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An Umbrella for Alex

An Umbrella for Alex

Give this book! It is a
reassuring, practical
guide for children.

About BPD

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a mental illness. Its sufferers, the majority of whom are women, experience episodes of emotional intensity that are difficult to contain.

When the average person feels anger, sadness, or emotional pain, adaptive (well-functioning) coping mechanisms kick-in to contain the feelings. These coping skills ensure that the intensity of feeling does not overwhelm the individual and cause them to express feelings in destructive ways such as violence toward self or others. This is described as having the ability to self-soothe, i.e. think and behave in ways that help one feel calmer and in control of emotions and behaviors.

Under extreme emotional distress, such as natural disaster, loss of a loved one, or a threat to one’s sense of emotional or physical safety, even the average person's ability to manage painful feelings may become overwhelmed. An individual may experience the sense of losing touch with the current reality, becoming numb (shut down emotionally) or demonstrate an extreme and immediate deterioration of the ability to take care of him or her self, (e.g. having a “nervous breakdown”). Sometimes a person in this situation will act out with rage as in a “crime of passion.”

Individuals with BPD often have difficulty with self-soothing and may have a biological predisposition to feel things more deeply than the average person. They may more readily perceive threats to their emotional or physical safety in situations that most people do not interpret as dangerous. They may express anger as rage and verbally or physically attack the source of such anger. Emotional pain is felt with extreme intensity and can be unbearable. Many with BPD have suicidal thoughts and approximately 10 percent will commit suicide. Some may cut or otherwise harm themselves to manage their internal suffering.

One key trigger for emotional or physical outbursts is the threat of abandonment. Researchers have found that a high percentage of individuals with BPD have come from families where there was physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. Children need nurturing and consistent attention to having their basic needs met to develop in healthy ways. In an environment of abuse, a child’s ability to develop the tools for adaptive functioning is compromised.

If you are in a relationship with someone with BPD you may have experienced the “walking on eggshells” feeling. Everyday interactions can become minefields where misperceived statements or behaviors are interpreted as threats triggering a verbal or physical explosion. The emotional volatility can create a chaotic and emotionally damaging environment, especially for children.

Currently there are several treatment options for those who suffer from BPD. They include Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Schematherapy, and Psychodynamic therapy approaches. If you are in a relationship with someone with BPD, there are resources to help you understand and manage the impact of this illness on your everyday life. Some helpful information for anyone interested on learning more about Borderline Personality Disorder may be found on the PDAN resources link.

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