Borderline Personality Disorder and Dissociation
Many people with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and dissociation as a symptom can hop on the Nowhere Express--in a very dangerous fashion. One of the symptoms of BPD, according to HealthyPlace.com, is "transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms" (Description of Borderline Personality Disorder). That's a fancy way of saying that when a person with BPD is under a great deal of stress or anxiety, he or she can dissociate. He or she experiences an "altered state of consciousness characterized by partial or complete disruption of the normal integration of a person’s normal conscious or psychological functioning" (Wikipedia). Translation: detachment or distancing from reality. The Nowhere Express takes borderline personality disorder patients to the land of dissociation, and this can be quite dangerous.
What Does Dissociation with BPD Feel Like?
I have borderline personality disorder and dissociation happens to me often. I simply go to a void in my mind, a place of ultimate nothingness. Only I exist there--a silent blackness surrounds me. Once there, I basically operate on autopilot. I feel like I'm watching a movie. I'm aware of what I'm doing, but it seems distant. I later can not recall what happened.
Symptoms of dissociation can vary. "Dissociation is most commonly experienced as a subjective perception of one's consciousness being detached from one's emotions, body and/or immediate surroundings," Wikipedia notes. Furthermore, "Under normal conditions, consciousness, memory, emotions, sensory awareness, affect, etc., are integrated; with dissociation, in contrast, these traits are discretely compartmentalized to greater or lesser degrees."
Sometimes amnesia is a symptom of dissociation, other times not. What is common, however, is feeling disconnected.
How Can I Stop Dissociation Linked to BPD?
One trait of BPD is self-injury (SI)--often people with BPD in a dissociative state will self-harm in an attempt to reconnect with reality, to feel something instead of nothing. This is a negative coping skill, and we should avoid it. So what other attempts can bring us back once we've hopped on the Nowhere Express?
Our body, in a physiological sense, often needs sensory input to be aware of its place in space. Consequently, anything affecting balance or pressure on joints can serve as a way to reorient the self. Examples of this might be jumping in place, doing wall push-ups, stomping or other heavy motions.
Sometimes a strong sensation might help. An example would be eating garlic, smelling hot sauce, or holding an ice pack on the skin. The sensation can jolt you back into reality--without cutting or burning.
How Can I Face Dissociation With Borderline Personality Disorder?
The first step is accepting that you dissociate. Dissociation is not, as originally thought, a cognitive weakness resulting in a psychiatric breakdown. It is a way to psychologically numb intense pain. It is a defense mechanism and survival skill. Acknowledge the pain you may not feel right away.
This does not mean you have to like it. For example, I have large gaps in my memory of childhood. I am not happy about this, but I have made peace with it. I have accepted that I went through a series of traumatic events and my mind is blocking it out in an attempt to protect me. I have accepted that when I am in a stressful situation, memories of the trauma try to come back, and I dissociate in an effort to stay safe. While I do not have the ability to face my traumas at this time, that does not mean I never will. I am okay with that.
Second, you need to know the way back. A dissociative episode can be dangerous if untreated. For example, one time I came to my senses in an off-track betting parlor and bar. I've also wandered around downtown Indianapolis at night alone. Thankfully I've been safe, but these are situations that can quickly turn bad. You need to be able to reconnect before something happens. One thing that works for me is playing video games--it lowers my stress level, which helps guide me back to myself.
Finally, you need to accept that what happened wasn't your fault. No one asks to be traumatized, just as no one asks to black out due to a dissociative episode. There is a peace--which I am still struggling to find, incidentally--in realizing that the past only has as much power as you let it. There is a strength in surviving. Find and encourage this strength--then move on. You will find that you don't need the Nowhere Express to survive. Dissociation does not have to be a part of borderline personality disorder.
Oberg, B. (2011, October 31). Borderline Personality Disorder and Dissociation, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, July 22 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/borderline/2011/10/the-nowhere-express-borderline-personality-disorder-and-dissociation
Author: Becky Oberg
the same topics talked about here? I'd really love to be a part of online community where I can get comments from other experienced individuals that share the same interest.
If you have any suggestions, please let me know.
I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality from the age of 14, but no doubt had it earlier- I'm 21 this year.
I've dissociated to cope for longer than I can remember, i found originally that I just slipped into it as an immediate coping strategy- I would completely feel as if everything around me was happening but really far away from my eyes. I would be staring 'in space' and no Matter what was going on around me, I wouldn't care because I didn't feel any emotion about it. I would then self harm not just to bring myself back, but also as an immediate 'okay, I can do this, I can face whatever comes at me now'.
For years I was really destructive, and at my biggest destructive and dangerous moments I would dissociate and enter 'fuck it' mode. This was predominately during my 4 year Psychiatric Inpatient stay.
I'm now working full time, live on my own, have a partner etc- and I still dissociate, even whilst in recovery. But it's a lot more 'productive' and beneficial- at work I might dissociate, or if I'm having difficult discussions with people, or I'm struggling with memories randomly, but I'm still aware of what I'm doing , I still zone out and feel like everything is happening and I'm just there, I still completely detach my emotions, but I also feel more in control- I know that I can come back from it, without any form of self harm- and I generally feel that when I am back, I'm slightly refreshed and feel a sense of numb- but mainly to the negatives. I'm able to think rationally and deal with situations appropriately- but I don't get overwhelmed or impulsive with the difficult emotions.
It's definitely still a coping mechanism for me, but it's a very positive and non destructive one now.
When dissociating I completely disconnected from myself!
Dissociation | More Than Borderline” ended up being a great posting.
However, if it had alot more pictures it would be even much better.
Take care -Casimira
I just want to say thank you for expressing what it's like... Maybe I can show my family and church leader someday so they can maybe understand, and not judge so harshly.