Symptom: Trouble empathizing
“Interpersonally, there’s a real impairment in being able to see yourself from the outside and see others from the inside,” says Dr. Oldham. In other words, people with BPD struggle with both self-awareness and empathy. “There’s a lack of understanding about how your own behavior impacts people, so when your emotions are out of control, it doesn’t register that this causes stress for others,” he says. This lack of awareness is one reason people with borderline tend to have trouble maintaining healthy long-term relationships.
Symptom: Chaotic relationships
BPD sufferers frequently find themselves in physically or emotionally abusive relationships, says Behary. In many cases, they’ll gravitate toward partners who they hope can fill the needs that weren’t met in their childhoods, which often leads to staying in toxic relationships.
With BPD, people tend to be excessively needy, intense, and mistrusting in relationships, Dr. Oldham says. “There’s such a heightened anxiety you’ll lose the person that’s close to you, that you actually drive the other person away—it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
Romantic relationships aren’t the only stormy ones; people with BPD tend to swing from extreme closeness to extreme dislike with friends and family as well. It’s these interpersonal relationships where highly functioning people with BPD often realize they have a problem.