When you live with a health condition, oftentimes there are some unwanted — or “embarrassing” — symptoms you have to learn to live with. This is something many people who live with borderline personality disorder (BPD) are familiar with.
For those who don’t know, BPD is a mental illness characterized by trouble regulating emotions and stormy interpersonal relationships. In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), it is associated with nine classic symptoms, which you can read about here.
Some folks with BPD struggle with intense fear of abandonment that affect their ability to have stable and secure relationships. Others struggle with “borderline rage,” which might make them seem like an angry person, when they’re really not.
No matter what your experience of “embarrassing” BPD symptoms looks like, we want you to know you aren’t alone. The only way we can break the shame and stigma surrounding symptoms of BPD is to talk about them, so to open up this discussion, we asked our BPD community to share with us the symptoms they were most embarrassed of. Though the following are not all diagnostically-recognized symptoms, they are common offshoots of the official nine symptoms.
Before we begin, we want to preface by saying that feelings of embarrassment are very real, and like all feelings, are completely valid. But even though it’s natural to feel embarrassed sometimes, we want you to know there is no shame in struggling with BPD. Because fighting BPD symptoms can be difficult, we’ve compiled some helpful resources that might help you cope. Check them out below.
1. Constantly Craving Reassurance and Validation
“Needing constant attention, reassurance and validation in order to feel worthy and loved. If I don’t get the attention I need, I’ll act out or get emotional in order to receive it, which usually is accompanied by word vomit and dissociation.” — Bri R.
“Asking my boyfriend every single day if he still loves me. Needing constant reassurance. Fear of him or my friends being ‘mad at me’ when I’ve done nothing wrong. I look like a ‘crazy’ person.” — Carissa W.
“Being impulsive with my emotions. When I’m upset, I end up making myself look like a mean, angry, unkind person but that’s so far from the truth, although in the moment I believe I am horrible for acting that way. I know if I really were a bad person, then I wouldn’t feel horrible about my ‘episodes,’ I wouldn’t care about how I’m affecting others. I’ve gotten better though and I’m proud of that.” — Bri S.
“My impulsivity. Sometimes I’ll make a decision and later on realize how irrational I was being and end up in a situation and have no idea how I ended up [there]. It’s even worse when the situation I create means other people have to help me out when that’s the last thing I wanted.” — Tiffany M.
3. Black and White Thinking
“Black and white thinking. I don’t see the gray in situations. Something is either right or wrong.” — Jennifer S.
“How I can just spill my guts to random people I’ve just met. I don’t know why I do it. They don’t need to hear it.” — Emma J.
“When I overshare and then I keep oversharing to try to get people to forget about oversharing the first time and fall into a cycle of thinking my friends don’t actually like to hang around me because I make things weird.” — Sarah P.
“Over-texting. When I am anxious and feel like I’m being ignored or abandoned, I will text someone repeatedly, shifting rapidly from anger to apathy to pleading for a response to remorse. I have pushed away so many people, ended relationships and lost friends because of the way I react. When it’s happening, I almost can’t control it, and it feels logical, but afterwards, I am horrified and ashamed.” — Emily B.
5. Paranoia About Relationships
“Paranoia and overthinking. If my friends have a neutral expression, I feel like they’re mad at me. If they give me a certain look, I feel that they hate me. If they talk to someone else I assume they want to be their friend, not mine. “ — Miranda D.
“Obsession and paranoia over relationships. I am consumed by my feelings whether they’re negative or positive — I need constant reassurance from people that they don’t hate me or I haven’t annoyed them and that they still love me.” — Leanne B.
6. Fearing Abandonment
“I feel like I’m being abandoned. I come up with this whole story in my head about what the said person could be thinking. Then I realize nothing was ever wrong.” — Emily W.
“The fear of being abandoned. Like I guess it’s happened so much to me in my life I always expect everyone to leave and honestly they usually do, but I feel like it’s probably because I assume they are going to.” — Summer S.
7. Age Regression
“Age regression. I find myself always wanting to relate to people on a swayed ground of power. More often than not, this is with me being the dependent party, and I become very childlike (and then get upset when people infantilize me). I am often mistaken for [being] much much younger than I actually am.” — Nate M.
8. Being Unable to Take Rejection or Criticism
“The worst one is probably my inability to take rejection. Like, at all. I overreact in response to it, and it just makes things worse for everyone involved. Half the time I wasn’t even being rejected, I just thought I was.” — Ceridwyn K.
“Completely dissociating over minor issues, losing control and hurting myself… What really gets to me about this is that I genuinely love my life but even that won’t stop me from hurting myself in those moments.” — Maddy B.
“I dissociate and have gaps in my memory. People don’t understand how I can go from having no memory of my life for certain months and/or years but then turn around and remember other things in great detail.” — Nicole P.
10. Pushing People Away
“Being terrified of being alone, then pushing away everyone who cares about me because I feel unworthy of their friendship.” — Audra R.
“Pushing people away when I feel they may reject me.” — Britian L.
11. Being “Clingy”
“My two mind sets. My boyfriend and I have been together for four years now. I am either pushing him away without even realizing it to make sure he doesn’t abandon me, or I’m beyond clingy to make sure he doesn’t abandon me. I absolutely hate it. He understands it and helps me through it. I am either too much or nothing at all. I feel everything at once. I’m thankful I have someone who understands and stays with me through it all when even I want to leave myself. I hate it.” — Aspen N.
“It makes me really clingy and insecure. I always claw at people and I drive them away by being too emotional.” — Drake S.
