Signs & Conditions of Personality Disorders

Note, these traits are given as a guideline only and are not intended for diagnosis. People who suffer from BPD are all unique and so each person will display a different subset of traits. Also, note that everyone displays "borderline" behaviors from time to time. Therefore, if a person exhibits one or more of these traits, that does not necessarily qualify them for a diagnosis of BPD. See the DSM Criteria on this page for diagnostic criteria.

Abusive Cycle - This is the name for the ongoing rotation between destructive and constructive behavior which is typical of many dysfunctional relationships and families.

Alienation - The act of cutting off or interfering with an individual's relationships with others.

"Always" and "Never" Statements - "Always" and "Never" Statements are declarations containing the words "always" or "never". They are commonly used but rarely true.

Anger - People who suffer from personality disorders often feel a sense of unresolved anger and a heightened or exaggerated perception that they have been wronged, invalidated, neglected or abused.

Baiting - A provocative act used to solicit an angry, aggressive or emotional response from another

Blaming - The practice of identifying a person or people responsible for creating a problem, rather than identifying ways of dealing with the problem.

Bullying - Any systematic action of hurting a person from a position of relative physical, social, economic or emotional strength.

Catastrophizing - The habit of automatically assuming a "worst case scenario" and inappropriately characterizing minor or moderate problems or issues as catastrophic events.

Chaos Manufacture - Unnecessarily creating or maintaining an environment of risk, destruction, confusion or mess.

Cheating - Sharing a romantic or intimate relationship with somebody when you are already committed to a monogamous relationship with someone else.

Chronic Broken Promises - Repeatedly making and then breaking commitments and promises is a common trait among people who suffer from personality disorders.

Circular Conversations - Arguments which go on almost endlessly, repeating the same patterns with no resolution.

Confirmation Bias - The tendency to pay more attention to things which reinforce your beliefs than to things which contradict them.

"Control-Me" Syndrome - This describes a tendency which some people have to foster relationships with people who have a controlling narcissistic, antisocial or "acting-out" nature.

Denial - Believing or imagining that some painful or traumatic circumstance, event or memory does not exist or did not happen.

Dependency - An inappropriate and chronic reliance by an adult individual on another individual for their health, subsistence, decision making or personal and emotional well-being.

Depression - People who suffer from personality disorders are often also diagnosed with symptoms of depression.

Dissociation- A psychological term used to describe a mental departure from reality.

Domestic Theft - Consuming or taking control of a resource or asset belonging to (or shared with) a family member, partner or spouse without first obtaining their approval.

Emotional Abuse - Any pattern of behavior directed at one individual by another which promotes in them a destructive sense of Fear, Obligation or Guilt (FOG).

Emotional Blackmail - A system of threats and punishments used in an attempt to control someone’s behaviors.

Engulfment - An unhealthy and overwhelming level of attention and dependency on another person, which comes from imagining or believing one exists only within the context of that relationship.

False Accusations - Patterns of unwarranted or exaggerated criticism directed towards someone else.

Favoritism and Scapegoating - Systematically giving a dysfunctional amount of preferential positive or negative treatment to one individual among a family group of peers.

Fear of Abandonment - An irrational belief that one is imminent danger of being personally rejected, discarded or replaced.

Feelings of Emptiness - An acute, chronic sense that daily life has little worth or significance, leading to an impulsive appetite for strong physical sensations and dramatic relationship experiences.

Gaslighting - The practice of brainwashing or convincing a mentally healthy individual that they are going insane or that their understanding of reality is mistaken or false. The term “Gaslighting” is based on the 1944 MGM movie “Gaslight”.

Harassment - Any sustained or chronic pattern of unwelcome behavior by one individual towards another.

Holiday Triggers - Mood Swings in Personality-Disordered individuals are often triggered or amplified by emotional events such as family holidays, significant anniversaries and events which trigger emotional memories.

