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  1. #1
    Lay the coin on my tongue SilkRoad's Avatar
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    Default Do you think this girl has borderline personality disorder?

    I've been mentoring/befriending an 18 year old girl since last year. I concluded after a few months that she was seriously depressed and given that her parents are pretty much useless, I more or less single handedly encouraged her to go to a doctor and get into therapy. The therapy is just getting under way so that's a step.

    Our "friendship" has been one of constant conflict in the last eight months or so. I have started to wonder if instead of, or as well, depression, she is a borderline. Reasons for wondering:

    -Incredibly clingy, fears abandonment and rejection. Doesn't see anything weird about going into someone's building uninvited when they're not there, waiting for them near their workplace, etc
    -Will either want to talk with me and be with me all the time, or is accusing me of not caring, pushing her away (when I try to establish some healthy boundaries - I've been pretty direct with her cause it's the only thing that works at all), etc. She had a similar relationship with another woman my age before, who moved away eventually. Before, she would talk about how terribly she missed this person and how that person understood her so well. Now she doesn't want to talk about her and says things like "she didn't really understand me, she didn't get how different and special I am, we always got into fights, I don't want to think about it." Hmm.
    -Seems constantly angry, but will say things like "I got angry about something, which is weird, because I really don't get angry much." !! Incredibly irritable and sensitive. Reads every single comment etc etc that I post on Facebook and if it's anything about human relationships, etc she will quite obviously take it as being about herself and often posts passive aggressive status updates in response and that sort of thing (though thankfully, if she is mad at me she won't post on my page at all). Is often openly jealous that I get more comments on my FB than she does. Tries to muscle in on conversations (online and otherwise) with friends.
    -I think she has a distorted view of our friendship. She expects it to be on the same level as mature friends who I have known for years. She always goes on about how she wants to be treated as an adult. But her emotional age seems to be no more than ten.
    -Talks a lot about not knowing who she is, doing things without knowing why, and so on.
    -Has occasionally talked about suicide (I spoke with her parents after that started to happen, but like I said, they're pretty useless. The mother is probably severely depressed, btw). I don't think she's self harming though, unless she is hiding it well.

    The last couple of weeks were typical. I got a bit harsh and set some very firm boundaries, which she was really mad and upset about. She left me alone for several days and then started making overtures again. We thrashed it out in the usual torturous two hour convo. Things seemed ok for a couple of days - well, she went back to very clingy as usual. Phone convo on Sunday, thankfully fairly short. Email exchange on Monday. All fairly peaceful. Tues, I texted her and didn't hear back. Some passive aggressive sort of status updates from her. Weds, I said I wouldn't see her this week as I was feeling pretty lousy physically and emotionally. No sympathy - just "how is that?" and then a lecture about isolating myself - for real!! I remained diplomatic and said I'd be seeing a friend that night. She goes "Of course. Your friend. Because I'm nothing." It's often like she can't stand the idea that I have other friends. I didn't respond. We haven't been in contact since Weds but she has done the usual passive aggressive FB thing. The scary thing is that NOTHING precipitated the hostility on Weds. I mean, nothing. But you know, it was probably one tiny thing I said on FB or something.

    I feel bad about "abandoning" her but I really think I need to start doing a slow fade. At least she is getting some help now. I have put in a great deal and the recurrent hostility, negativity, clinginess, anger etc are really getting to me. It is tricky unfortunately because we attend the same place of worship so I can't cut her out completely. And she does need support and isn't getting alot, though the church elders are now more aware and so forth, as well as the therapy. But I feel it is having a negative impact on me.

    Do you think she's borderline? Any other comments?
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  2. #2
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    I'll say that your relationship with this younger girl sounds an awful lot like the year I spent living with someone I used to be friends with, and who I had other friends with clinical training say off-hand sounded more borderline than their typical borderline patient.

