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Just Diagnosed With Borderline Personality Disorder? This Glossary Is for You

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When I first received my borderline personality disorder (BPD) diagnosis around five years ago, I quickly discovered that I knew absolutely nothing about the disorder. Between common symptoms and colloquialisms, I felt overwhelmed by all I needed to learn about myself and my mental illness.

Looking back, what I really wish I’d had was a sort of glossary that included some of these common borderline-isms. So, I decided to make one!

If you were newly diagnosed (or just want a quick refresher), I hope this “borderline glossary” can help, along with some recommended reading.

1. Alexithymia

Difficulty feeling, expressing, or identifying emotions; often tied to trauma or underlying mental health conditions such as depression.

Read: Disney Alum Alyson Stoner Says She Was Diagnosed With Alexithymia, an Emotion Processing Dysfunction

2. Borderline Cling

A term used to describe the way an individual with borderline personality disorder desperately “clings” to others.

Read: When Jealousy Brings Out My ‘Borderline Cling’

3. Borderline Rage

Intense, sometimes misplaced or inappropriate anger that an individual with borderline personality disorder displays when unable to self-regulate.

Read: 3 Classic Ways ‘Borderline Rage’ Manifests in Relationships

4. Chameleon Effect

A tendency to mimic others’ behaviors or actions in order to blend in or maintain relationships, often done subconsciously.

Read: Borderline Personality Disorder Makes Me a Social ‘Chameleon’

Read: 5 ‘Superpowers’ of Borderline Personality Disorder

5. Chronic Emptiness

A numbness or disconnection from one’s self and environment that goes beyond typical loneliness or apathy.

Read: What It’s Like to Experience the Chronic ‘Emptiness’ of Borderline Personality Disorder

Read: The Borderline Personality Disorder Symptom That Makes Me Seem ‘Attention-Seeking’

6. Codependency

A circular, enmeshed relationship where one person sacrifices their own needs to “take care” of the other person.

Read: Why Codependency Is So Much More Than Being ‘Clingy’

Read: 3 Ways I’m Working Toward Breaking My Codependency Behaviors

7. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

An evidence-based therapy that combines change and acceptance; known as the “gold standard” in BPD treatment.

Read: How Dialectical Behavior Therapy ‘Skills Coaching’ Helps Me Learn to Accept Help

Read: How This Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skill Can Help With Strong Emotions

8. Dissociation

A feeling of disconnection between your body and mind; sometimes described as an “out of body experience.”

Read: 6 Kinds of Dissociation — and What It’s Like to Experience Them

Read: 5 Ways to ‘Come Back’ From a Dissociative Episode

9. Dysregulation

An inability to manage emotional responses in a way that falls within what is considered “traditional” responses.

Read: Why Borderline Personality Disorder Makes Me Emotionally ‘Cold-Blooded’

Read: How I Experience and Cope With Emotional Dysregulation

10. Emotional Mind

A state of mind in which one’s emotions drive their decisions; often characterized as impulsive or quick decisions.

Read: When Your Rational Mind and Emotional Mind Clash

11. Favorite Person

A person who someone with BPD relies on for support, and often looks up to or idolizes.

Read: 5 Things to Know If You Are the ‘Favorite Person’ of Someone With Borderline Personality Disorder

Read: 16 Signs People With Borderline Personality Disorder Knew They Had a ‘Favorite Person’

12. Fear of Abandonment

An overwhelming worry that the people you care about will leave you.

Read: 7 Things I Want You to Know About Fear of Abandonment

Read: How to Understand Fear of Abandonment With BPD

Borderline personality disorder is one of the most stigmatized and misunderstood mental illnesses. For more on the stigma, read: The ‘Surplus Stigma’ of Borderline Personality Disorder

13. Idealization

Attaching overly positive qualities to a person; for people with borderline personality disorder, this often comes as seeing a favorite person as “perfect” and without fault.

Read: Why We Idealize Primary Caregivers, Even If They Don’t Deserve It

14. Impulsivity

Acting without thinking or considering the consequences of these actions; in people with borderline personality disorder, this can be considered “risky behavior.”

Read: What Borderline Personality Disorder ‘Impulsivity’ Looks Like

Read: 17 ‘Impulsive’ Things People Don’t Realize You’re Doing Because of Borderline Personality Disorder

15. Marsha Linehan

A psychologist who has dedicated her life to studying borderline personality disorder; the creator of dialectical behavior therapy.

Read: 10 Lessons From the Memoir of Marsha Linehan, the Creator of Dialectical Behavior Therapy

16. Mood swings

A sudden, often intense change in emotional state, commonly associated with people with borderline personality disorder

Read: 20 Memes That Nail the Emotional Roller Coaster of BPD

17. Object Permanence

The understanding that a person or thing continues to exist even when they cannot be seen, which most people develop during childhood

Read: Why I Struggle With ‘Object Permanence’ in Relationships as Someone With Borderline Personality Disorder

18. Quiet BPD

People who meet the criteria for borderline personality disorder but turn their anger and mood swings inward.

Read: 11 Hidden Signs of ‘Quiet’ Borderline Personality Disorder

19. Self-Destructive Behavior

Behaviors that cause physical, psychological, or financial destruction to oneself.

Read: If You Feel Trapped in Self-Destructive Behaviors, Please Know This

20. Self-Harm

Hurting oneself on purpose; also called self-injury.

Read: What Is Self-Harm?

21. Self-Image

Your mental picture or view of yourself; often unstable in people with borderline personality disorder.

Read: How Low Self-Esteem Impacts My Borderline Personality Disorder

22. Splitting

Seeing a person or situation in absolutes; moving between idealization and loathing.

Read: The Different Ways I ‘Split’ as Someone With BPD

Read: What ‘Splitting’ in Borderline Personality Disorder Feels Like

23. Wise Mind

The balance between the emotional mind and the rational mind; the optimal way to live and make decisions.

Read: If You Feel ‘Too Emotional’ (or Not Emotional Enough), Here’s a Skill You Need

Read: The One Part of Dialectical Behavior Therapy That Helps Me Most

Getty Images photo via ArtistGNDphotography

Originally published: April 5, 2023
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