54 thoughts on “The 5 Ways Emotional Neglect Causes Borderline Personality Disorder

  • December 4, 2016 at 11:46 am

    Yes, Sylvia is worth it, but I am not. I know that when I make one small mistake or exhibit any imperfection – that I will earn a well-justified death sentence.

    • December 4, 2016 at 12:05 pm

      John, you are every bit as valuable and worthy as Sylvia. I hope you can work toward being more kind to yourself.

      • December 4, 2016 at 12:41 pm

        Sad but so true John. I feel the same way. I’m a 55 year old woman that learned most of these skills from the school of hard knocks; starting in my childhood. Most folks would have killed over going through what I did. I still have a lot of self hate and shame; and I’m still drifting through life without and sense of accomplishment or self respect. I know I have BPD characteristics but I let others abuse me because that’s what I was
        Use to. I’ve learned thus far how To be a great friend and confidant but still can’t let some of others get tooclose. And I’ve never allowed a life partner too close. That’s just too scary so
        I also have never had a rewarding relationship with a man. I simply don’t know how to do it and I can’t express the emotion of love to any man. It takes a very long time to recover any of the
        Simplest of these basic emotions.

    • December 6, 2016 at 6:09 pm

      OMG i feel the same way. society wont forgive me and friends have no problem cutting me out of their lives for a simple mistake.

      • December 7, 2016 at 1:14 pm

        Sorry Angel
        You are a beautiful person and have been through something most don’t understand. Your torment was real. But you are loved and valuable.

    • December 7, 2016 at 1:53 pm

      Oh, John, this is so sad! You’re alive, you were created, you are a magnificent human being. If I can use an eye-dropper to feed baby birds or a syringe to feed 1 cc of “squirrel milk” to a tiny chipmunk or squirrel . . . well, it’s about respect life. It’s why I don’t eat meat anymore. Everyone wants to live! And live well. Please yourself this holiday. You’re worth it!

  • December 4, 2016 at 12:28 pm

    THANK YOU for this post! I had been hoping you would write one about BPD because the first time I read about CEN, I knew it formed at least part of the basis for my development of the disorder. Any expression of emotion, other than calm, restrained happiness, was severely punished by my father and ignored by my mother. But two decades of consistent, empathic, ethical therapy (along with several months of EMDR) have turned my life around, and my therapist says I will soon be able to shed the BPD diagnosis!

    I love your posts and am always excited when I see a new one pop up. Thanks for all your work, Dr. Webb!

    • December 4, 2016 at 12:52 pm

      That’s wonderful Dusty. You are an inspiration for others who feel burdened by their BPD diagnosis. Keep up the good work!

  • December 4, 2016 at 12:38 pm

    I know I’m not the Sylvia in your post but, it reads as though I am. I don’t understand Borderline Personality Disorder however, I most definately have CEN and reading your article I can see glimpses of myself in BPD.

    My life has been emotionally very painful; I’ve been blown around by every wind. It’s been such a struggle for me to understand other people’s behavours towards me that have caused pain. In the article, I related to the day that people were nice in the office and not the next. That is so me. A nice or kind word from anyone would bouy me up making me feel good about myself but, as soon as the person’s mood changed, I’d feel bereft and would worry fruitlessly for weeks, not just a day, about why the sudden change. I have no real sense of who I am and the core feeling that has been with me since childhood is that I am a bad person.

    I know that I was the scapegoat in the family and that is without a shadow of a doubt however, that awful feeling of being flawed and that there is something fundamentally wrong with me continues to plagues me. I’m 65 now and I wonder if it will ever go away. I don’t think so! Nomatter what I tell myself… that I am as good as the rest of us, I simply don’t believe it. I realise I was brainwashed into beleiving that I am worthless.

    Where do I go from here and who would be the best kind of therapist to see if I have BPD as well as CEN? Or, is it too late for me?

    • December 4, 2016 at 12:54 pm

      Sylvia, first of all NO it is not too late for you! Not at all. Please take care re: diagnosing yourself with BPD. It’s very possible to have some of the traits without having the full personality disorder. I suggest that you find the best, most-recommended licensed therapist near you and make an appointment to talk about your question. An experienced therapist can definitely help you sort it out. Please read Dusty’s comment as well. Sending you all my best wishes!

    • December 4, 2016 at 2:09 pm

      I know what you mean about being blown by every wind and it’s so frustrating! Even as I make great strides in learning to correct these maladaptive CEN behaviors, it’s hard not to “beat myself up” when things like that still happen. It’s almost an instinctual reaction I can’t always catch. It reminds me of what I read read about mirroring which – as I understand it – is how we learn from infancy to relate to people/the world. It can lead us to believe we’re responsible for how others feel & for me that means too much concern for others/ believing “its my fault” but not enough or any consideration for my own feelings. I can only speak for myself but I’m finding help in Dr. Webb’s awesome resources and also in Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACoA or ACA). There is hope in any progress, and our awareness is a step. We are never alone in this and we are all worth fighting for!

