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What Is Borderline Personality Disorder and How Does it Affect Your Family Law Case?

Illustration of woman split between 5 different moods

Borderline personality disorder is a syndrome characterized by intense, rapidly changing moods, inappropriate and intense anger, depression, disassociation and detachment from reality or oneself and difficulty trusting other and their intentions. Obviously, if you have a family law case and you are divorcing or addressing custody issues with a person with borderline personality disorder, it is important that your lawyer be knowledgeable and prepared for addressing the other parties’ behavior. Similarly, if you have a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder, it is important that you share this information with your lawyer and implement a plan for appropriate communication, including your lawyer having experience in working with people with borderline personality diagnoses so that they can implement strategies and plans to assist you when struggling.

What are the Four Types of Borderline Personality Disorder?

It used to be that borderline personality was placed in two primary categories: avoidant and histrionic. However, as psychological research has developed, there have been four central categories that medical professionals place borderline personality disorder diagnoses in:

  1. Quiet Borderline Personality Disorder: this is a situation where the individual directs their symptoms of borderline personality primary inward and thus, often their diagnosis isn’t quite as visible. Often, people with borderline personality disorder display their symptoms and struggles outward so these people often appear to be “high functioning.” Often, because these people don’t have outward symptoms that are vividly displayed, they don’t tend to get the help or therapeutic intervention that they may desperately need. What are the symptoms a quiet borderline personality disordered individual will face? Often they suppress or deny anger and withdraw or avoid others when upset. They have a great amount of self-blame, poor self-esteem, they people please at all costs and have a high level of fear of rejection, abandonment or isolation. Frequently, this condition leads to diagnoses of anxiety or depression as those are the outward and visible symptoms. Individuals also frequently have substance abuse disorders, eating disorders or other similar struggles as they try to deal with and process their disorder.
  1. Impulsive Borderline Personality Disorder: this is a general disorder that affects the majority of people with a borderline personality disorder. It is often linked to histrionic personality disorder or sometimes misdiagnosed as histrionic personality disorder. These people struggle with impulsiveness, instability in their moods and interactions with others and frequently display symptoms such as: being overly charming, flirtatious, having many superficial relationships, becoming easily bored in relationships or situations, engaging in risk-taking behaviors without consideration for their personal safety or the consequences or safety of others, engaging in attention-seeking behaviors or overly dramatic behaviors and moods, engaging in manipulative behaviors and attention-seeking behaviors such as being ill, injured or other kinds of behaviors that cause them to be the “center of attention” and have the most needs.
  1. Self-Destructive Borderline Personality Disorder: this type of borderline condition is characterized by insecurity and self-loathing. This disorder is characterized by irregular and illogical emotions, reckless behaviors, impulsive decisions and dangerous choices. People fear being abandoned so they cut off all relationships first, proactively, to make sure that they do not feel “abandoned.” They are also frequently manipulative trying to use situations to change or distort the facts or even engage in behaviors such as cutting or self-harming- not because they actually want to die or harm themselves but because it is a manipulative method of gaining control over others. When extreme emotions are experienced, it is common that this person will threaten to harm themselves or others. They will frequently have depression, feelings that no one cares, unstable emotions, intense lack of ability to care for themselves and frequently experience substance abuse struggles, as well as engaging in a multitude of attention seeking behaviors. Frequently, the fact that people with this condition believe that nobody cares is then used to justify poor decisions, irrational behaviors, extreme displays of emotions and other unstable behaviors.
  1. Petulant Borderline Personality Disorder: this condition is characterized by the individual experiencing overwhelming anger and frustration that typically leads to irrational behavior and thinking. This individual is highly focused on being accepted and loved and not being abandoned. Typically, they will experience an inability to appropriately express their feelings, outbursts of anger, an extreme need to control others around them, imposing feelings of guilt or shame on others, passive-aggressive behavior, shutting or cutting off other people suddenly and without warning, using self-harming or suicidal gestures or threats as a way to control others or gain attention. People with this condition are primarily focusing their behaviors outward. They are manipulating and controlling situations to their advantage. They use their anger and mood swings to control people around them.
What does this mean? If you are going through a divorce or other family law matter against an individual with borderline personality disorder or you, yourself, have borderline personality disorder, it is crucial to the positive outcome and well-being of your case that you work with an experienced family law attorney who is familiar with various mental health diseases and disorders. If you anticipate going through a family law situation where mental health needs will touch your case, please reach out to Pingel Family Law at (816) 208-8130 to schedule your consultation.