“You are crazy”, “you are hypersensitive”, “you are overreacting”, this is what Hannah, 27, has received all day long since her adolescence. Because it happens to the young woman to throw tantrums as fast as they are impressive and to have suicidal thoughts just after having felt intense joys, she was first diagnosed with depression and then with bipolarity. It was only years later that her psychiatrist finally found the name of the disorder that had haunted her since her adolescence: borderline personality disorder.
Between 3 and 4% of the French population would suffer, more or less strongly, from this disorder, also called borderline state. How to differentiate it from a complicated but non-pathological personality? Pierre Nantas, psychotherapist, Marie Besegai, clinical psychologist and Mab Attari-Fricker, doctor in clinical psychology, give us some answers.
Impulsivity and difficulty managing emotions
“It is not a psychiatric illness but a mood disorder”, specifies Pierre Nantas, president of the association for the training and promotion of the limit state (AforPEL). To diagnose this disorder, doctors base themselves on the criteria retained by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) and must retain at least five of the nine, even if “there are as many ways of living trouble than humans”, recalls Marie Besegai.
The fear of abandonment and, more generally, the fear of rejection are very marked in people with borderline personality disorder. They will constantly test those around them. Hannah, for example, can have very strong temper tantrums if her partner does not give her any news of the evening. While knowing that his reaction is disproportionate. Because the absence of half-measures is significant in people with borderline disorder. They love a lot or not at all, they are very badly or very well and this mood can change during the day.
More intense emotions that last longer
“The borderline has a very poor self-image. He feels permanently useless, ”adds Marie Besegai. The difficulty in managing their emotions and the inner emptiness that most people with a borderline state feel can lead to dangerous behaviors, such as risky sexual practices, drug addictions or eating disorders.
If everyone can have excesses of anger, periods of less well just after moments of joy and sometimes be impulsive, not everyone is affected by a borderline state. “What characterizes borderline personality disorder is the extreme. Anger, for example, is excessive, explains Pierre Nantas. These moments of anger are completely inappropriate and disproportionate. »
The person can lose his temper against objects, even against himself with scarifications or suicide attempts. She bears her anger against others much more rarely. “There is this cliché that persists according to which the borderline person is violent and dangerous, but this is not true at all”, confirms the psychologist.
Often childhood trauma
“People with borderline disorder will experience their emotions more intensely and longer than others,” analyzes Marie Besegai, clinical psychologist. A situation which, in the eyes of others, seems innocuous, can raise many things and cause very strong emotions which will persist for several hours or even several days. »
For example, if we lose an item of clothing, we may feel sad and angry for a few minutes and then these emotions will disappear. “In borderline people, this can trigger thoughts like, ‘I suck. I can never keep anything down. I won’t get anywhere in my life.’ The more negative the thoughts, the more intense and lasting the emotion will be.
Even if the causes of borderline personality disorder are not all known to date, factors could affect its appearance. This is for example the case of childhood traumas, such as violence or abandonment. “BPD is a personality fragility that develops in the family environment, according to Mab Attari-Fricker. It is important to take your time to look for the origins and the elements, often in childhood, which contribute to the development of traumas and to these post-traumatic symptoms. »
If there is no treatment strictly speaking, psychotherapy makes it possible to reduce or even eliminate the symptoms of the disorder by working on the regulation of one’s emotions and on nuance. A way to add hints of gray to a black or white world.
To subscribe to our “Ma tête et moi” program and receive all the new episodes, it’s over there.