20 Ways Borderline Personality Disorder Affects People's Sex Lives
Sex. A word that can invoke desire, nervousness, discomfort, fear, excitement and a whole host of other feelings in different people. While talking about sex is still largely taboo, it’s everywhere — in the advertising we see, in articles online, in our thoughts and often in our relationships.
Because sex can be such an intimate and pervasive part of being human, it only makes sense that our mental health can change how we relate to it. When you live with a mental illness like borderline personality disorder (BPD), it can touch all aspects of your life — including your experiences in the bedroom.
Maybe BPD gives you a constant craving for attention and validation that fuels sexual desire, and you just can’t get enough. Maybe past sexual abuse or emotional trauma coupled with BPD symptoms makes you afraid of or disgusted by sex. Or maybe you experience intense fear of abandonment and only engage in casual sex because you don’t trust yourself to not become “too attached” or “too borderline.”
Whatever your experience with BPD and sex is, we want you to know you aren’t alone. To open up the discussion around this sensitive topic, we turned to our Mighty BPD community. We asked them to share one way BPD affects their sex life — you can read what they said below.
We understand sex can be embarrassing to talk about, but please, if sex (or lack of sex) is adversely affecting your life because of BPD, talk to your partner, a trusted friend or medical professional. You deserve to get the support and help you need.
Here are the ways BPD affects the sex lives of people in our Mighty BPD community:
1. Wanting Sex Constantly
“In a relationship I need hot amazing sex every day otherwise I get anxious and worried that there is a problem in the relationship or that my partner isn’t attracted to me. If I’m single, my self-worth and validation depends on how sexually desirable people find me which can be really self-destructive.” — Amanda D.
2. Never Feeling Sexual
“My BPD makes me almost never want to have sex. I am not interested in it, or rarely am. Sometimes I don’t want to be touched at all, even in just a cuddle aspect. Sometimes I have to make myself want to, because I feel bad for my spouse. He isn’t upset with me for not wanting to have sex often, but I am upset with myself. I feel [like] less of a person.” — Kaleigh B.
“I have always been uninterested in sex. I don’t like people that close to me. So if it’s going to happen, the universe is aligned just right.” — Amy N.
3. Alternating Between Wanting Sex Constantly and Not Wanting It at All
“I find myself bouncing between hyperlibido/hypolibido depending on a variable of factors that at times can be uncontrollable, (like amount of stress at work and relationship status) but also just my moment-to-moment mood which varies greatly. It not only makes me feel like there’s something wrong with me, but it takes a toll on my partners too.” — Kelsey E.
“I go through sexuality ‘phases.’ I go through months where I want sex constantly, multiple times a day. I go through phases where I feel like I don’t want to have it at all, [when] no matter how hard I want to want it, I just don’t have the libido or energy. I try to meet in the middle, to please my partner and give him the attention he deserves, but I end up frustrated, self-conscious, exhausted and in tears.” — Sarah C.
“Either super horny or 100 percent not sexual.” —Brad B.
4. Using Sex to Fill an Emotional Void or Get Validation
“I use sex as a way to fill some kind of hole in me and sometimes as a way to keep someone around. It’s a way to validate that I’m wanted. I found later that I’m really craving intimacy with others, but sex was really the only way I knew how to fill it.” — Kristin H.
“I have an extremely high libido and I crave attention constantly. I find that sexual activity or being considered sexy is very validating for me and I find that BPD makes me crave constant validation.” — Danielle M.
5. Only Being Able to Have Casual Sex
“I tend to gravitate toward men/women who only want a casual hook up or who only want me for sex. Especially when the emptiness hits me and I want someone to fill that void.” — Simone B.
6. Only Having Sex in the Context of a Committed Relationship
“I don’t know how to have ‘casual sex.’ If I’m willing to open up to someone sexually, they are already my ‘favorite person’ and I couldn’t imagine ever wanting to be with anyone else.” — Thomas D.
7. Losing Interest in Sex Quickly
“My BPD can make me lose interest or get super uncomfortable with sex in an instant. I’ll be going and having fun, then it’s like a switch is flipped and the only thing I can think is that I want it to stop. I feel super uncomfortable and my self-esteem drops like a freaking hammer.” — KayLee B.
8. Feeling Intense Rejection When Partner Doesn’t Want to Have Sex or Doesn’t Orgasm
“It tends to make things incredibly difficult when my partner is not interested or unable to perform when I want it. I take it as rejection in the worst possible way, which leaves me feeling worthless and fearing that my partner is no longer sexually attracted to me or that he’s going to leave.” — Megan G.
