Stop Walking on Eggshells

When someone in your life has borderline or narcissistic personality disorder

What Borderlines and Narcissists Fear Most: Part B

In part A of this two-part series, I explained that a narcissist's greatest fear is losing narcissistic supply. Today I'm tackling the BPD counterpart, fear of abandonment. Fear of abandonment is the engine that drives borderline personality disorder. The real or imagined belief of imminent separation destabilizes all the other BPD traits. Read More

Ive been reading all of your

Ive been reading all of your blogs, which are brilliant, and I connect to them. Its as if you are talking about me, it’s weird. I never thought that I could have a “personality disorder”. After reading I fit in with everything you’ve written about BPD.

When people make plans with me and I try to call them to see whats going on and they don’t pick up right away, I get sad. I text them, I call them and I feel like they’ve left me for good. Then I realize, oh its only been 10 minutes. But I still feel like the friendship is over, I always jump to the worst case scenario. They always eventually call and it goes back to normal but I don’t know why I get like that.

It’s ruined all of my relationships. I thought that I just liked to be close to them but I realize now it was in fear of losing them. Id text, call, and want to spend all the time I had with them. I smothered them and drove them away. Same as my friends, id text them and if they didn’t respond right away I feel like they are mad at me, or the whole relationship is over. Everythings the worst case and no in between. It’s funny because you feel like you’re doing everything you can for them but really you’re driving them away from you. If I do have BPD I guess the first step would be to go to therapy, but what kind of treatments do they have? Cognitive behavioral therapy, Medicine… whats the best way to go about this?


Start with the B...P...D... Survival Guide published by New Harbinger. Best wishes, and I hope you find some meaningful answers.

In my book The Essential

In my book The Essential Family Guide to B..P..D.. I have a whole chapter on how to find a therapist. You can also google DBT therapist and has a list of DBT therapists by state. There is a ton about BPD treatment on the Internet.



Don't read her books,

Don't read any of her books. They'll make you want to die. She talks nicely here, but in her books, she pretty much just tells everyone we love to run away from us as fast as they can.

She acts like we're the devil and they should flee to survive.

I don't know how she hasn't gotten an ethics complaint against her yet. Seriously, her books are like cover to cover triggers for Borderlines. All about how horrible we are and how we do everything wrong, nothing about how to work things out, or tips for Borderlines on how to manage their emotions. Just blame and condemnation and a how-to-abandon-a-borderline from beginning to end.

That is not true, although it

That is not true, although it may seem that way to you. The books are for all family members, including parents, and there is no option for family members to even walk away if they wanted to. It would also be very difficult to fill three full books with one sentence: leave.

Also, the topic of leaving is in one chapter in one of the books, and it doesn't tell people what to do, but presents choices. If you want to talk about real content in the real books, by all means give me a title and page number and I will address that.

I agree!

Dear ThatGuy

I have read Walking on Eggshells and I was amazed at some of the ugly things written in there. It's far from all bad, there are many useful parts, but for example there is a section on how people with BPD (or BPDs, as described in the book, which is rather callous) are likely to smear you if you leave them.

I'm a scientist, I have a pretty good understanding of confirmation bias, and I also recognise unfair representation when I see it. It seems from the book that people who have had bad experiences with people with BPD are given the green light to ignore things they may have done wrong and blame the situation on the person with BPD. Also remember that those who feel most wronged will be more likely to report this, so the many people with BPD who would never dream of launching a smear campaign due to the breakdown of a relationship are not acknowledged. A common tool used in demonising groups is to make a sweeping negative statement, and then add the caveat "not all people in this group engage in this behaviour", thus absolving the person who has poisoned the well and harmed the people being demonised with little in the way of a comeback.

I would not recommend someone with BPD read this book, there are far better researched and more sympathetic texts.

If someone has BPD and is reading about the condition and how to get better, I feel we ought do all we can to encourage that, as it is a sign that they want to get better and are prepared to put in the effort it takes. Let's not put them off by telling them they are terrible people, eh?!

I have given quite a lot of

I have given quite a lot of thought to confirmation bias in the 15 or so years that I have been writing, interviewing clinicians, and talking to all kinds of family members. Why do we seem to have people with BPD and want treatment and talk about their pain, and then why sooooo many more family members who talk about distortion campaigns and the fact that their BPD family member doesn't want help?