    • The hate/love ideation of people they want to be close to (you're both god/devil to them).
    • The muddled relationship roles -- expected to be mom, sister, friend, whatever their needs happen to be in the moment. Overall, I felt like I was supposed to be her mom while someone being her best friend and sister, she couldn't even make many of her own decisions
    • The incoherence of emotive states (AKA "I'M NOT AN ANGRY PERSON!" being shouted at you out of the blue)
    • The intense self-absorption and/or paranoid/narcissistic thinking ... everything that happens is about them (and usually a negative comment on them) in some way
    • Exceptionally clingy and almost stalkerish behavior, without a sense of what is socially appropriate
    • Self-harm statements and even behaviors that are made more to elicit response rather than actually permanently harm


    Irrational thought processes were a big one. I got SO drained from trying to talk to her, it was like getting dropped into an industrial-sized dryer running on high and I couldn't tell which way was up. You can't talk rationally with the irrational.
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  3. #3
    Lay the coin on my tongue SilkRoad's Avatar
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    Urgh, yes. Your description and experience sound far too familiar. I do hope that anything to do with suicide etc is more to get a reaction or be manipulative. It's hard to tell. I certainly identify the thing about having to play all the roles - not just cool older friend or big sister, but those, plus mom, plus punching bag...

    And yeah, I think one of the harmful things for the person trying to help is that you start to question reality a bit. They'll accuse you of something terrible and you start thinking, "maybe that is what I am like." Thankfully I have other friends who know her and/or know the situation and say nice reassuring things like "you're a great friend, you have done all you can and probably too much for your own health, she will suck you dry if you let her." And no sense of what is socially appropriate...totally.

    It would be easier if her parents were more involved. If she were older I would have less hesitation about pretty much cutting ties. But I have been making all sorts of allowances - she's depressed, she's still young and immature for her age, and so on. The thing is, I have enough experience with depressed people now. Well, I have had several friends, including close friends, who've been seriously depressed. Including one teenager, though I was younger myself at the time (early 20s) and didn't realise how bad it was, and she had a lot of support from her mom. And I think I experienced a low-level depression myself about seven years ago. So I know that with depression there can be irrational behaviour, inappropriate hostility, etc etc. But this...I just started to realise that even if she is severely depressed, this feels different from anything else I've experienced. And when I started researching BPD it did sound familiar.

    The best case scenario is that the therapists figure out what is really wrong (whether BPD or otherwise) and what is best for her, and that she manages to stick with it and it helps. All of which are big question marks. But I do give myself a bit of a pat on the back for getting her to go to the doctor and starting therapy. That is the best thing I have done for her. Like I said, cutting her out completely is probably not possible but I think I need to do a major fade, and hope for the best. It is a worrying situation though.
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  4. #4
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    Urgh, yes. Your description and experience sound far too familiar. I do hope that anything to do with suicide etc is more to get a reaction or be manipulative. It's hard to tell.
    Yes, the difficulty there is that, even if you might suspect it's not whole-hearted, you don't want to take that chance.
    I certainly identify the thing about having to play all the roles - not just cool older friend or big sister, but those, plus mom, plus punching bag...
    I kinda felt that, since I was the only one who managed to stick with her for that long, I ended up taking all the crap too.

    And yeah, I think one of the harmful things for the person trying to help is that you start to question reality a bit. They'll accuse you of something terrible and you start thinking, "maybe that is what I am like." Thankfully I have other friends who know her and/or know the situation and say nice reassuring things like "you're a great friend, you have done all you can and probably too much for your own health, she will suck you dry if you let her." And no sense of what is socially appropriate...totally.
    Yes, it really confused me. I did start to wonder if I was an awful, evil person as she was suggesting to my face and to others later. I needed my friends ... people who I knew who cared about me but also could evaluate me fairly... to help me remain stabilized.

    It would be easier if her parents were more involved. If she were older I would have less hesitation about pretty much cutting ties. But I have been making all sorts of allowances - she's depressed, she's still young and immature for her age, and so on. The thing is, I have enough experience with depressed people now. Well, I have had several friends, including close friends, who've been seriously depressed. Including one teenager, though I was younger myself at the time (early 20s) and didn't realise how bad it was, and she had a lot of support from her mom. And I think I experienced a low-level depression myself about seven years ago. So I know that with depression there can be irrational behaviour, inappropriate hostility, etc etc. But this...I just started to realise that even if she is severely depressed, this feels different from anything else I've experienced. And when I started researching BPD it did sound familiar.
    yes, the "strength" of it is very difficult for a normal person to deal with, especially when it is also pervasive. The consistent intensity of the experience is what set it apart from average confusion; there was no real way to "reason through things" and help the person make changes. Normal friendships, friends can talk about things and evaluate each other, and then you will often see people making changes to their lives; but here, there was no way to make headway.
    Also, you cannot really be her "therapist" as well as play those other relational roles in her life. I think only one or the other works.