      • December 4, 2016 at 6:02 pm

        TO MARIAL:

        I could relate so much to your post. I too am caring person yet, I feel that in some strange way that I’m responsibile for others yet, having no real sense of my needs. I am my own worst enemy in as much as being very forgiving but, not so for myself because I beat myself up for things I’d overlook in others. Actually, I’ve always been an overly responsible person although, not aware of it and it has always been too easy for others to blame me and I’d accept the blame (scapegoating) for their crap.

        I can see where it began. As a child, my mother would hold me responsible for things that went wrong for her. She was a spiteful women who blamed me for things a child didn’t even have the maturity to understand. I can hear her voice now saying: ‘It’s your fault. I blame you for so n so…. It never stopped and she was like that until she died. I was then 50. If I said no to her then she would punish me. Her vindictiveness new no bounds. No matter how hard I tried to please her she was always blaming and giving the message that I was a great disappointment in her. On the other hand, my sister was the golden girl who could do no wrong. How very sad it all makes me feel.

      • December 9, 2016 at 3:21 am

        Sylvia, your life mirrors mine, but i had an abusive, alcoholic father in the mess as well. I was diagnosed BPD twice, which I rejected as I have been single-totally celibate-for the last 5 years. I’m working on myself and focussing on my kids, who have anxiety disorders and learning disabilities. EMDR has helped somewhat, as I have PTSD as well from two rapes and trauma from my paramedic job. Still a work in progress.

    • December 7, 2016 at 2:05 pm

      Sylvia (here on this blog), I feel as you do, much in common with the Sylvia in the article. I may never get official diagnosis or embrace this label, but the description resonates. I think people are quite wonderful and then they do something so rude, insensitive, hurtful that I have to withdraw and wonder what happened. Was I putting them on a pedestal? . . . Scapegoating is so painful! My brother’s first wife is still positive that I’m second-rate! This has spread to their kids and THEIR kids. So I have no family! . . . It is possible that because we strive, others are jealous when all we want is to be respected. Well, yes, admired! I’ve been treated rudely only to realize much later that someone else lacked confidence and was perhaps jealous.

  • December 4, 2016 at 3:57 pm

    Dr. Webb: How would one translate”Adaptive Immunity” in relation to BPD.?????????? How does “resilience” play a part in “Adaptive Immunity”-???-Thanksalot for info,-Sincerely-JM.

    • December 4, 2016 at 4:03 pm

      Resilience definitely makes a person less vulnerable. I’m not familiar with the application of Adaptive Immunity in the field of psychology. Anyone else have any answers for Jennifer?

  • December 4, 2016 at 4:31 pm

    I am so confused. We adopted our daughter at 11 weeks. Life with her has always been a struggle with her sensitivities to every stimulation and inability to adapt to peers and social situations. But we all have loved and adored her every moment. She is almost 19 and has self harmed herself into many treatment centers my question is although she has BPD how were we in any way an emotional neglect to cause this? We can’t blame the bio family either they have been gone since 11 weeks? We are trying desperately to help her.

    • December 4, 2016 at 4:43 pm

      That’s an excellent question Susanne. There is probably no reason to blame anyone, including yourself or your daughter’s bio family. Genetics is shown by research to be a factor in borderline personality disorder. You sound like a loving and caring family who’s done your best.

    • December 4, 2016 at 7:59 pm


      You, your family, and your daughter have all done your best. Many factors go into the development of BPD, and CEN may or may not be one for your daughter.

      As a highly sensitive person myself, I can say that there are experiences I had as a child and ones that I have as an adult that are emotionally neglectful for me specifically, because of my high sensitivity. I needed and continue to need more emotional awareness and sensitivity from others than others without high sensitivity do. My parents did the best that they could, as I am sure that you have, but because of my sensitivity they missed fulfilling quite a few of my emotional needs. They didn’t mean to, but they weren’t attuned to what was going on with me, and thus weren’t able to provide what I needed. If I weren’t a highly sensitive person, their best efforts very well may have been my good enough parenting.

      Even if CEN is part of why your daughter has BPD, it is not your fault. No one factor determines whether a person will develop borderline or not. I too have a BPD diagnosis, research it a lot, and work with others with it as a peer support specialist. I’m nowhere near being a professional, but I do have lived experience with borderline and other mental illnesses.