“Something that affects my sex life with my partner is that if he isn’t doing exactly what I expect or he doesn’t ejaculate, I feel like it’s all me and that he isn’t attracted to me anymore. Then the thoughts go running through my mind. ‘Maybe there is someone else.’ From there even if he has told me it is not me, that he is tired or age plays a factor, I still end up sleeping on the other side of the bed and it could be days before I even allow him to touch me. I want to check his phone to make sure there aren’t any other girls or to see that there were and I wasn’t ‘crazy.’ Eventually I can make my mind turn to have no emotions at all, and the ‘splitting’ of borderline personality disorder kicks in. Now I hate him and feel disgusted by him. Thinking how could I ever be with someone like him. Now this is from one night of not the typical sex I enjoy. One night can turn me into a dark mess.” — Holly D.
9. Being Unfaithful
“Before I was diagnosed, I was ruining my relationships because of cheating. I needed the attention, the feeling of being wanted and the sex. I often found myself feeling even worse afterwards. I just couldn’t stop.” — Tori B.
“Honestly, it led me to have an affair… I wasn’t being satisfied enough (that’s fixed now due to therapy) and it led me to have a year-long affair with someone who broke me down further.” — Kara R.
10. Being Unable to Initiate Sex
“I don’t ask for sex as I may be rejected — even with a four-year relationship! I don’t initiate sex ever. I wait for him to… Which is a huge problem in a relationship!” — Babs L.
11. Feeling Disgusted by or Uncomfortable With Sex
“My borderline makes me disgusted by sex. I can’t deal with it, not even any touching at all.” — Chelsea A.
“I can’t have sex with anyone. When I do, I’m so uncomfortable, I almost begin to cry. Somehow the BPD has made me sooo uncomfortable with even the thought of sleeping with someone. It makes me so sad. I can’t hold a steady relationship because I refuse to have sex with them.” — Addie D.
12. Dissociating During Sex
“I dissociate. Either my auto pilot takes over or I switch to a different version of myself. Afterwords, I forget for a while then I remember it like it was a dream.” — Angie R.
13. Being Afraid of Sex
“Honestly, I’m way too scared to get that intimate in a relationship. I’ve barely even dated due to the fact that I ‘split’ on people so easily. I don’t trust my feelings, so I avoid all of it.” — Kelsi J.
“It makes me scared of sex. It makes me scared that the ‘all’ part of the ‘all or nothing’ will be unleashed and there will be no coming back especially with the potential for abandonment. I’m also scared of it because of my BPD impulsivity. As a result of all these fears I prefer nothing, that is why I choose to be totally celibate. If the right person comes along who is willing to commit to a long-term relationship, only then would I consider sex again. But in the meantime, it is better [for me] to work on building healthy friendships first.” — Andrew L.
14. Jumping Into Sexual Relationships Too Quickly
“I jump into sexual relationships way too quickly, like first or second date. I don’t plan on it, but I’m just way too spontaneous and have no self-control.” — Elizabeth K.
15. Not Feeling “Good Enough” in Bed
“I can’t even enjoy if half the time because of all the thoughts going through my head thinking that once it’s over they will leave because I wasn’t good enough for them or something else along those lines. Or if I do one night stands, I get super depressed and frustrated because I know they are just using me for self-pleasure, but I don’t want them to leave because of getting overly attached. Everything is just complicated when it comes to BPD.” — Rie L.
16. Feeling “Unworthy” of Experiencing Sexual Pleasure
“Sometimes I don’t feel worthy of pleasure. I feel like I’m not attractive enough or good enough. I have had meltdowns in the middle of sex. It can be difficult for me to remember that I deserve to have pleasure and that I’m capable of giving it.” — Heather S.
17. Giving but Not Receiving Sexually
“I can give, but it is difficult for me to receive. It’s as if I can’t focus when it’s me.” — Haley F.
18. Desiring “Rough” Sex
“My partner and I both have very high sex drives, but often in the downward portion of a BPD spiral, I want it harder and rougher in an effort to feel something — when what I really need is for him to validate me with love and for us to reconnect.” — Rebecka H.
19. Feeling Deeply Insecure When Having Sex
“I absolutely hate my body so I don’t like having sex. I hate being touched too.” — Christina K.
“BPD makes it absolutely terrifying to move into the next stages of intimacy in a new relationship. Poor self-image and self-judgment leave me overwhelmingly insecure, wondering if my partner is truly satisfied, no matter what they say.” — Jay H.
20. Being Especially Attuned to Your Partner’s Needs in Bed
“This is all personal, but I find the effect BPD has on my sexuality and libido to be one of the few ‘positives’ of this disorder. I think because our minds are constantly analyzing how others react to or interact with us, our awareness of body language is more keenly adjusted. I’ve always been able to read my partners well, and leaving a lasting impression is, to me, the best validation there is. We hate deep and we love deep, and the latter translates well into the bedroom. Plus, it’s a great outlet — you could say that sex is an ‘extreme’ display of affection or desire, so I feel like I can be myself and really let my emotions go.” — Jauke P.
Want to know more? Here are some stories from our community about sex and BPD:
Unsplash photo via Jan Zhukov