Video Library and Short Essays

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When a loved-one has traits of Borderline Personality

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Untangling the Internal Struggles of Borderline Personality Disorder

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In this 12 minute audio Amy Tibbitts, LSCSW discusses the day to day struggles of a person with Borderline Personality Disorder (pwBPD) and the basic principles behind Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. This is a very helpful presentation for anyone trying to understand the mindset and behavior of someone suffering with Borderline Personality Disorder.  It also helps with the understanding of how we, as family members, affect pwBPD.

Tibbitts explains that family members without mood disorders themselves  know that emotions are simply emotions and that they do not need to  responded to them. This is not so clear to a person with a mood disorder.

The speaker goes on to explain that family members also know that when they want to fulfill a goal, emotional responses need to be "put on the shelf" so they can continue with the task at hand. For someone with Borderline Personality Disorder this can be extremely challenging.

Listen to the audio program   Wisemind.mp3

The Dialectal Dilemma - logic in the face of emotion is not helpful

Tibbitts describes what she calls the "dialectal dilemma". The dialectal dilemma is the invading feeling that results when applying logical thought to emotional responses at the time of the response. When this is done by the person having the response or by others it results in a very invalidating and very upsetting experience.

An alternative and the principle behind dialectical behavioral therapy is for the pwBPD to have cognition (recognition when an emotional reaction is in the extreme) and then substitute an alternate behavior - doing something different and more constructive with the emotional reaction.  The emotion is not denied.  The reaction to others is altered.

Three Characteristics Common with Borderline Personality Disorder

Three characteristics are common in people suffering with Borderline Personality Disorder are heightened sensitivity, extreme reaction/arousal, and slow return to baseline.

Heightened sensitivity - A person with Borderline Personality Disorder has a high sensitivity to emotions and feelings - both their own and of others.

Extreme reaction and high arousal - Extreme reactions and high arousal often makes it difficult to think through issues and act in an appropriate way.

Slow return to baseline - These reactions last longer and this in turn can the heighten the reaction to subsequent events and stimuli.

Biosocial Theory

The struggles with Borderline Personality Disorder are impacted by both biology and by the social environment.

Biological factors - Being tired, hungry, stressed, or under the influence are all conditions that exacerbate the struggles of Borderline Personality Disorder. This is why people with the disorder do not do well in crisis situations.

Social factors - Being in an environment that denies or minimizes emotional experiences (independent of whether they are valid or not) adds to the difficulties. Specific examples include indiscriminately rejecting the validity of feelings, punishing the pwBPD for their emotions, escalation of emotional situations, or oversimplification of the task of solving problems at hand.

When these factors become extreme it often leads to suicidal ideation, or parasuicidal ventures, or even suicide. provides support, education, tools, and perspective to individuals with a loved one affected by Borderline Personality Disorder. BPFamily is a non-profit, co-op of over 50,000 volunteer members and alumni formed in 1994. We invite you to join with us to explore these and other aspects of having a person with Borderline Personality Disorder in your life.

Amy Tibbitts, LSCSW, is the founder and director of the Lilac Center in Kansas City, MO. She has been providing Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) in a private practice setting since October of 2000. Ms. Tibbitts is a 1997 graduate of the University of Kansas and holds a master’s degree in social welfare. She underwent clinical training at Wyandot Mental Health Center. Prior to opening her private practice, Amy provided clinical services at Johnson County Mental Health Center. She is currently authoring a book on Dialectical Behavioral Therapy.

Author: Skip provides support, education, tools, and perspective to individuals with a loved one affected by Borderline Personality Disorder. BPFamily is a non-profit, co-op of nearly 75,000 volunteer members and alumni formed in 1998. We welcome you to join our free 24 hour on-line support community with its nearly 3 million postings and grow with us as we learn to live better lives in the shadow of this disorder. For more information or to register, please click here.

Write comments
  1. Unbelievable summary/audio - from someone who works closely with a person with BPD, this is stunning in its interpreation & explanation of what the person is experiencing. Thankyou

  2. Thank you for a very thoughtful presentation.

  3. I got a lot out of the audio file currently showing on Amy Tibbett "Untangling..."
    Can you direct me to more of her audios?
    She mentioned common dialectical dilemna's...

  4. I have a 20 year old daughter diagnosed with Borderline. When I found yourweb site, I was overwhelmed. So much information, useful information ! You gave me hope and tools to start working with my daughter. I printed out the
    articles and have them home so that my husband and I can read and study them together. In that matter , we can discuss it and together build a plan to work it out within our household. Of course we have external help such as
    therapy. Your site is very well done and I'm impressed. Your site gave me more help than any other places I called or went to.

    I just want to thank you and tell you , you made a difference in our lives.

    Ginette R.

  5. such audio The Dialectal Dilemma - I listened to it twice well worth a listen. To understand how I even react sometimes to stressful situations I was put under with a BP when he kept waking away from all forms of communication.

  6. Thanks for being there.

    My son-in-law and I are dealing with my daughter's attempted suicide.

    She was hospitalized and diagnosed with BPD and treatments were set up but ....

    She just left us with 3 children (one autistic) and went to see her quasi mother who lives in the States.

    We are in Israel.

  7. I have a 21 year old son who seems to fit BPD. He has been through treatment for drug abuse. Also been to several therapists since about 14. He didn't finish high school but did his GED. He only stays at a job for 3 to 6 months. He has not been diagnosed with BPD but the therapists can't seem to figure him out. We have tried various medications with no help. At this point he doesn't want to see any more doctors. How do we help him?

  8. Wow!!!!! I have been reading about Borderlines for YEARS now I and I just found out I've been doing a LOT of things wrong!!!! Thank you so much for this!!!!

  9. this site is really very helpful to understand the problem 0f BPD and has given lot of information and sugession about the solution of overcoming it.