      Knowing that your daughter is adopted, I wonder if you have heard of Heather T. Forbes and her Help for Billy series? I think you may find some information relevant to you and your daughter in her work. She primarily writes for adoptive families and has great information on attachment, trauma, and brain development. I highly recommend looking into her work. I think it would likely give you new insight into what is going on with your daughter and how she has experienced life.

  • December 4, 2016 at 8:13 pm

    Dr. Webb,

    Thank you so much for writing this article. I came across your book on Audible sometime in the past year or so and decided to listen to it. I’ve been questioning for almost five years now why I have BPD, and your book has provided me with one of my foundation stones for why I have the disorder. I never had any of the abuse or physical neglect that is often associated with borderline, so I couldn’t figure out why something was so wrong with me. It turns out that CEN is a big reason why in my case. It has helped me to have this better understanding of why I am the way I am, and I have been curious as to whether or not you had put the link together between CEN and borderline. I am happy to see that you have! I’ve recommended your book to my DBT Peer Support Group, my family, many of my school instructors, and almost all of the mental health professionals I know. I think it’s a highly important work and am grateful to you for writing it. Do you have any plans to or are you assisting anyone who is looking more into the links between CEN and borderline? I believe there’s a lot of us with borderline who CEN has been a factor for, and I would love to see the associations between the two looked into more and presented more explicitly.

  • December 5, 2016 at 6:11 am

    The description of BPD is accurate, but the causal factors of CEN towards it read like the causal factors of CEN for ANY personality disorder.

  • December 6, 2016 at 3:31 am

    I was diagnosed with BPD 8 years ago, and have since gone through a great deal of work, from weekly therapy, to year-long DBT sessions, to NAMI support groups. I came across Dr. Webb’s blog for this very reason – CEN sounds so much like a potential foundation to BPD. I can see so many connections. Now at 32, I’m not fully “cured” of anything, but I’m certainly more equipped than I ever was before to balance my emotions and thoughts, validate myself, and trust my voice. This site, especially this article, is another tool for my belt. Thanks so much!

    • December 7, 2016 at 2:18 pm

      Marie, I am half a century down the road from you in a similar struggle. New Age, various religions, lots of counseling, up at 6 and out there typing fast, asking am I (fast, pretty, etc.) enough? Only recently I felt stronger with the thought that “THIS is my path,” i.e., other people do something else or other people would have to wonder, but THIS is what is right for me! Whatever it is! Whether food choices, personal style, what we envision for the future, what we do for fun. Good for you to have gotten a handle on this while relatively young.

  • December 6, 2016 at 3:37 am

    Dr Webb I want to thank you so much for writing the book you did. I have been in emotional recovery for over 20 years but it wasn’t until I read your book this year that so many of the pieces of the puzzle fell into place for me as to why coming from a seemingly ‘loving’ family I went through all the pain trauma and emptiness I did. I now know my own parents were emotionally neglected to and as a sensitive child they left me alone a lot and didn’t connect to me emotionally. I became an addict from the age of 17. Your book and the examples you gave touched me so deeply, some of them made me cry. I recognised myself. So thank you so much.

  • December 6, 2016 at 6:54 am

    I think there are lots of overlapping behavioural traits associated with CEN. Not quite sure how one diagnoses the difference, because until certain facts and factors are verified it all tends to be included in one mishmash, which might be BPD?. My variant included a precursor which gave me PTSD, and a suitable memory blank of the childhood event, so until I was aware of that, at 53, plus an understanding from my therapist who listened to my story ,was that what I thought was a normal upbringing afterwards, was not, then my loopy oscillating behaviour had all sorts of previous misdiagnoses, from bipolar to ADHD.
    Now while the help at 53 gave me a new perspective on my background, we both had a failure to understand the implications of my memory blank, and the timing, so this kept coming at me like some psychological stealth bomber long after my therapy sessions were over.
    It was not until I was at a point of suicide some ten years later that the juxtaposition of what I was about to do and the facts of the story associated with the memory blank, threw up the possibility of a near death experience..and la Voila PTSD
    What then followed was , bog standard,CBT, NLP and TA to hoick myself out of the mindset of a lifetime.
    This comment might appear be written in a slick intellectual way, but that has evolved post dealing with my journey out of hell. I am 70 plus now and a happy bunny as they say, and no wish to achieve the fame of Roger Rabbit, so my story is about encouraging everyone to fight for the right to happiness..
    At best my knowledge of psychology is relatively patchy, so its less about clever, and more about sheer bloody minded determination, and forgiving the twits who didn’t care and loving the grandparents who did , and also the ENFP that I have evolved to including his somewhat Peter Pannish ways…lol Seasons Greetings and go for happiness…Its a human right

    • December 7, 2016 at 2:24 pm

      Wow! You’re a smart cookie, huh? Maybe a military veteran like me? For sure been thru hell. Your last paragraph resonates. Yes, do whatever it takes for joy — even talking to your bear!

