On the Borderline

If I were to choose a disorder to be allowed as a legal defense for a not-guilty-by-reason-of-insanity-plea, I would pick the Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). BPD is one of more than a few personality disorders that often interfere with a person’s ability to enjoy life or achieve fulfilment in relationships, school, or work (Salters-Pedneault, 2009).

I suggest that a person with BPD may be pronounced not guilty because of this serious mental condition. I highlighted these four factors because I believe that these signs and manifestations of BPD contribute if not influence the person’s behaviour and cognition:


Identity disturbance

Persons with BPD are usually unsure of their self-identity, goals, values, and even sexual identity.  Self-image may shift rapidly from extremely positive to extremely negative. Sudden and dramatic changes in self-image may be due to feelings of emptiness and cause bad performance in work or school (APA, 1994). This inner conflict can lead to paranoid thoughts (Salters-Pedneault, 2009) and periods of dissociation in extreme cases (APA, 2000).



Impulsive behaviour may include substance abuse such as alcohol or drugs, unsafe sex, gambling and recklessness in general (APA, 2001).

Emotional instability

Individuals with BPD may feel as if they are on an emotional roller coaster. BPD is also associated with feelings of inappropriate or intense anger and emptiness. They usually have difficulty controlling their anger and may be involved in recurrent physical fights. Negative emotional states of BPD have been grouped by Zanarini et al (1998) into four categories such as destructive or self-destructive feelings, extreme feelings in general, feeling of fragmentation or lack of identity, and feelings of victimization.

Certain patterns in relationships of people with BPD typically destabilize quickly from intimate and novelty-seeking to fearfully preoccupied, insecure, ambivalent or avoidant (Levy et al, 2005).


Avoidance of real or imagined abandonment

People with BPD are often sensitive to abandonment. Separation, rejection, or the perception of either threat may elicit profound changes in the self-image, thinking, and behaviour of a person with this disorder. These abandonment fears are associated to an intolerance of being alone and the need for company.

There are many theories regarding the causes of BPD. Research studies suggest that no single factor is responsible for BPD (APA, 1994). Nonetheless, it is a serious mental disorder and needs to be urgently addressed.



American Psychiatric Association. 1994. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, fourth edition. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association. From: http://psychcentral.com/lib/2007/symptoms-of-borderline-personality-disorder/
American Psychiatric Association. 2000.Borderline personality disorder – Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth edition Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR)
American Psychiatric Association. 2001. “Consumer & family information: borderline personality disorder”. Psychiatric Serv 52 (12): 1569–70
Levy KN, Meehan KB, Weber M, Reynoso J, Clarkin JF (2005). “Attachment and borderline personality disorder: implications for psychotherapy”. Psychopathology 38 (2): 64–74.
Salters-Pedneault, K. 2009. An Introduction To Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) http://bpd.about.com/od/understandingbpd/a/whatisbpd.htm
Zanarini MC, Frankenburg FR, DeLuca CJ, Hennen J, Khera GS, Gunderson JG (1998). “The pain of being borderline: dysphoric states specific to borderline personality disorder”.Harvard Review of Psychiatry 6 (4): 201–7

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