Home » Blogs » Therapy Unplugged » Over The Borderline

Over The Borderline

Wild mood swings, emotional promiscuity, depression, mania, intense relationships characterized by extremes of idealization and devaluation, feelings of rejection or abandonment, identity or gender issues, impulsivity, irritability, emptiness, paranoia, dissociation, self-harm, suicidal ideation, great difficulty controlling intense anger and even psychosis: These can be the symptoms of bipolar and borderline personality disorder. This is also the average day in the life of an emo-teenager.

An emo-teenager is overly emotional, continually introspective and reflective, is drawn to books, movies and music with passionate and stirring themes, has a fondness for black attire and cosmetics, can be very pessimistic and self-hating, and worry about their life, the world and where it’s all heading.

But being emo is not necessarily a bad thing. There’s a better than even chance that proponents of the Romantic movement in 18th-century Europe, with its focus on the arts and irrational emotions, were emo-philosophers. (In contrast, the Enlightenment period was more rational and scientific.) Existentialist philosophers such as Soren Kierkegaard and Arthur Schopenhauer were sensitive, creative and suffered from depression and suicidal ideation. Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana were both posthumously diagnosed by the mass media and the psychiatric profession with borderline personality disorder.

There’s not much difference between bipolar disorder, borderline personality features and general emo-teenage behavior. Psychotherapy with a good therapist can help the bipolar or borderline client, and caring parents, once they’ve separated normal teenage behavior from borderline traits, can guide the immature brain in the right directions. But it’s not an easy job.

It’s also difficult being an emo kid, straitjacketed by lustful, raging hormones, contradictory and unreasonable parental rules and regulations, sadistic, menopausal teachers and ever-increasing schoolwork, psychopathic bosses needling you in your part-time job, brutal, remorseless peer pressure and nagging internal voices telling you that you are just not good enough. Sometimes a sneer from a peer can send your self-esteem plummeting for weeks. I shudder when I think of all those lonely, unhappy emo-hours I spent in my bedroom wondering why so-and-so didn’t like me.

Being an emo-teen means swinging wildly on a fraying, thin, slippery rope from zero to suicidal ideation when you get rejected and abandoned by your girlfriend or boyfriend, fretting you might be gay because you have an extreme crush on your best friend, knowing everyone hates you and wishes you were dead, feelings of excruciating boredom, loneliness and depression; and dissociating when your parents lecture you on the many reasons you should be grateful and happy for the life they’ve given you. And you think it’s always going to be like this, that nothing will ever change. Nobody understands you and your life is over.

When this happens to my kids, I become a most frighteningly understanding emo-mother with oodles of empathy. I’ve been there, done that, wrote the books and had the therapy. My teenagers can display some awful emo-borderline behavior, such as playing with matches and aerosol cans, sprinkling pepper and flour over burning hotplates, threatening each other with bodily harm, systematically pulling the petals off my vase of roses, writing slash poetry on their bedroom walls, refusing to shower or change their clothes or leaving rubbish strewn all over the carpet. Sometimes they spend inordinate amounts of time looking both morose and argumentative or, and this is a dead giveaway – reading Sylvia Plath-type books. I call it borderline behavior, but my kids call it “feeling stabby.”

Living with emo-teens is like teeter-tottering on a sinking ship in the middle of a storm-tossed sea, not knowing if you are on the Titanic or the Mary-Celeste. You just know there’s a sense of impending disaster you just can’t shake off, till the ship either goes down, gets abandoned or the crew jumps ship to find their own vessel and start their own voyage of discovery.

It’s not ethical to make your kids walk the plank or toss them into the roiling ocean, much as you’d take great delight in doing so sometimes. The psychiatric profession doesn’t like to diagnose a teenager with a personality disorder before the age of 18. If they’re still carrying on well into their twenties, then there’s real cause for concern, but by that time most kids have grown out of these emo-behaviors and their parents can heave huge sighs of relief. All can settle down and start being proper friends with each other. And that’s the biggest and best bonus of being a parent and well worth the wait.

Over The Borderline

Sonia Neale

Sonia Neale was recently awarded the Inaugural Barbara Hocking SANE Australia Fellowship to study and research Borderline Personality Disorder overseas in the USA, Canada, UK and Ireland. Her previous Psych Central blog was called Therapy Unplugged. She is the author of two books, The Bad Mother’s Revenge and Death by Teenager, both published by ABC Books/Harper Collins. She lives in Western Australia, is married with three adult children, has studied psychoanalytic psychotherapy, has a Certificate IV in Mental Health and is studying for a Psychology/Counselling degree. She currently works as a peer support worker in the mental health field. Please email her on davson at

No comments yet... View Comments / Leave a Comment



APA Reference
Neale, S. (2009). Over The Borderline. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 3, 2020, from


Last updated: 21 Apr 2009
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network ( prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on All rights reserved.