  • December 7, 2016 at 8:33 am

    I think it is vital to stress that BPD is linked to PERCEIVED as well as EXPERIENCED CEN. This is the key to understanding and supporting those with BPD.

  • December 7, 2016 at 12:06 pm

    Even tho there may be confusion over overlapping symptoms – because they do overlap – I think this is the most helpful short explanation of BPD I have ever seen. It also helps me understand how I have the CEN issues, and have had behaviors closed to BPD, I was just somehow resilient enough to recognize when my over reactions didn’t make sense and control them. In most situations; sometimes it was over control NLP did help me get around some paralyzing memories.

    There’s no rose garden as the song and the book put it, tho. Everyone who has CEN – or BP issues – will never be 100% free of the propensity to react ( or overreact) to triggers which essentially, threaten who we are. But we can learn strategies and build a base of connection that allow us to live good and mostly rewarding lives. And to understand when we see someone else struggling with this.

  • December 7, 2016 at 12:14 pm

    Dr. Webb:

    My life never made sense until I was diagnosed about 3 years ago. Then everything fell into place. I had an idyllic childhood. I am descended from a VERY famous man (from his brother, actually) and one of the reasons he never married is because there were so many psychological problems in the family. I have traced it back to my grandfather (that I never knew, but from what my grandmother has told me) and I think my father had it, but he had a wonder wife and a loving family to help him through it. I AM my father. I married a diagnosed sociopath, but he was not diagnosed until we had 2 sons. Both are/were VERY mentally ill. My youngest son committed suicide two years ago. We divorced in 1980 when the boys were 3 and 4. I was given full custody until a judge would not hear our case and gave the kids to my ex just because he had a wife and I had no husband…he should have been disbarred! They had that environment for 7-8 years. It was the nail in the coffin, so to speak. Both my kids are/were so disturbed. The one that took his life WAS his father. His wife was leaving him with the kids and they got to the end of the driveway and they heard the shot. He was a terrible alcoholic also. I suffer from BPD, clinical depression and just recently diagnosed as being bipolar. My entire blood family has shunned me due to a Will, so I only have one cousin left. My other son called to tell me my son had died and told me to get someone from church and hung up on me. Wouldn’t talk to me or sit with me at the funeral and hasn’t spoken to me since and I don’t know why. He is VERY sick mentally. He is so cruel to his wife and only loves his daughter. Has no friends, is an alcoholic, and lives in a world all his own. Has a very high IQ and has made himself a millionaire, but won’t help me at all and I am destitute. I have lost everything. Everyone has abandoned me, so I just stay home and try not to see anyone. It is safer that way. I am just waiting to die so I can be with my Lord. This life has nothing for me. Every holiday is just me at home alone with no one remembering. I just had a birthday and for the first time in 40 years, my son didn’t even say Happy Birthday. I have lost all that I loved. I have a counselor and am on many meds (have a psychiatrist for that). Most of all I have a church that loves me. BPD has ruined my life.

    • December 12, 2016 at 4:00 pm

      My heart goes out to you and everyone else here! I wonder whether becoming a volunteer at a senior center/nursing home would be beneficial for you? Many elderly there feel alone, especially around the holidays. Perhaps giving another lonely person the gift of friendship, or even just kind conversation, would help both you and them. Wishing you the best!

  • December 7, 2016 at 1:37 pm

    This is so right on! I am way too sensitive! And I know it, but I get hurt out there in the world. At Thanksgiving dinner a nasty man pulled out his Bible and was preaching to me! Nobody helped me and I cast about for how to cope. When I mentioned this on Facebook, a church member who is not a FB “friend” found the post, came in and reprimanded me! I’d considered screaming “Shut the EFF up!” But just referring to the F-word set this woman off! Phooey! I often think to myself that I’m running on empty! Right now I’m taking a retreat from church and also knitting group where those terribly nice people are all inter-related to me. Just too much! I wrote to the pastor about this attack, pastor wasn’t there. I walk through my senior housing wearing sunglasses. I don’t do laundry there. I pay for a P.O. box because the manager is corrupt, plays favorites, etc. Now I have to go. I will be back to read all the posts and will certainly get that book! Thank you for being there!

