If you’ve known anyone with borderline personality disorder (BPD), or if it’s a disorder with which you struggle, you’re aware of the emotional highs and lows that are part of its symptom picture. Indeed, researchers are interested in the concept of “emotional dysregulation” as a problem experienced by people with this disorder (Speranza, 2013). Ordinarily, we become better able to control our emotions as we leave behind the childish tantrums of infancy. People with BPD don’t seem to have figured out just how to keep their feelings, particularly their anger, within bounds.
Theories of BPD for many years have emphasized disturbances in caregiver (usually mother)- child relationships as lying at its core. People with BPD disorder have an unstable sense of self, tend to see others as either all good or all bad (“splitting”), are prone to dramatic episodes in which they threaten to commit suicide (but don’t, especially in “cutting”), and have difficulty negotiating the difference between “you” and “me.” According to classic views of BPD, these symptoms reflect abnormalities in the attachment bonds which, in normally developing people, allow the child gradually to achieve psychological separation from the caregiver. The child doesn’t become so separate as to disengage emotionally, but is separate enough to have a stable and secure sense of self.