Hoovers & Hoovering - A Hoover is a metaphor taken from the popular brand of vacuum cleaners, to describe how an abuse victim trying to assert their own rights by leaving or limiting contact in a dysfunctional relationship, gets “sucked back in” when the perpetrator temporarily exhibits improved or desirable behavior.

Hysteria - An inappropriate over-reaction to bad news or disappointments, which diverts attention away from the real problem and towards the person who is having the reaction.

Identity Disturbance - A psychological term used to describe a distorted or inconsistent self-view

Imposed Isolation - When abuse results in a person becoming isolated from their support network, including friends and family.

Impulsiveness - The tendency to act or speak based on current feelings rather than logical reasoning.

Infantilization - Treating a child as if they are much younger than their actual age.

Intimidation - Any form of veiled, hidden, indirect or non-verbal threat.

Invalidation - The creation or promotion of an environment which encourages an individual to believe that their thoughts, beliefs, values or physical presence are inferior, flawed, problematic or worthless.

Lack of Conscience - Individuals who suffer from Personality Disorders are often preoccupied with their own agendas, sometimes to the exclusion of the needs and concerns of others. This is sometimes interpreted by others as a lack of moral conscience.

Lack of Object Constancy - An inability to remember that people or objects are consistent, trustworthy and reliable, especially when they are out of your immediate field of vision.

Low Self-Esteem - A common name for a negatively-distorted self-view which is inconsistent with reality.

Manipulation - The practice of steering an individual into a desired behavior for the purpose of achieving a hidden personal goal.

Masking - Covering up one's own natural outward appearance, mannerisms and speech in dramatic and inconsistent ways depending on the situation.

Mirroring - Imitating or copying another person's characteristics, behaviors or traits.

Moments of Clarity - Spontaneous periods when a person with a Personality Disorder becomes more objective and tries to make amends.

Mood Swings - Unpredictable, rapid, dramatic emotional cycles which cannot be readily explained by changes in external circumstances.

Munchausen's and Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome - A disorder in which an individual repeatedly fakes or exaggerates medical symptoms in order to manipulate the attentions of medical professionals or caregivers.

Name-Calling - Use of profane, derogatory or dehumanizing terminology to describe another individual or group.

Neglect - A passive form of abuse in which the physical or emotional needs of a dependent are disregarded or ignored by the person responsible for them.

"Not My Fault" Syndrome - The practice of avoiding personal responsibility for one's own words and actions.

No-Win Scenarios - When you are manipulated into choosing between two bad options

Objectification - The practice of treating a person or a group of people like an object.

Obsessive-Compulsive Behavior - An inflexible adherence to arbitrary rules and systems, or an illogical adherence to cleanliness and orderly structure.

Panic Attacks - Short intense episodes of fear or anxiety, often accompanied by physical symptoms, such as hyperventilating, shaking, sweating and chills.

Parental Alienation Syndrome - When a separated parent convinces their child that the other parent is bad, evil or worthless.

Parentification - A form of role reversal, in which a child is inappropriately given the role of meeting the emotional or physical needs of the parent or of the family’s other children.

Passive-Aggressive Behavior - Expressing negative feelings in an unassertive, passive way.

Pathological Lying - Persistent deception by an individual to serve their own interests and needs with little or no regard to the needs and concerns of others. A pathological liar is a person who habitually lies to serve their own needs.

Perfectionism - The maladaptive practice of holding oneself or others to an unrealistic, unattainable or unsustainable standard of organization, order, or accomplishment in one particular area of living, while sometimes neglecting common standards of organization, order or accomplishment in other areas of living.

Projection - The act of attributing one's own feelings or traits to another person and imagining or believing that the other person has those same feelings or traits.

Proxy Recruitment - A way of controlling or abusing another person by manipulating other people into unwittingly backing “doing the dirty work”

Push-Pull - A chronic pattern of sabotaging and re-establishing closeness in a relationship without appropriate cause or reason.

Raging, Violence and Impulsive Aggression - Explosive verbal, physical or emotional elevations of a dispute. Rages threaten the security or safety of another individual and violate their personal boundaries.