  • December 7, 2016 at 1:38 pm

    Dear Dr. Webb,
    Thank you for this excellent article! i was surprised to see that i fit every bullet point you listed for Extreme CEN. It was actually very validating to me, and oddly comforting, to understand even more why my entire life has been such a constant uphill battle.

    I was also encouraged by your positive and promising feelings about DBT: I am currently in a DBT program run by a local hospital, as part of an extensive outpatient program (I was hospitalized in August). I love the program, and highly recommend it to anyone struggling from the painful effects of CEN. But I do have a question for you about DBT – and me…

    I deeply related to many of the commenters here, one of them being Sylvia, who asked if “it was too late for her.” I have the same question. While I am deeply inspired and impressed by DBT, I also question whether it’s too late for me to find healing now. I am 52, and I fear that the messages of unworthiness are so deeply ingrained in me — in places where I cant reach or see — that the DBT skills I’m learning might not be …. enough. Enough to convince that primal part of me that I deserve to heal, to be happy, or even to exist.

    It’s one thing to know it intellectually. But is it really possibe, after a half century of living with these false beliefs, to ‘unbelieve’ them? At that deep core part of me?

    • December 7, 2016 at 2:26 pm


      There is definitely hope for you no matter your age. I will say that my experience with DBT is that it is extremely helpful in managing my disregulation and in challenging my cognitive distortions. It also helped me to begin processing my deeper held beliefs of being worthless and other things. For me though, I have needed more therapy than DBT alone to work more on those core beliefs. I would suggest looking into Schema Therapy. It was developed for those with personality disorders, and I feel that with the right therapist it works well for BPD and deeply held beliefs (aka schemas) from CEN and other trauma. There is also a self-help book derived from Schema Therapy that I believe can be helpful. It is called “Reinventing your life: the breakthrough program to end negative behavior… and feel great again” and is by Jeffrey E. Yound, Ph.D., and Janet S. Klosko, Ph.D. I have CEN, BPD, and several other mental health diagnoses and am a Certified Peer Support Specialist in Utah. I work as a peer with others who have BPD, so not only do I have my own lived experience, but also that of others.

      • December 8, 2016 at 12:05 am

        Dear Christine, thank you so much for reaching out to me and offering me such hope, along with such helpful information about Schema Therapy. I haven’t heard of it before, and it definitely sounds ideal for my situation.

        I’ve been so afraid of the DBT program ending, because I know I’m still very vulnerable and will need some kind of continued support when the program ends in January. You have given me just what I needed to start looking for that outside support: I will search for a therapist with experience and knowledge of Schema Therapy for sure, and I am heading to Amazon now to buy the book you recommended :-).

        I admire you so much for becoming a Peer Support Specialist, and using your past suffering for good by helping people like me :-).
        The services you offer are beyond valuable. I’ll never forget the Peer Support Specialist from my inpatient stay. Not only was he extremely helpful, but there was also a unique level of connection and understanding, knowing that he had stood in our very shoes.

        Thank you again for your kindness and help; it really does mean the world to me.

      • December 8, 2016 at 2:28 pm


        You are very welcome! I’m so excited to hear of the peer you worked with! I love that we’re out there helping people!

        I completely agree with the continued support. I’m looking for a new therapist myself, so I’m in a similar boat. It may be a bit hard to find someone who is familiar with Schema Therapy and most who are won’t use it exclusively, but it’ll give them a good idea of what you’re looking to get out of therapy and what you’re wanting help with. A good therapist who is a good fit for you will be able to tailor their knowledge, experience, and skills to help you to the best of their abilities.

        I would also highly recommend finding a support group that you feel is a good fit for you. Having a place to talk about what is going on in your life with others who can understand you from personal experience is so powerful and important in maintaining and continuing your healing. It would be awesome if there were a DBT support group in your area, and if not I hope you are able to find another one that is a good fit for you.

        I am proud of you and know that you can do this! I can tell that you’re driven to learn, grow, and heal and recognize that you are already doing so. You are a wonderful, beautiful, and STRONG person.

        Much love,

      • December 9, 2016 at 11:45 pm

        Dear Christine,
        You are a real-life angel <3. Your kindness, support, and encouraging words are truly healing and motivating to me. Thank you for mentioning the option of a DBT Support Group … I didnt know such a thing existed! I'm so glad to have another avenue to pursue in my search for outside support.

        Sending you deep gratitude and appreciation — as well as my best wishes to you as you continue your own journey of healing and helping. Maybe, hopefully, someday I'll be able to help others too :-). I would love that.