I think there is very much a bias in that people with BPD who want to seek help go to therapists, and so therapists think that all people with BPD want help. And I have had one woman tell me she believes that EVERY person with BPD wants help, even though Marsha Linehan has addressed the topic and says we should respect their decision.

So then we get to the people who BPD family members don't want help, who don't go to therapists because they've never heard of BDD or anything like it. Those people go to the computer and talk talk talk. They have a bias in that they don't believe ANY person with BPD asks for help. Seriously. You think they would catch on.

When I wrote Eggshells, gtherapist and coauthor Paul Mason did the clinical research on what I call the "conventional" type. But that type wasn't what I was seeing on the net.

I developed a community with the family members on the Internet and decided to write the book to the concerns of my readers--those related to what I call the "invisible" people with BPD who don't want help. But does that really reflect the population, or is it just about the people my audience were relating to?

When the book (SWOE) book sold 600,000 copies in 13 languages, more than all other books combined, it became very evident to me that the BPD in therapy are really a much smaller group then those outside of it. Going by the latest stats, if every person with BPD were desperate to see a therapist for their pain, each therapist would have a caseload of 25 BPD patients.


I like reading your blog, and I feel like I've learned a lot.

Have you written a blog that covers BPD/NPD and ADHD? I believe my sister is ADHD and... and what I'm not sure. Some of your BPD postings fit her to a T. So does some of the information on NPD.

I'd like some suggestions on how to deal with someone who appears to be ADHD, yet has tendencies of both BPD & NPD.

Thank you.

worst case scenario

I just read the blog post above. I thought it was pretty cool that someone realized they were jumping to the worst case scenario. I find that with my spouse. I may not be the best communicator, but every time I open my mouth my spouse jumps to the worst case scenario. Is this a sign of BPD, or just insecurity?, or am I looking at it all wrong?

I am also confused, (and probably should not be), by off handed comments like, I am staying with you because I am afraid of making a mistake, maybe there is not a better situation out there? What does that mean? I think I know? Fear of Abandonment rules?

My spouse is always talking about, how she has great friends, so it is me that is the problem. I read somewhere, that it is common for BPD's to be great at being friends, but awful partners? Is there truth to that?

BPD a great friend but an awful partner

Yes I think that BPDs are good friends but awful partners as long as the friend never challenges them on how they are treating their partners. BPDs make good friends because they are so empathetic. They are almost prescient about knowing what is bothering other people. This is also the case with their colleagues at work. BPDs can be very giving and forgiving as well. But when it comes to their partners, their fears of abandonment, lack of object constancy, black and white thinking have you doing the worst possible things when you aren't right beside them. The suspicion, accusations and the monitoring of your behaviour make it extremely hard on your relationship.

Yes, BPs jump to worse case

Yes, BPs jump to worse case scenarios all the time. It is both BPD and insecurity. It is not your fault. I can't really answer the other questions as I don't know you. I would recommend getting a book for family members and joining a family member online group.

What will you talk about when...

What will you talk about when NPD is no longer considered a personality disorder in the DSM-5? It seems like narcissism is talked about a lot of psychology today. Why is it so popular?

They changed their minds; It

They changed their minds; It is back in. It is a popular subject because NPs leave such an impact on everything they touch

Borderline under 18

I am 16, but I KNOW I have BPD. I don't just have traits, I meet the full criteria. But I can't be diagnosed. That's what my therapist says. What do I do? I am the sterotypical Borderline. I'm just not 18.

Your therapist needs to get a

Your therapist needs to get a copy of the book B..P..D.. in Adolescents by Blaise Aguirre, MD. Dr. Aguirre runs an adolescent Dialectical Behavioral Therapy inpatient facility at McLean Hospital. You can get that book too. I also like for someone young a memoir of people who got better. One of the has a title that includes the words Strange Girl; I wrote a blog piece so you can find it here. Also read Budhha and the Borderline by Kiera Van Gelder. I also like the book the B..P..D.. Survival Guide.

If you are self harming or considering suicide, you need to get help RIGHT NOW. There are ways to feel better!! Look into seeing if there is a DBT program in your area. If your therapist isn't helping, get one with more experience in BPD, esoecially DBT. Your life could depend on it.