Relationship Hypervigilance - Maintaining an unhealthy level of interest in the behaviors, comments, thoughts and interests of others.

Riding the Emotional Elevator - Taking a fast track to different levels of emotional maturity.

Sabotage - The spontaneous disruption of calm or status quo in order to serve a personal interest, provoke a conflict or draw attention.

Scapegoating - Singling out one child, employee or member of a group of peers for unmerited negative treatment or blame.

Selective Memory and Selective Amnesia - The use of memory, or a lack of memory, which is selective to the point of reinforcing a bias, belief or desired outcome.

Selective Competence - Demonstrating different levels of intelligence, memory, resourcefulness, strength or competence depending on the situation or environment.

Self-Harm - Any form of deliberate, premeditated injury, such as cutting, poisoning or overdosing, inflicted on oneself.

Self-Loathing - An extreme hatred of one's own self, actions or one's ethnic or demographic background.

Self-Victimization - Casting oneself in the role of a victim.

Sense of Entitlement - An unrealistic, unmerited or inappropriate expectation of favorable living conditions and favorable treatment at the hands of others.

Shaming - The difference between blaming and shaming is that in blaming someone tells you that you did something bad, in shaming someone tells you that you are something bad.

Silent Treatment - A passive-aggressive form of emotional abuse in which displeasure, disapproval and contempt is exhibited through nonverbal gestures while maintaining verbal silence.

Situational Ethics - A philosophy which promotes the idea that, when dealing with a crisis, the end justifies the means and that a rigid interpretation of rules and laws can be set aside if a greater good or lesser evil is served by doing so.

Sleep Deprivation - The practice of routinely interrupting, impeding or restricting another person's sleep cycle.

Splitting - The practice of regarding people and situations as either completely "good" or completely "bad".

Stalking - Any pervasive and unwelcome pattern of pursuing contact with another individual.

Stunted Emotional Growth - A difficulty, reluctance or inability to learn from mistakes, work on self-improvement or develop more effective coping strategies.

Testing - Repeatedly forcing another individual to demonstrate or prove their love or commitment to a relationship.

Thought Policing - Any process of trying to question, control, or unduly influence another person's thoughts or feelings.

Threats - Inappropriate, intentional warnings of destructive actions or consequences.

Triangulation - Gaining an advantage over perceived rivals by manipulating them into conflicts with each other.

Triggering -Small, insignificant or minor actions, statements or events that produce a dramatic or inappropriate response.

Tunnel Vision - The habit or tendency to only see or focus on a single priority while neglecting or ignoring other important priorities.

Verbal Abuse - Any kind of repeated pattern of inappropriate, derogatory or threatening speech directed at one individual by another.

DSM Criteria for diagnosis

In order to create determining factors for the BPD disorder, it is more than simply a group of symptoms as listed above although many of the above symptoms are heavily experienced which is the reason a person reading this should consult a mental health professional if they feel the criteria below may apply to them. Many disorders are similar and therefore require an experienced clinician to make an assessment of the symptoms and presentations a person may be experiencing.

DSM stands for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The American Psychiatric Association determines borderline personality disorder to exist when there is a persistent pattern of unstable interpersonal relationships, mood and self-image problems, and distinct impulsive behavior, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts.

A diagnosis is usually determined when five or more of the following are indicated:

  • Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment.
  • A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation.
  • Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self.
  • Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g. spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating). This does not include suicidal or self-harming behaviour.
  • Recurrent suicidal behaviour, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behaviour.
  • Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood - intense feelings that can last from a few hours to a few days.
  • Chronic feelings of emptiness.
  • Inappropriate intense anger or difficulty controlling anger.
  • Transient, stress-related paranoid ideas or severe dissociative symptoms.

Not all people diagnosed with BPD will present in the same way. There are over a 100 combinations of symptoms possible. The diagnosis of BPD is only made when it is clear that behaviors have been present over time usually starting in early adulthood and across a range of situations.

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