  • December 7, 2016 at 7:32 pm

    Although my therapist disagrees that I have BPD (he diagnosed me with adjustment disorder), I believe I do. I’ve done a lot of research on it, along with other mental health conditions & can relate to Sylvia very much. My PCP & psych Dr. both diagnosed me as having BP, which I’m 100% certain I don’t have. As if all that’s associated with BPD, doesn’t make me feel bad, having conflicting diagnosis (hearing this mental health diagnosis from this medical professional & another diagnosis from another medical professional)isn’t helpful & is very confusing. Thank you for writing this article. Very informative & helpful!

  • December 7, 2016 at 8:19 pm

    Just wanted to thank you for this article. For years I have been unsure as to what is wrong with me exactly as I deeply suspect that I have multiple disorders going on. However I will not bother to go into that. I would rather state my reasons as to why I believe this is me as well. I believe that I was/am raised by parents that were both extreme CEN thus they were already damaged and did the same to me. I dealt with my self hatred by internalizing my pain in the worst ways but top of the list by self mutilating. I can no longer go in public without hiding my hands. Additionally I have actually damage the nerves in my hands and cannot detect temperature properly anymore. Nevertheless, I am grateful to know that there are treatment options but I have already gone too far. So really my post is just a reminder to be careful. Some things cannot be undone.

  • December 8, 2016 at 7:14 am

    What would I need to do to access Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)?

  • December 9, 2016 at 4:32 am

    My girlfriend has told me she is BPD and she has gotten a lot of help and gotten a proper prescription after a series of months where they kept trying different medications and then she actually had to take one certain medication for 3 months before it even started working. She tells me she is a lot better off now than she would be without it. Even so, if I ever raise my voice, use certain words, make a certain face etc. she will literally start crying immediately. If I do it again she will have an outright breakdown. I personally grew up in a household that uses bad language, speaks loudly (and that’s the norm), and acts too seriously.

    Perhaps you can see how it would be hard for me to adapt to the situation. After about two months she doesn’t break down nearly as much as I did early on but I still trigger her sometimes. I’m trying my best to break old habits but I was hoping I could find some more understanding from one of you guys.

    • December 9, 2016 at 6:22 pm

      Seeking Knowledge,

      I would suggest reading books such as “Borderline Personality Disorder Demystified,” “I hate you, don’t leave me,” and “Overcoming Borderline Personality Disorder.” Also reading Marsha Linehan’s works on DBT and “The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Workbook” would likely be helpful. Depending on the reasons why she has BPD, books on trauma such as “Trauma and recovery: the aftermath of violence – from domestic abuse to political terror” -especially chapter 6 in this book, it’s amazing- and “The body keeps the score. Read “Running on empty: overcoming your childhood emotional neglect” if you haven’t already done so. Basically do what you can to learn about BPD, let he know that you’re doing it and why -you care about her etc.

      Also validation is extremely important. Validate her emotions even if they don’t make sense or they seem to be out of proportion to what triggered them. This will let her know that you care about her and that you’re trying to understand the way her mind works. We with BPD lacked validation of our feelings and of our selves in general growing up. We don’t know how to handle our emotions -which are often extreme and overwhelming- and likely believe they are bad, make us weak, and aren’t suppose to have them.

      Continue to support her in her treatment. If she has learned DBT skills, learn what she knows and help her to use them with her permission. When we’re in the middle of our huge emotions, it’s typically very difficult to remember what we’re suppose to do to help manage them.

      I would also suggest that you develop a self-care regimen for yourself and a support network to help keep you emotionally and physically healthy. If you’re not well, you can’t do much to help her.

      I applaud you for wanting to understand her and doing what you can to help lessen her triggers.


  • December 9, 2016 at 9:09 am

    Wow… I read this and I thought holy crap this is exactly what I’ve been dealing with all my life, the sense of worthlessness, invalidation, all of it. Throughout my life I’ve thrown myself at over 100 men and finally found one that stuck around long enough to try to see the person underneath. Problem is, he is a sex addict. So we are a fine couple /sarcasm/

    Last night I mentioned to my therapist that I think I have BPD. She read the list of symptoms with me and agreed. We’ve been trying for weeks to reach some of my emotions but inside I feel like a blasted wasteland. The worst is when someone asks me to make a decision. I get the deer-in-the-headlights reaction and freeze. Very embarrassing but I don’t know what else to do.

  • December 11, 2016 at 4:49 pm

    This article offers good explanation to triggers and issues associated with BPD. My only hesitancy is that the word “cause” is used to headline this article. Cause is a tricky word for research and other purposes. Also, it has a blaming tone to it. I wonder how this piece would work if another word were used. We don’t know what “causes” BPD. We know so much more about possible genetic contributors, in addition to emotional components you mention above. Thank you for valuing my opportunity to have an opinion.

  • December 12, 2016 at 9:12 am

    And what of those of us raised by a BPD mother?

