“Much of it comes from self-destructive behaviors that are used to stop the horrible pain of dysphoria; anxiety, rage, depression and despair. When an individual behaves out-of-control, in a manner that’s inconsistent with their beliefs or normal choices, terrible self-hate develops. Additionally many individuals had low self-esteem and related problems since childhood and are in an environment that causes self-hate to flourish.” – from the interview
Bon: I found an interview with Dr. Leland Heller about Borderline Personality Disorder. He does a good job explaining the pain associated with the disorder… Here are some excerpts. The entire interview can be read here.
Diagnosing Borderline Personality Disorder And Finding Treatment That Works
Dr Heller: Good evening, It’s great to be here. I have a way of explaining the Borderline Personality Disorder in layman’s terms that might be useful. It’s how I explain it to patients and their families.
Imagine you had a pet dog and it runs into the street and by accident it’s hit by a car. The dog’s leg is broken and it limps off into an alley to lick it’s wounds. A friend of yours sees the dog and comes over to help. The dog is now feeling trapped and cornered – a “wounded animal” – and misinterprets the friend’s attempts to help. The dog snaps at the friend’s hand who is trying to help. The BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) is a malfunction in the brain’s trapped or “cornered” animal area. Under stress, a seizure develops in that area. That’s why under stress, while raging, a borderline will say to him or herself: “Why am I doing this” – yet be unable to stop it. It’s a seizure – nerve cells firing inappropriately and out of control.
David: And the cause of Borderline Personality Disorder?
Dr Heller: The BPD has many causes including head trauma and brain infections, but it appears that emotional hurts literally damage the brain. Most likely the brain’s support cells – the 90% of brain cells called “glial cells” – are damaged by traumas, causing the person to overreact to stress once puberty strikes. During puberty the brain’s limbic system goes into “overdrive” and adolescents are at their highest risk of seizures in their lifetime. “Sticks and stones may break my bones…but names cause brain damage.” So does incest, abuse, severe trauma, head injuries, attention deficit disorder, and other causes.
David: From my understanding, one of the biggest difficulties facing individuals who have BPD is maintaining stable relationships. This is a great cause of consternation for those people who are on the other side of the relationship. What causes this?
Dr Heller: There are a number of problems. The three most significant are 1) inappropriate mood swings; 2) misinterpretation of motives; and 3) remembering those misinterpreted motives as real. Oftentimes self-fulfilling prophecies occur, and self-hate eventually leads to a significant other coming to the same conclusion – that the individual isn’t worth being with.
janet: Would you please tell us more about the self-hate characteristic and how that damages the BPD or his/her relationships?
Dr Heller: Much of it comes from self-destructive behaviors that are used to stop the horrible pain of dysphoria; anxiety, rage, depression and despair. When an individual behaves out-of-control, in a manner that’s inconsistent with their beliefs or normal choices, terrible self-hate develops. Additionally many individuals had low self-esteem and related problems since childhood and are in an environment that causes self-hate to flourish.
crazy32810: How is self-injury related to BPD?
Dr Heller: We all injure ourselves to stop noxious neurological sensations. Interestingly we do it in a linear manner, ripping the skin. A common noxious neurological sensation is the toxins released with an insect bite. BPD dysphoria is about as bad as it gets. The pain is horrible. Many individuals have broken major bones and declared the pain of the fracture was nowhere as severe as dysphoria. When an individual with the BPD discovers that self-mutilation, or other techniques of self injury, work to temporarily stop the pain of dysphoria – they’ll do what it takes to stop it. This is no different than the individual with a fracture wants pain medication. I broke my shoulder last December and I tried to deal with it without taking narcotics. I was foolish and wrong. The pain was so bad it needed to be treated medically. Once individuals with the BPD have their chronic symptoms stabilized, and have safe medication options that work for dysphoria, the self-destructive patterns are no longer needed to stop their pain.