    The best case scenario is that the therapists figure out what is really wrong (whether BPD or otherwise) and what is best for her, and that she manages to stick with it and it helps. All of which are big question marks. But I do give myself a bit of a pat on the back for getting her to go to the doctor and starting therapy. That is the best thing I have done for her. Like I said, cutting her out completely is probably not possible but I think I need to do a major fade, and hope for the best. It is a worrying situation though.
    The major fade will be hard, and you will have to be adamant about the depth/investment of the connection. Because she'll probably try to manipulate you, etc., into giving her what she wants.

    I'm glad you have her going to a therapist. That is really what the therapist is trained to do -- deal with problems of this magnitude -- and they have the benefit of NOT having to maintain any other relationship with the patient, and they also can just deal with her for an hour, then go home. It's not a 24/7 thing.
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  5. #5

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    I'm not sure I'm qualified to say but borderline personality disorder as I know it relates to someone who can be said to be neurotic (therefore already suffering from emotional difficulties in a pretty pronounced fashion) but bordering on psychotic (which is distinct from psychopathic, someone corrected me on the popular confusing of those two things once) which presents a whole other much more pronounced set of difficulties (melancholy, lethargy, apathy, suicidal thoughts, mania, elation etc.).

    Its likely to be someone who could well need serious support or care when they're functional, let alone when they are having a bad day, most of the people who I've known who could fit the bill are in all likelihood sufferers from complex trauma in any case and that's generally without a doubt (I mean victims of traumatic stress through injurious neglect, cruelty or abuse from carers when they were children, possibly in infancy, probably compounded by a whole set of other factors influencing the wiring of their brain and consequent emotional state and behaviour for the rest of their lives).

  6. #6
    Vaguely Precise Seymour's Avatar
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    She sounds fairly textbook borderline personality disorder to me (including the threats of suicide). Note that even though "borderline" is in the name, it's actually a very serious personality disorder... one of the most difficult to treat. Still, it is treatable and there are some newer techniques that are showing improved success rates. Also, it's possible for people to have BSD to milder and greater degrees.

    I was engaged to a woman who had fairly severe borderline personality disorder, and the relationship was utterly exhausting. She dropped all of her existing friends and interests when she met me and adopted mine. At first, she appeared relatively healthy, but over time that seemed to break down and her behavior become more inconsistent. After a while I was either on a pedestal as the most wonderful person ever, or I was being ripped into as a horrible betrayer. Setting no limits was a bad idea, but setting consistent limits meant weathering storms of upset and attack. She was always insecure, needed constant support and reassurance, yet was unable fathom that I might need down time and even support myself.

    At the time I felt like I was going crazy, since there was a pervasive sense of unreality. When only two people know the details of a relationship, it can be hard to be sure who is being unreasonable. I think having a confidant can be helpful, to provide a second opinion on "is it just me, or is this totally out of line?"

    I'd second what Jennifer said about disengaging being difficult. When I finally broke it off with my fiancée, she made a suicide gesture—she was never in any real danger— that did a real number on me at the time. In retrospect I believe she was truly hurting, but her gesture was a way at both lashing out at me and her last ditch effort to get me to "save" her one last time. She had a new boyfriend in a few months (as I found out later), while I went into a pretty deep depression for a year or so, sure I had destroyed someone else's life and that I was a bad person.

    I'd recommend the book Stop Walking on Eggshells: Taking Your Life Back When Someone You Care About Has Borderline Personality Disorder by Paul T. Mason and Randi Kreger. Here are few of the popular highlights from the Kindle Edition (which may give you some of the flavor). The book also has some practical guidelines on how to set limits and what to expect. I wish I had known about BPD at the time.

    People with BPD look to others to provide things they find difficult to supply for themselves, such as self-esteem, approval, and a sense of identity. Most of all, they are searching for a nurturing caregiver whose never-ending love and compassion will fill the black hole of emptiness and despair inside them.