    Yes, I have sympathy for those suffering from this illness and I understand it comes from their own background. But realistically, how many realize they have a problem and do the hard work? And how many just pass the pain on to the next generation?

    It is fair to be sympathetic to those suffering but isn’t it also fair to include the warning that this could be negatively impacting the next generation if you don’t seek help?

    Or you just leave us just as fragmented and trying to glue together our pieces.

  • December 14, 2016 at 10:24 am

    I just want to say this was very well-written, concise, and extremely accurate. I have been in Dbt for a few years now and it’s saved my life, literally. Thank you for a very insightful, valuable article.

  • December 14, 2016 at 7:52 pm

    Dr. Webb: I am interested to know whether intermittent foster care in an orphanage would affect CEN-and being farmed out for “Free domestic labor-AND-a government cheque”??
    I realize that every case is different and one could rationalize any situation.
    Thank you very much for this remarkable website that you created !!!!!-JM.

  • December 15, 2016 at 2:58 am

    Yes, sylvia is me, the bad one. not the one who deserve to be good. but i cant remember though, why she is hurting. she told me that they hurt her, us..and someone inside say that she deserve the pain.

  • December 15, 2016 at 8:18 am

    I have a question.

    How likely is it that many cases of complex-PTSD are misdiagnosed as BPD?

    Because the people replying here — the ones struggling and unhappy that they are struggling?

    That is NOT my mother, and would NEVER be my mother.

    She’s narcissistic and incapable of love or empathy and totally totally totally so self-unaware that she would not think she has a problem, it’s the rest of us that do.

    She has all the classic hallmarks of BPD — the splitting all good/all bad no gray (which makes for serious whiplash as a child of such because I could go from devil spawn to savior angel and back again in a flash), and the push-you-pull-you behavior,the unstable relationships, etc.

    The people I see posting here don’t seem like her. They care. They have self awareness. They don’t just blame everyone around them for their problems, while possibly recognizing their problems come from a traumatic past, sure.

    I was hated by mother for existing. For having needs. She was jealous of me. For anything I was or achieved or got. And did her best to tear anything good down. She relied on me to be her emotional caretaker. She threw me under the bus with a violent father — and looking back, I think there was self protection on her part involved. She is a black hole of need and dependency and you are to this day only as good as your last interaction with her. She’s incapable of love or care or empathy.

    That’s NOT what I’m hearing in the people commenting here.

    So is it possible they are dealing with complex PTSD and not borderline personality? It seems to be there are major differences involved.

  • December 24, 2016 at 11:00 pm

    I find this article irksome. I was married to a woman who was supposedly diagnosed with “Borderline Personality Disorder.” I researched it some after we were divorced, and I found out why we were divorced. BPD is just a euphemism for what the “disease” was originally called.

    I am lucky that my children and myself are still alive after living with someone that counselors, psychiatrists, psychologists, etc. assured me just needed rehab, counseling and a little love.

    When she finally died, my son had to store some of her things openly at my house. I found the paperwork for which she filed for disability. She was unable to work because her diagnosis was “Bipolar, Psychotic.”

    How much grief I could have spared, and how many thousands of dollars on psychiatric treatment for my children had I simply been told in the beginning what was wrong.

    My advice to anyone who is involved in a non-kin relationship with someone diagnosed with “borderline personality disorder.” Get away as fast as you can. Do not be deceived by pleas for help and understanding. It is the most demonic deception imaginable.

  • December 31, 2016 at 6:23 pm

    I was diagnosed with BPD as a young adult in the late 1970’s. Got better over time, but never really accomplished anything in my life. Now have worsening symptoms at 60+ years of age. Am caring for an elderly parent in live in situation. This person is not abusing me in any way. But I have gained 60+ pounds, and cannot seem to take any action whatsoever to help myself or prepare for a future by myself. I am giving up on life. Was never treated specifically for BPD, but did see therapists occasionally. Do I really have BPD and what can I do now about it?

