Before you think I’m defending the borderline, let me state uncategorically that I avoid them like the plague in real life.
Here’s a good article that explains why borderline personality disorder is often misdiagnosed as bipolar disorder.
While a person with depression or bipolar disorder typically endures the same mood for weeks, a person with BPD may experience intense bouts of anger, depression, and anxiety that may last only hours, or at most a day. These may be associated with episodes of impulsive aggression, self-injury, and drug or alcohol abuse. Distortions in cognition and sense of self can lead to frequent changes in long-term goals, career plans, jobs, friendships, gender identity, and values. Sometimes people with BPD view themselves as fundamentally bad, or unworthy. They may feel unfairly misunderstood or mistreated, bored, empty, and have little idea who they are. Such symptoms are most acute when people with BPD feel isolated and lacking in social support, and may result in frantic efforts to avoid being alone.
I’d like to put forth the observation that psychology in the US is mainly concerned with predicting and manipulating the behavior of large numbers of people. There is little or no acknowledgement of an internal landscape, because you can’t measure emotions – you can only measure how they are expressed. The psychologists aren’t healers, they are agents of social control.
So. “Personality Disorder” means that a certain type of personality has been pathologized because their behaviors are uncomfortable to others. The behaviors relate to the coping style – but the real problem is that the person has a damaged ego. They have to rely on others to give them clues as to who they are!
The borderlines experience an overwhelming fear of abandonment. All of the crazy behavior is to prevent you from leaving. Unfortunately, the set point is so low that most of what you do looks like abandonment. Abandonment in this context doesn’t mean left alone to rebuild their life – which majorly sucks but isn’t the End of the World. Abandonment means that who they are has been taken away from them. They have little “I” so they have to be part of a “we.”
You can teach a borderline to withhold their emotions with Dialectic Behavioral Therapy (among others), but I’m not entirely convinced that any therapy changes the real problem. It has very little to do with wanting to change, and everything to do with the fact that the fear of abandonment is so deep that – well, damn, you practically have to tear down the whole house to fix the foundation. You see?
Here is the website for Dr. Marsha Linehan, Ph.D., ABPP, who developed DBT.