    Some people with BPD may play the role of victim because it draws sympathetic attention, supplies an identity, and gives them the illusion that they are not responsible for their own actions.

    Another role common among people with BPD is that of helper or caretaker. This more positive role may help provide them with an identity, heighten feelings of control, and lessen feelings of emptiness.

    Borderline rage is usually intense, unpredictable, and unaffected by logical argument. It is like a torrential flash flood, a sudden earthquake, or a bolt of lightning on a sunny day. And it can disappear as quickly as it appears.

    Borderlines may need to feel in control of other people because they feel so out of control with themselves. In addition, they may be trying to make their own world more predictable and manageable. People with BPD may unconsciously try to control others by putting them in no-win situations, creating chaos that no one else can figure out, or accusing others of trying to control them.

    Acting-out behaviors are attempts to alleviate pain by dumping it onto someone else-for example, by raging, blaming, criticizing, making accusations, becoming physically violent, and engaging in verbal abuse. Acting-out behaviors cause direct anguish for friends, family members, and partners.

    People with BPD, however, may do the opposite. When their feelings don't fit the facts, they may unconsciously revise the facts to fit their feelings. This may be one reason why their perception of events is so different from yours.

    Some adults who enter into relationships with borderlines feel brainwashed by the BP's accusations and criticisms. Says Benham: "The techniques of brainwashing are simple: isolate the victim, expose them to consistent messages, mix with sleep deprivation, add some form of abuse, get the person to doubt what they know and feel, keep them on their toes, wear them down, and stir well."

    Memorize the three Cs and the three Gs: I didn't cause it. I can't control it. I can't cure it. Get off their back. -Get out of their way. Get on with your own life.

    When people don't have healthy limits, they need defenses such as control, withdrawal, blaming, rationalizing, intellectualizing, name calling, perfectionism, black-and-white thinking, threats, fighting about false issues, and excessive concern for the other-all defenses that damage intimacy.
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    Borderline, perhaps, and I truly wonder about her sexual orientation. I've read posts/threads you've made about her before.

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    Vaguely Precise Seymour's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Marmie Dearest View Post
    Borderline, perhaps, and I truly wonder about her sexual orientation. I've read posts/threads you've made about her before.
    People with BPD can glom onto friends with the same over-to-top intensity level. I wouldn't necessarily read that intensity as indicating sexual orientation... although it might.

    And as far as age, the DSM-IV says:

    Specific Culture, Age, and Gender Features

    The pattern of behavior seen in Borderline Personality Disorder has been identified in many settings around the world. Adolescents and young adults with identity problems (especially when accompanied by substance abuse) may transiently display behaviors that misleadingly give the impression of Borderline Personality Disorder. Such situations are characterized by emotional instability, "existential" dilemmas, uncertainty, anxiety-provoking choices, conflicts about sexual orientation, and competing social pressures to decide on careers. Borderline Personality Disorder is diagnosed predominantly (about 75%) in females.

  9. #9
    Senior Member King sns's Avatar
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    Maybe borderline, but you probably wouldn't get a diagnosis out of a doctor. She's too young, I think that they are hesitant to diagnose before the person reaches their twenties, as some qualities of borderline personality can also be explained by the fact that the person is a teenager. (18 is late teens, but she may be a little behind as well.) Also, if her home and family life is already somewhat messed up, that could be a reason for some of the behavior. I imagine that someone with unstable parents may become overly clingy towards a more stable presence in their lives.
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    Reading through that book quote was rather terrifying.
    It seemed to nail everything.

    Quote Originally Posted by shortnsweet View Post
    Maybe borderline, but you probably wouldn't get a diagnosis out of a doctor. She's too young, I think that they are hesitant to diagnose before the person reaches their twenties, as some qualities of borderline personality can also be explained by the fact that the person is a teenager. (18 is late teens, but she may be a little behind as well.)
    Yeah, it doesn't help that lack of emotional control, a still-forming identity, etc., are all things people go through in their teenage years. I guess it depends on how pervasive and extreme it is.

    Most teenagers have "issues" ... but there's a percentage at one end of the bell curve that have ISSUES.
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