12. Being Unable to Control Emotional “Outbursts”
“Outbursts of emotions. I can’t always handle them, because they simply take over. Seeing myself afterwards is the most embarrassing thing ever, like I have made a total fool of myself, looking into my surrounding’s faces being judged for some kind of incapability.” — Benjamin B.
“My first response to any negative emotion is to cry, I can’t control it. I’ve burst into tears on the bus, in the middle of busy streets and at work. Then when people want to know why I’m crying and try to help me, it makes me cry more.” — Tanesha G.
“Overthinking and adding things up to prove a loved one is lying in my head and end up crying all day because I have no idea if my intuition is correct because I can’t trust my own thoughts.” — Jennifer R.
“Overthinking every little detail and then getting very upset when it doesn’t play out how I planned. I get so upset thinking I didn’t think through it enough.” — Abi T.
14. Picking Fights With Loved Ones
“Picking fights with my partner and then becoming frantic due to my fear of him leaving me as a result of said argument.” — Lisa D.
“Lashing out on boyfriends/lovers. Once I get insecure/jealous, I turn into someone I hate. I say mean and hurtful things and all that does is make them abandon me. I have had some pretty public outbursts out of fear and jealousy that I’m not proud of.” — Danielle H.
15. Explosive Anger
“My sudden explosive anger over very minute things. I say stuff that’s harmful and so cruel without even realizing it. Once the anger subsides a few moments later, I’m burdened with such guilt and shame over what I just did. Then I hear about what exactly I said and it’s downright heartbreaking. I just got diagnosed with BPD recently and for the longest time I just thought I had anger issues. Now that I finally know what the cause is and the symptoms, I can properly take actions to manage it. It’s nice knowing the enemy you’re going to war with.” — Corey M.
“My over the top flashes of anger. I snap and will shout or rage out loud sometimes at the silliest reasons. Just because my body and brain felt that anger was an appropriate emotion at that time. And immediately I am embarrassed and sorry that I did.” — Sheneeka A.
16. Feeling Like You’re “Too Much”
“I don’t know [if] I’m being ‘too much’ until it’s too late, and then I’m embarrassed that I can’t seem to control it. Too emotional, too sad, too this or that. I wish I could just be calm and even.” — Amanda E.
17. Being Consumed By Sex or Experiencing Sexual Repulsion
“My constant switching between hypersexuality and sexual repulsion. I get into a mindset of dangerous sexual promiscuity, then suddenly find myself disgusted by anyone and everyone and never wanting to be touched ever again.” — Sally B.
“I have BPD and I would say my biggest embarrassing symptom would be promiscuity. Every time I thought I was doing it for myself to make that person like me or love me more, and then it turns out they end up leaving because I’m too complicated or they don’t understand what BPD is. When really all I want is one person.” — Lee-Anne A.
18. Having “Inappropriate” Reactions
“My completely inappropriate reactions to things. Smiling when people talk about negative things, getting extremely angry over the seemingly smallest problem, feeling like my chest is literally exploding when I get excited. Everything is amplified up to 11. Most people around me don’t seem to understand this.” — Alexa K.
“Saying inappropriate things when nervous. I struggle to filter my thoughts when I’m calm, but it’s so much worse when I’m uncomfortable. This is always followed by feelings of intense guilt and self-hatred. Then I tend to ignore the people I was around when it happened.” — Hannah S.
19. Feeling “Irrational”
“How quickly I can change from the most rational person to completely irrational and not understanding that I’m being irrational until the time has passed. Paranoia about friends and family not really loving me and thinking they all talk about me behind my back.” — Emma W.
20. Needing to Have a “Favorite Person”
“I have to have a favorite person. And it’s a lot of responsibility for one person to have. Basically, their feelings towards me and their actions towards me determine if I have a good day, a bad day, or an actual ‘day’ at all… I jump from relationship to relationship because although a favorite person can be a friend, it’s more feasible for them to be in a relationship with me because then I can expect things from them that you wouldn’t/couldn’t expect from a friend.” — Nico P.
21. “Flaking” on Plans
“I cancel plans constantly because of the extreme fear that I’m just a bother. I cancel on my best friend and even my husband sometimes because I can’t get the thought out of my head that they don’t really want to see me. It’s so lonely.” — Lizzy H.
22. Being “Obsessive”
“Being obsessive. I would get obsessed over certain celebrities for years. Buy anything related to them, all their merchandise, etc. Same with TV shows. My current obsession is watermelon. Anything watermelon, I need it. I hate it because after so long, I’m no longer interested after spending so long consumed by it.” — Amy W.
“I obsess over things, and sometimes for months, and that takes a toll on me. But the other people having to hear my endless complaining.” — Holly A.
23. Being the Center of Conversations
“I tend to overwhelm conversations without meaning to. I constantly ‘one up’ others, which I know is annoying but really conversation is hard for me and I’m just trying to participate so I don’t look antisocial or plain rude.” — Angelique G.
24. Manipulating Others Without Meaning To
“Being manipulative but not intending to. I just want to know this person isn’t going to leave me. It’s a form a self-sabotage and right now I’m unwilling to let it bring me down. I’m having a good day today, but I’m afraid of falling back into the pit of despair and ruining and toxifying my relationships.” —
“I don’t realize I manipulate people. [When I realized this], my whole idea of myself is shattered. If I’m doing that, what else am I doing to the ones I love?” — Aurora A.
25. Not Knowing Who You Are
“I was diagnosed with BPD in 2008, and the most embarrassing thing I face is not really having a full grasp of who I really am.” — Holly A.
If you’re struggling with any of the symptoms mentioned above, you’re not alone. The gold-standard treatment for BPD is dialectical behavior therapy, a type of therapy designed to help folks who struggle with emotional regulation. To find a DBT-trained therapist, head here.