recommending your website. I checked it out, and found it to be highly informative. Bravo.


I am SHOCKED you'd actually post this. The articles you've written about BPD are misinformed at best. I read one article you wrote and you actually stated you could tell the moment a little girl walked into the room you could tell she had BPD! You have NO business discussing this topic as it is not your specialty and YOU are part of the problem in keeping people in the dark regarding mental health. Your articles regarding BPD aid in securing the "Us vs. Them" attitudes between BP's and non-BP's.

An example of emotional hyper-reactivity

I am on the side of helping people with bpd. This kind of quick-to-make-unfounded-acusations reads like a bpd reaction.

Emotional hyper-reactivity gets people with bpd in trouble because
it typically is based on inaccurate understandings of what has been said and because it antagonizes recipients instead of launching cooperative dialogue.

I noticed something.. here is your example you asked for

You seem to have nothing but empathy for the posters here who leave scathing angry posts about how awful their life is living with a bpd. (and yet you have no real idea if their views are accurate or delusional in any way).

But when a poster here who has BPD tries to tell you you aren't accurately portraying their pathology and they feel misunderstood. You criticize how they tell you their feelings ... example above you accuse the BPD writer of "quick-to-make-unfounded-acusations" i.e. you are passively aggressively putting her down and not validating her. This actually is like rubbing salt on a wound of a BPD.

Yet you didn't feel the need to question the integrity of the person that wrote : "I am so angered by what I am reading here that the person with the BPD only needs love, love and more love! This personality type is the most unlovable personality I have ever known. My father was a BPD, alcoholic; beat his wife and children and ruined the lives of his children. I will never forgive him. "

That writer clearly has some over generalizations and pathological ideas that don't hold true i.e. they have no empathy at all yet you don't feel the need to chastise them like you do the BPD posters.

This is an example that you asked for about why BPDs think you are preparative to them. You are able to have unlimited empathy for the pathos of the angry family member of BPD but not have empathy for the actual BPD sufferer unless they write or word their feelings in a way that doesn't offend you. You don't seem to care that the family member comments are incredibly offensive to BPD Sufferers.

Does this make sense? I am not trying to put you down, I am trying to show you why BPD's don't feel you truly understand BPD.

Important points...

"I read one article you wrote and you actually stated you could tell the moment a little girl walked into the room you could tell she had BPD!"

This sentence was the "quick-to-make-unfounded-generalizations" sentence I was referring to. It is an inaccurate interpretation of the article, not something that I said.

At the same time I very much appreciate your attempt to dialogue with me on a topic that is very important: how people who live with a loved one with bpd can sustain empathy for the sufferer of intense emotional hyper-responsivity and at the same time protect themselves.

Please note also that I have no intention "to chastise them [people with bpd] like you do the BPD posters." The fine line between offering clarifying feedback and chastising someone is sometimes hard to walk. Staying on that line offers a difficult challenge both for the person offering feedback and for the person receiving the feedback, to give and to receive information without slipping into or hearing information as criticism.

IN that regard, this sentence that you write is a partially true one:

"You are able to have unlimited empathy for the pathos of the angry family member of BPD but not have empathy for the actual BPD sufferer unless they write or word their feelings in a way that doesn't offend you."

This is a hard concept for bpd people sometimes to understand, that the rules of civility are rules that enable people to listen to one another and thereby pool their ideas and perspectives.

When someone with bpd, or anyone for that matter, speaks in emotional angry tones and with accusatory You-messages , the receiver's ears will tend to close. When by contrast they speak in I-language and calmer emotional tones, others listen.

Thank you for hanging in here to try to work together with me to clarify these tough questions

life with borderline pd

life with borderline personality disorder is HELL ON EARTH. i am well aware of how truly horrific my behaviour has been - esp during my early 20's when i totally unraveled. BUT, i also know the extreme childhood abuse and repeated abandonment i grew up with would leave ANYBODY as damaged as i turned out to be.

just an example: i grew up in several fosterhomes. during my 20's, one of my fostersisters was roofied and raped ONCE. this incident left her completely helpless for A YEAR. she had to move back in with her rich parents, who paid her bills, got her the best treatment possible all while sympathizing deeply with her.

now me, i experienced sexual and physical abuse DAILY from the day i was born. i was left by first my mother as a 1 year old, then my grandma who left me with some horrid people who treated me like shit, and then sent to another country to live my dad - a violent and volatile person who damaged me *repeteadly* so bad i ended up with surgery again and again and then group home, foster home and finally a life as a homeless drugaddict with severe borderline personality disorder (this is the short and sanitized version so as not to shock y'all how truly HORRIFIC some people grow up).

i have never known what it means to feel safe or loved. i've been treated as shit and thought i was meant to be treated as shit well into my 30's.

i do not for one second mean anybody should've had to put up with my rage, insane jealousy and other desperate behaviours i used to display in my 20's when retraumatized. BUT i would appreciate recognition for the hell most of us with bpd grew up with. we didnt have the opportunity to develop healthy brain functions. and i dare anybody to say they would've turned out that much better after a childhood of repeated trauma and abuse with not one single person validating our experience.

why do "normal" people have all kinds of understanding for the damage done to an adult going through a single trauma experience, like my fostersister went through, but not developmental trauma, relational trauma and childhood- serial trauma which is opbviously that much worse?

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Susan Heitler, Ph.D., is the author of many books, including From Conflict to Resolution and The Power of Two. She is a graduate of Harvard University and New York University.


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