  • July 8, 2017 at 1:32 am

    80 mgs of Prozac has prove effective with this disorder

  • August 18, 2017 at 1:31 pm

    thank you for this article now i know why i feel this way. please by considerate on my simple english i live in no so poor, not so rich family. i have 2 brothers and im the only girl and 2nd child in the siblings. my dad is very kind loving father and my mom but in my mom she’s different in me. but when i was child as i remember she always nagging me at the bus the all people could everytime we good to city. she always comparing me to others that me is like a shit. she always angry on me but my brothers not ( i could sense to she’s favor in them)she ALWAYS CRITICIZE in front of others most in the house that could my whole neighborhood. she saying on im so stupid of all stupid and im so nothing to all nothing SHE DONT CARE ABOUT MY FEELINGS she could see me crying she doesnt care. when people apprecaite she directly criticize that could a change of topic on them that everything was a negative on me. i was so jealous on my friends mother on that time because i sense that they protect and appreciate their daughter.because my mom treated that way my 2 brothers dont respect me either we had a fight but my mom favor on them she make me feel that im not important. i remember also i ate a half handful of dried raisin because its my favorite but she told us to eat shes going to put it on valenciana, the raisin are 1/2 kilos the next day suddenly i woke up feeling a hand in my face. my mom slap me in the face all because of the dried raisins i ate. i cried so much pain in my face but what hurt the most is my HEART. i could hear her voice yelling at me outside the room that im so so stupid,imbecile, and telling me i am nothing. i always saw my brothers telling secret to mom so as a child i wanted too. i tell her that i have a crush a school, when we go to her sister that has also a children and her children is older on me. im wondering why they smirking and laugh at me. my cousins told me that i have crush at school suddenly they all laugh. my aunt told me why you want to get married? my cousins say too “your not doing good at school your going to have crush?” i was going to cry but i made it stop instead i regrret why i told my mom, from that moment on i never trust her until now. my mom in front of everyone shes very nice and kind woman but in me is the opposite. if i complaint she always throw on me my mistakes, on what others think on me and say on me. oh shes really care on what other people say on me. when i was in high school she enroll me to the other town. i live in my grandmother, there my life is nice and peaceful because i feel confident, people respect me, people approves on my decision, i feel that they have trust on me. my life on there is nice and good i cant avoid to others to criticize me. In college my horror began again. she let me and my brothers stay in her sister house. there i self pity they always criticizing, backfighting me and my brother. they always find fault on us, they always assumed us bad things. my cousin bully me always because they are older than me, they sees me as ignorant not knowing to the world. my mom doesnt care what my life in there. if she visit there my aunt pin point our mistake to my mom there my mom angry with me that makes me really hurt. and i saw my aunt and my cousins smiling at me. i was so angry with them, to my mom, to my life. my shows me that my cousins is important to her without my knowing everytime she go there she always give money to my cousins, she loved them more than me, if my cousins bully me she never cared, she always never cared how i feel that i also need a mother could protect me, encourage me, emotional support,appreciate and approval. i also remember its was my aunt birthday she cook food for dinner party, me and my brothers preparing for school my cousins making a dessert she told us in serious angry voice that if we want to eat dinner with them we should pay for it. i look at to my brothers i saw they are disappointed. i decided to take dinner outside after class, when i go home i saw the table full of food and they’re finish dinner and never invited me to seat down.for the manner i say goodevening but no ones reply, i went to my brothers and told me what happened. they said mother was here bringing food too for birthday, for the excitement of my brother that our mother bring food they take a spoonful of it. my elder brother told me he was eating a 2 spoonful suddenly something slap at his hands telling not to eat but to pay first. also on my younger brother, i told them “what mother did do?” they said nothing she just smiling. i feel unfair, insulted and injustice. i hated my mother much much more. Now my life is messy and broke. i always feel angry at night when i sleep, and when woke up, my room is my comfort zone, i feel anxious at the crowed i feel im different that i dont belong in here. i feel that people always taking behind my back, i dont trust easily if i trust i starting to doubt too. when i thinking everything no hope i think of suicide but i cant do it i have courage to do it i feel scared. most of my life i feel scared,sad and mad. im not a bad person, they called me hermit because i stayed always in my room. at present my life is messy,weak,insecure and lost. i forgot what happiness feels like. i shared this because i want tell what i feel inside. that someone understand me.That my life story is the reason whats happening in my life right now. (thank you for those who have the patient in reading my story i really appreciated.)

  • September 13, 2017 at 1:44 pm

    CEN is something I can relate too. My parents are good people, and I have a good relationship with them now, but I can’t remember a single time in my entire childhood of being held. Depression was something I have lived with all my life. My parents had no clue. My teachers did, but never once asked what was wrong. Now a middle aged F to M transgender, I live with depression, suicidal urges, unable to connect with anyone but one friend. Disabled from intractable migraines, I’ve lost everything that was important. I cannot trust anyone .

    Sylvia probably lives in a world she can rationalize but not allow herself to apply that rationalization to herself. She probably has issues that she cannot speak to anyone about. The damage is done and some scars just never heal. The saying that “scars tell us where we have been, they do not dictate where we are going” is a fairy tale in her world. More than likely, the damage was not inflicted with conscious malice, but its there just the same. Sometimes it is the scars we can’t see that hurt the most.


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