I wish you all the best success!! Let me know how you are doing.

Engulfment vs abandonment

Hi Randi, I have BPD.
I was adopted as a baby by a NPD engulfing Mother and a diagnosed BPD Father.
I was wondering if it is possible to have BPD without the fear of abandonment. The primary fear I can identify with is the fear of engulfment, is it possible to have both?

BPD possible without abandonment issues

You sound like my soon2B ex-husband. You can read about our relationship in my comment below. Like you, his main fear is engulfment. He abandons others to "avoid abuse." Any contact that is too close, sustained or intimate starts to hurt him, and he perceives it as abusive.

Yes; I believe that if you still have enough of the other criteria in the DSM (self-harm or suicidality, reckless behavior, inconsistent sense of self, periods of dissociation, reactive paranoia, etc.) you would get a BPD diagnosis even though fear of abandonment is criterion #1.

I bet you would find a gender gap among people with BPD, with males tending toward the engulfment fear and women tending toward the abandonment issues. That is my impression.

Brain basis

It would be interesting to know the brain basis for all of this. For example, what kind of inherited family brain impairments leads to the behaviors described.

The behaviors, after all are just symptoms of the underlying brain impairments and disorders.

We have been doing reading on psychopathy recently and contrary to popular demonizing and scare stories, most people suffering from these illnesses lead very poor, crippled lives. It seems like very few are "florid" -- assume the same is true with BPD and narcissism.

FMRI studies have shown there

FMRI studies have shown there are differences between the normal brain and the borderline brain. It wouldn't surprise me if there is something different about NPD too.

Engulfment-fearing husband and abandonment-fearing wife

My soon2B ex and I have an interesting dynamic, because he has all the DSM traits for BPD EXCEPT FOR fear of abandonment. He mainly fears engulfment, which he calls "abuse." He avoids mental health care professionals because of a profound distrust. As a young man he did see a therapist when he became so depressed and had such a radical loss of his sense of self that he dropped out of college after a year despite having won a prestigious scholarship (he blamed the crisis on attacks on his self-esteem by his family of origin). He claims that he told that therapist about an idea he had for a book, and that she passed the idea along to her daughter who wrote and published the book (HIS book) with great success. So this justifies in his mind his never seeing a health care specialist again.

He obviously has elements of paranoia and rage along with the fear of engulfment and fragile sense of self. I on the other hand have seen therapists on and off my whole life. Whatever I am, I am high-functioning (as he became after his thirties). My most recent diagnosis was mild Bipolar Type 2. However, when I was in my thirties I was diagnosed as disthymic (chronic low mood) with some BPD traits (not enough for a diagnosis of BPD, however). So the funny thing is, the BPD trait that I HAVE and he DOESN'T is fear of abandonment.

Imagine the living hell that was our relationship of three years (2 years as husband and wife). He constantly abandoned me when he felt engulfed or paranoid (avoiding abuse, as he calls it). This would in turn trigger my abandonment complex and I would go nuts, frantically trying to reach him. Combine this with the fact that we had a long-distance relationship, living 400 miles apart, and the sheer torture is evident. He even stole the key to his apartment that he had given me so that I could not get near him when I was most in need. One time I did hang around outside of his apartment for hours and when he came home and saw me, he ran away and checked into a hotel until he knew I would have to go back to my city. This was my husband doing this! He made me feel like a stalker even though we were married.

When he canceled a trip to see me that was meant for celebrating our birthdays together, I filed for divorce. It finally sank in that what I was doing to myself was not healthy. He said he was OK with the divorce, but he has been objecting to all the particulars and I am concerned that what should be a simple matter will drag on and become quite expensive.

