Therapy Helps Patients with BPD Learn New Habits

One of the key struggles for a person with borderline personality disorder (BPD) is forming and maintaining good relationships. At the core of this struggle is the person’s overpowering fear of being abandoned. That anxiety leads to out-of-bounds behaviors that make stable, healthy relationships a challenge. And with every collapsing human connection, the person’s anxiety deepens. For the person with BPD, security is a driving force. They crave predictability and stability above all. When anything interrupts established schedules and routines the person is likely to respond in ways completely disproportionate to the situation. For instance, if a spouse or partner who is normally prompt arrives a few minutes late, the person with BPD may already be battling feelings of anxiousness and abandonment.

Those intense feelings of fear are often expressed in anger, accusations or obvious rudeness. This punishing behavior is really an attempt to regain control. Sometimes the manipulative behavior may be as overt as crying or making threats. Other times the manipulation is less obvious – trying to trap the other person in conversation, for example.

Manipulation Used to Gain Stability

The person with BPD may not even be consciously aware that they are being manipulative. They may have learned over time how to re-establish their own predictable comfort zone by pressuring others to behave in ways that suit them. Eventually, a habit of manipulation forms. As with all habits, they are unconscious acts until someone or something outside of themselves reveals them for what they are.

The individual with BPD has a gaping hole where their self-identity should reside. They do not feel complete or valuable. They need another person to give them a sense of identity. This is why having the other person move away is so fear-inducing. The sense of self is threatened any time the other person is found pulling away. Only holding that person near can keep the individual’s self-worth intact.

Unlearning Old Habits

Since manipulations are learned behaviors, they can also be unlearned. Unlearning habits is hard, slow work, but it can be done. This is good news for the individual with BPD. Dialectic Behavioral Therapy helps a person do that very thing – unlearn poor habits.

The therapy teaches individuals to calm their own thoughts and manage their own feelings. It teaches them improved communications skills so that manipulation is no longer needed. The treatment also provides skills for handling crisis moments in a more helpful way.

The extreme reactions of BPD sufferers stem from extreme fear, and developing a better understanding of this fear is a key step in therapy. The next step is to learn to control themselves without attempting to control other people and circumstances. The happy news is that new and healthier habits can be formed.

On September 2nd, 2014, posted in: Mental Health by Tags: ,