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What It's Like to Have Both Borderline Personality Disorder and Avoidant Personality Disorder

I have been diagnosed with traits and symptoms of both borderline personality disorder (BPD) and avoidant personality disorder (AvPD) — and it’s confusing and frustrating, to say the least. My avoidant traits cause me to be hypersensitive to rejection, disapproval and criticism, and my borderline traits result in a deep fear of abandonment. They both make interpersonal relationships extremely difficult, so you can see how living with both would be emotionally and physically exhausting.

Both disorders have a strong focus on low self-esteem, and due to this I find it hard to believe I’m of any value or worth. I’m also a perfectionist and overly critical of myself; I hold myself to unattainable expectations and accept nothing less than what I deem as perfection. If I’m not perfect, then I believe I’m more susceptible to criticism and reproach, which I desperately try to avoid. Since BPD gives me an unstable self-image and no sense of who I am, though, I’m a social chameleon and often take on the personalities and mannerisms of those around me.

People with AvPD view themselves as socially inept, personally unappealing and inferior to others. I really struggle with constant feelings of inadequacy and have a severe case of the “not good enoughs.” I’m very self-conscious in social situations because I’m so preoccupied with being criticized, shamed or ridiculed. If I feel like I have been criticized, though — whether real or perceived — my BPD will take over and I will then “split” on the person I believe slighted me, essentially going from seeing them as all good to seeing them as all bad. This is classic BPD black-and-white thinking.

I also have trouble trusting people due to both disorders, and self-sabotage is common. I’m super uncomfortable with being completely vulnerable in my relationships with others, so I go to great lengths to protect myself from being hurt. With BPD, I will subconsciously push people away to test their love and with AvPD, I will self-impose social isolation because I’ve convinced myself people don’t like me and nobody really cares about me.

Both borderline personality disorder and avoidant personality disorder can present in such similar ways that earlier theorists actually proposed a personality disorder with a combination of features from both, called “avoidant-borderline mixed personality.”

I’m currently working really hard on improving my confidence and self-esteem, so that hopefully, one day, I’ll be able to see my own worth instead of always looking to other people for validation.

Photo by Isi Parente on Unsplash

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