12 years

I am at my wits end. I have been married to the same woman for 12 years and I love her so deeply. Yet, I am now thinking about a divorce because I don't think I have the ability to keep going like this. She has acted out in the finest of details the items that you listed on your blog. I gave up family, friends,opportunities and my military career. She couldn't hold a job so I put her through school so that she would feel good about herself. I work long hours and still end up doing the cleaning or it won't get done. After the military I took a low wage job so that I could spend more time with her. It didn't help. I started school and her issues have gotten worse. I have taken her to therapy and it helps for a little while but again its never really gone. I just started her back in therapy and we celebrated 12 years this past weekend. It was fantastic, she was like a new woman, alive and vibrant and loving. The night we got back she had a melt down. It was draining and terrible and I still can't understand why. I have don't NOTHING WRONG! I am not perfect but my GOD, I have given everything up for her. What more can I do? Last night after school she woke me up at 0100 hours by hitting me in the chest with one of her shoes and she started screaming at me for cheating on her and hitting on another person because I left a complement on their Facebook page. She had gone through my account to check up on me again. I lost it, it was my braking point. For the very first time in 12 years I think I might have actually felt hate for her. I told her I wanted her to go home to her mother and father. I yelled at her about all the things I have given up for her. I told her that I have had it and that this is NOT MY FAULT. I cried and raged in turns, I kicked chairs and beat on the stone coffee table. She sank in a corner and cried.It took an till 0300 before I could come close to thinking straight. She begged me not to leave her. She told me that she loves me and that she is sorry. I told her that I just didn't know if I could handle staying with her. She asked me not to make any decisions right then. I finally agreed, out of love and guilt. I held her till she feel asleep but I got none again. I am exhausted, angry, sad, confused. I have to go home at the end of my work day but I don't want to go home. I want to run away. I am a grown man with combat tours under my belt in Iraq and other areas but I am terrified of dealing with my wife. I also feel guilty for feeling this way. I don't know what to do. Give her another chance, I feel like its doubtful that she will change. Then I am back at square one for the millionth or more times. Part of me feels like I failed as a husband, man, human being. I just don't know what I have left to give when I have given everything I have to this marriage. I feel dessicated and ruined. I'm trying to build a good life but no matter what I do its always a step up and three back down when it comes to her. I wonder what to do, I wonder whats right. I just don't know at this point. Thank you for allowing me to rant here, at least in the very public form I can vent some of my anguish without being known.

A J, I know it is easier said than done, and I am sorry you are in this

Awful and difficult situation. I really do understand exactly what it is like and the hell you are experiencing, time and time again, as I too have also been in a reltionship for 24years with a borderline husband. Which despite loving him, have finally recently got out, after years of repeated sorrys, promises of change and me desperately trying to make the marriage work. Impossible task with these people, as it takes two.
I know it is easier said than done, but I can assure you that, until your wife admits she has a problem and is actively receiving psychiatric help or therapy, her problem and your situation simply will not change. Infraction, it will probably get much worse, as mine did. These people, as sad as it is for them, they have to get our attention, good or bad, it really doesn't matter to them. Their behaviour goes from perfect, puzzling to brutal, and it is utterly exhausting. They suck the life force from you and drain your energy.
These relationships are unhealthy and soul destroying. Yes, you love your wife, yes, you want to stay married, as I also did, but you are not responsible for her, she is a grown adult. You are responsible for yourself and yourself only. You have a duty to care fr yourself.
As hard as it is, please find the courage to get out of your situation ASAP and start to heal yourself. You cannot be there and fix yourself, when you are yourself wounded deep down, and becoming moreso, while remaining part of the borderline dance.
My ending was horrendous, painful and very very sad, but I have to heal and somehow move on. We must be wounded ourselves to repeatedly accept and tolerate this dysfunctional and sometimes brutal behaviour.
I am now a mere shadow of my former self, but I will get there, at lease now, I am not wasting my energy on trying to fix and regain, what I now believe was only an illusion.

Best of luck for the future. From Trapped no more.

It's Not You

I understand your situation. I'm now in a divorce with a BPD woman after an 11 year marriage.

She was a goddess when we met and the amount of fun we had together was outstanding. Upon getting married it was like someone flipped a switch in her brain. She quit a great career management job, started drinking heavily, neglected herself, our home, me and life in general. Everyone outside of our home thinks she is nice - which she can be to anyone but her partner.

Your BPD wife will drive you to dark places in your mind, make you doubt your instincts and knowledge, and generally destroy you one brick at a time. Your effectiveness as a man, husband, etc. will collapse further every year. If you are feeling guilty, crying or otherwise feeling helpless then she has almost fully crushed you.

She will never admit fault and instead opt to always blame you. She will act out more than you know, possibly end up causing fights that get YOU arrested when the cops arrive. You MUST get out as quickly as possible.

