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Borderline Personality Disorder and Relationships

How does Borderline Personality Disorder affect relationships?

Personality Disorders are the collective name for a range of long-term patterns of thinking; feeling and behaving. These patterns are extreme; highly rigid; and maladaptive; and can cause significant impairment to a person’s daily functioning. Depending on the symptoms, there are different types of personality disorders such as narcissistic; schizotypal; histrionic; and borderline (amongst others).

In borderline personality disorder, the essential feature is an insidious pattern of instability in relationships; self-image; affect; and impulsivity. With regard to their relationships, people with borderline personality disorder are usually preoccupied with a fear of abandonment and rejection (whether real or imagined), and as such, make frantic efforts to avoid it. The intense fear of abandonment is often grounded in intensely maladaptive core beliefs around being “bad” or unworthy of love, which can lead them to do seemingly anything to keep people close to them. This can look like intense anger or hysteria when anticipating a separation; or volatility if a friend or partner is late or cancels plans.

Relationships are usually intense, and those with the disorder can quickly idolise their partners and become almost obsessed with them; before quickly turning to devaluing them when they can’t meet their need for constant contact or don’t match their intensity. Those with borderline often take on an intense caregiving and nurturing role, but with the expectation that their partner will meet their own needs on demand. If that doesn’t happen, there can be a dramatic shift in their view of their partner as the perceived lack of support can be interpreted as impending abandonment.

As we can see, the underpinning factor in relationship distress within borderline personality disorder is an intense fear of rejection or abandonment. While there is significant variability in how this fear can develop, quite commonly it stems from unstable, unsafe, or insecure attachments in early childhood which leads to a hypersensitivity that significant people are going to leave out lives. This then causes those with the disorder to go into overdrive to prove their worth and fight to keep significant people close to them.

Research shows, however, that although intense emotions and relationships can be lifelong, those who engage in therapy often show significant improvement in these areas within one year. If you feel like you or someone you know may benefit from support, contact us on 37160445.

If you are interested in discussing any of the points further, we would be more than happy to hear from you. Feel free to send an email to and we will answer any questions you may have.


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