Fear of Splitting and Borderline Personality Questions

by S.B.

Some background: I am a 19 year old female. I've struggled with anorexia, social anxiety, medical issues, depression, substance abuse and self-injury for the past couple of years. I was home-schooled by a dominating mother and am the middle child of 4 boys. I have always been socially isolated, there were a few friends over the years but they never lasted long. I did make two good friends when we moved, but it eventually ended in betrayal. During the time of friendship, I had somewhat of a relationship with one of them, but this thing (that I have come to learn is called 'splitting') happens where I suddenly stop liking someone, as if a switch is flipped and everything about them disgusts me. I couldn't stand the sight of him anymore, I hated being around him, the very mention of him made my stomach churn. This happens to anyone I get close to and can last from a few weeks to months to years or permanently destroy the relationship.

I've had quite a few online friendships, and this happens with almost all of them too. After a while, the switch flips and I can't talk to them normally anymore; I'm cold, inconsiderate, and treat them very badly, though they've done nothing to deserve it. Sometimes there are triggers, they can say/do something stupid and my opinion of them will change completely. The "good" side of me is accepting of all flaws in someone, but this glitch in my brain reverses it to where I can't see past insignificant things.

I began to exhibit almost all symptoms of BPD (Borderline Personality) within the last few months, after my 19th birthday. The thing is that it is almost completely isolated towards one person, whom I have not even met. I've cut off close communication with almost everyone I used to talk to except him. I've known him for 5 years online, he has been a very good friend to me and the only thing I care about. I can talk perfectly normal to other people, but it's a whole different world with him.

Trust is the biggest issue with us, I can't trust anything he says, there's a fight every other day, I always think he prefers doing things over me, if he doesn't answer the phone I almost literally go insane. I threaten self-harm and do crazy things if he doesn't do what I say, over the dumbest things. I can be in a good mood and if he says one thing out of place or even slightly upsetting I turn into an emotional monster. When I feel he isn't putting enough effort out into making me feel loved, I'll distance myself for days so he will miss me. I feel uneasy when I hear him having fun or even talking with other people, this usually causes fights. I hate myself for feeling like this and treating him like that (an object or slave as he has said..), he really does not deserve it. The other side of me can be loving, kind, and understanding (but never trusting), I'll want to give him the world. But this side of me seldom lasts. Is that the real me? Could I ever always be this person?

I feel so irreversibly messed up sometimes. The impulsive emotions are as if a metal rod is going from the center of my brain down into my chest, it shakes violently and the only way to make it stop is to act out the impulse and the pressure is released. It feels so good afterwards, almost like a high at times.

I've had this 'splitting' happen a few times with my friend, sometimes lasting months, but it subsides eventually and we become close again. Since becoming closer the last few months, it hasn't happened again, but I fear it will as it is usually random. We plan to live together in a few years once I've completed my degree and emotions are more stable (I plan to get help when I can afford health insurance). But I am so afraid of splitting. It is my worst fear to establish a life with him and finally be happy, then wake up one day and have the switch be flipped, feeling uncomfortable and revolted and unable to stand the sight of him. Will this always be a part of me? I feel this is the biggest obstacle in achieving happiness.

Some other questions:

If I moved in with him, will the symptoms lessen, get worse, or stay the same?

Can a BP be happy without treatment?

I can't see a therapist due to lack of funds, but if I did what might they offer as treatment?

I had a traumatic event happen last summer, I feel this might have been the final push into the deep end. Might I have stayed sane if this hadn't happened, or was this disorder lurking in the shadows all along?

Would I be more sane if my friend wasn't in my life, what would it be like then (in your opinion)?

In your opinion do you think being socially isolated is what put me here?

Any and all advice appreciated.

Thank you for reading and I apologize for the lengthy description.


Ben's Answer:

Splitting is a very common and tell-tale sign of Borderline Personality. Personality Disorders develop in our early childhood development, and sometimes emerge in our teens into a full blown disorder. BP is not something that therapy resolves quickly. Traditionally, therapy looks at BP treatment as a long-term project - like weekly therapy for at least several years. More modern, accepted standards of treatment may be more optimistic: such as DBT (Dialectical-Behavioral Therapy) - used in many treatment centers and by some individual psychotherapists.

I'm ever an optimist - regardless of the label you have. But I know from experience that Borderline Personality does not change easily.

To answer some of your questions - will it get worse or better if you move in together? Usually worse - because the whole splitting phenomenon - the love/hate flip that happens - is all about attachment and fear of abandonment. The closer you get, the more attached and enmeshed you become - and the more jealous, insecure and enraged you might get when you feel neglected, ignored or the relationship hits some rocky ground. Couples therapy may be a help, as long as you commit yourself to the process and take full responsibility for your splitting behavior.

Regarding your questions about trauma triggering this in the recent past. Some experts think that Borderline Personality is something like chronic Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that develops in early life. A constant state of internal chaos and stress and insecurity. I think there is some merit to that viewpoint. BP seems to have a lot to do with neglect and abandonment fears. Splitting is about not being able to reconcile the "good" and the "bad/evil" parent image. As a young child, we can't accept or understand that the parent who is kind and loving and sometimes meets our needs - can be the same parent who abuses, tortures, shames, or abandons us. So it's like we have two versions of the same parent in our mind. This gets projected onto every significant relationship in your later life. All good vs all bad. Nothing in-between.

I've never met a person with BP who was truly happy, or who could maintain a consistently stable social life or sense of self-worth and peace of mind. But I could say the same for many people I know (who aren't BP). It's a matter of degree.

Going with the trauma-theory. Yes, it's possible that a traumatic event could trigger and worsen your symptoms. Under stress, people with BP can get into a psychotic-like state and feel a loss of reality, or loss of "self." They might dissociate - lose awareness of their body or surroundings -- all of which are also signs of severe trauma.

Energy Psychology techniques such as Meridian Tapping/EFT are excellent for trauma, and work fast in most cases. But studies suggest they are less effective for personality disorders. I believe the reason for this is because with BP and other similar disorders there is a very strong attachment (like an addiction) to drama and the intensity (like you said - when you let off steam and give in to your impulses, it's a "high"). So when people like getting high on their "drug" they are reluctant to practice a technique that will cause them to change and to let go of these patterns.

Another excellent practice to use is meditation and this is also a key element of DBT treatment. It has to do with learning to be with, and tolerate your own intense, and uncomfortable feelings, without reacting to them.

A good long-term therapy relationship would be good if you can manage it. But doing Meridian Tapping, and Meditation on your own may be another way to improve things now, and into the future.

Don't give up on yourself. Recovery is possible.

Take Care,
Ben Schwarcz, MFT

singing bowls and flutes
Guided Mindfulness Meditation for Depression

Meridian Tapping and Mindfulness for Depression

A 96-Page guide to lead you out of the darkness of depression and into the light of your own true self.

(Audio book and one hour Guided Meditation audio included)

Comments for Fear of Splitting and Borderline Personality Questions

Average Rating starstarstarstarstar

Click here to add your own comments

Feb 28, 2011
by: Anonymous

Actually the reason that EFT doesn't work with BPD is because BPD stems from the trauma inflicted on the soul PRE-COGNIZANCE and prior to the formation of *self* and inner constructs. It is virtually the first imprint made on consciousness from which all other experiences and later relationships build. This initial imprint expands until the age of 3, after which a new layer is added - the ego perhaps. EFT will work in individuals who have not experienced such early childhood trauma - but of a later age - from 3 onwards.

Click here to add your own comments

Return to Ask a Therapist.

Share this page:
Enjoy this page? Please pay it forward. Here's how...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.