It will take some time to shift mindset and realize that she is not in the samer relationship that you are in. Her world is crazy and you're trying to sort it out through a logical persepctive . . . which will drive you crazy.

File for divorce, force yourself to see her as an adversary, minimize contact frequency and depth of engagement. It will be nearly impossible at times but realize:
1. She will never change and you cannot make it better.
2. She destroys people in relationships -always has, always will.
3. You have no normal or peaceful future with any BPD woman.
4. Don't waste time trying to sort it out logically. Move forward.
5. You will find a good woman and build a peaceful, fun relationship.

Visit and especially the page Fallout

Good luck on the journey out of her dark world. It will take you maybe up to 2 years to get it out of your head. And by the way, thank you for your service to our country. May God be with you.

Thank you for your feedback.

Thank you for your feedback. I know what you are saying is the honest truth for you. But I do want to let people know that there are many types of people with BPD, many people who take their disorder very seriously and get treatment, and I would prefer that people not generalize and say that "all people with BPD do xyz" and especially "You have no normal or peaceful future with ANY BPD woman.

I do agree with your advice:
4. Don't waste time trying to sort it out logically. Move forward.
5. You will find a good woman and build a peaceful, fun relationship.
And, you can never change anyone and you can never cure anyone.

Getting Better is not one of my favorite resources, though I don't disagree with everything the web-oner writes. It really feeds into the belief that personality disordered people mean to create bad relationships--does anyone set out to? No. It also emphasizes that men are victims, victims, when they are not. That's just my opinion.


Congratulations -- you've just managed to call patients by their illness. By labeling and stereotyping people you have contributed to the stigma of mental illness. We don't call people with cancer, "Cancers".

To have a personality

To have a personality disorder is in fact part of one's identity and a basic part of one's psychological composition (or personality). You're right that we don't refer to cancer patients or cancer survivors as "cancers." However, the shorthand use of BPD to refer to people with this disorder is a useful label and not an erroneous, misleading or unfair one. Some degree of labeling is necessary in order to communicate, and BPD is part and parcel of who they are as individuals. It is not a disease that they "caught" and are trying to get rid of. Like autistic people who will always be autistic, with a group label it is acknowledged that there are lots of individual differences within the group, but it is still valid to refer to the group as such because of all the common traits.

Charlotte, well said! I totally agree with you.

Cancer patients admit they have the condition, and fight to do anything and everything to get rid of the disease. They do not dump their (god forgive me, for this wording) painful tumour, cancer and feelings on to their partners and loved ones. No unlike borderlines and narcs, they take responsibility and deal with the condition in the best way that they can. Also, having been helped by their loved ones, sometimes for many years, patients with illnesses such as cancer, do not devalue and discard them, as borderlines and narcs selfishly so often do. Thank you Charlotte.

Charlotte, well said! I totally agree with you.

Cancer patients admit they have the condition, and fight to do anything and everything to get rid of the disease. They do not dump their (god forgive me, for this wording) painful tumour, cancer and feelings on to their partners and loved ones. Unlike borderlines and narcs, they take responsibility and deal with the condition in the best way that they can. Also, having been helped by their loved ones, often for many years, patients with illnesses such as cancer, do not devalue and discard them, as borderlines and narcs selfishly so often do.

Charlotte, well said! I totally agree with you.

Cancer patients admit they have the condition, and fight to do anything and everything to get rid of the disease. They do not dump their (god forgive me, for this wording) painful tumour, cancer and feelings on to their partners and loved ones. Unlike borderlines and narcs, they take responsibility and deal with the condition in the best way that they can. Also, having been helped by their loved ones, often for many years, patients with illnesses such as cancer, do not devalue and discard them, as borderlines and narcs selfishly so often do.

Charlotte, well said! I totally agree with you.

Cancer patients admit they have the condition, and fight to do anything and everything to get rid of the disease. They do not dump their (god forgive me, for this wording) painful tumour, cancer and feelings on to their partners and loved ones. Unlike borderlines and narcs, they take responsibility and deal with the condition in the best way that they can. Also, having been helped by their loved ones, often for many years, patients with illnesses such as cancer, do not devalue and discard them, as borderlines and narcs selfishly so often do.

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Randi Kreger is the co-author of Stop Walking on Eggshells.


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