People often see a medical diagnosis of something like Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), as doom and gloom. Like they are horrible people themselves, when in fact people with BPD are just like everyone else!
Psychologist Annie Tanasugarn states, “People with BPD are often extremely high energy, can be motivating, encouraging and positive. Their energy can be contagious.” You might be thinking to yourself: wow, there’s a plus side to having Borderline Personality Disorder? In fact, even famous people like Angelina Jolie live with BPD. And it’s believed other celebs like Jim Carrey, Britney Spears, Megan Fox, Robbie Williams and many others also have it but have never been officially diagnosed.
Before we begin, we’d like to have a quick chat. For many, labelling a mental illnesses like BPD can make you feel like your world is crashing down around you. You mostly hear about the negative aspects of mental illness, so once you’re diagnosed with one, it can feel like the apocalypse is coming. Labelling symptoms can be damaging and create more of a stigma around mental illness. That said, this article is not meant to diagnose anyone with BPD or any other mental illnesses. Our goal with this article is to help use Positive Psychology to looks at the positive aspects of mental illness. We just happened to pick BPD to focus on today.
Disclaimer: This is a disclaimer that this article is for informative purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. It is also not meant to romanticize or glamorize BPD. Please reach out to a qualified healthcare provider or mental health professional if you are struggling.
Despite being referred to as a “personality disorder,” Imi Lo who writes for Psychology Today says it’s not a personal flaw or fault but an inability to properly regulate emotions, which means someone with BPD often feels like their emotions are erratic, quickly changing, or out of their control.
People with BPD are usually more sensitive to things like criticism that leads them to having trouble regulating their emotions – such as outbursts of anger, being sarcastic or getting into fights. According to the Mayo Clinic, some other common symptoms are: fear of abandonment, impulsive and reckless behaviour or sabotaging the good things in your life, and pervasive feelings of hollowness or emptiness.
Like all mental health conditions, there’s no stark black and white, good or bad. But are you curious to learn that there are also some benefits to living with BPD? With that said, let’s explore the positive traits of Borderline Personality Disorder. Here’s 6 ways BPD may be of benefit.
1. BORDERLINE EMPATHY PARADOX
Imi Lo touches on the fact that people with BPD are hyper-empathic. This means they are super sensitive to others’ feelings, thoughts, and even physical sensations, such as when they see someone in pain, they empathize with that pain more than others.
According to Australian website BorderlineintheACT.org.au, those who learn to manage this awareness of emotion, through heightened intuition and perception can help others when they are in emotional distress, rather than making it worse. This is evident by a well-known study discussed on the career website LinkedIn which had 30 people with BPD and 25 people without, where researchers showed them photos of people’s eyes. Perhaps not surprisingly, the BPD group did much better than non-BPD at correctly identifying the emotions of the faces. This skill can be helpful in offering compassion to others because they can more easily recognize when people may need some support and friendship.
But despite their increased empathy, they may still have trouble with interpersonal relationships and social skills and their emotional hypersensitivity may show up as mood swings and a fear of abandonment. This is called the “borderline empathy paradox”.
Assistant Professor of Psychology Francheska Perepletchikova on Self.com says there are benefits to this finely tuned emotional sensitivity. She believes that people with BPD are very creative because they draw on a deeper well of human emotion and experience than others. She explains, “They are really fun, creative, compassionate, beautiful people.”
Emily Eveland, author of an article on Healthyplace.com also touches on the creativity aspect and says that once those with BPD learn to regulate their emotions they can channel that intensity into creative pursuits. Emily, who also has Borderline Personality Disorder, says that her friends with the condition “are musicians, painters, dancers, performance artists, writers, and actors who put the entirety of themselves into their work.”
Emily Eveland also explains that when you get on the negative side of someone with BPD that could be challenging, but when a person with BPD loves you, they love you intensely with all their heart, and along with love comes loyalty. On their good days, Eveland says, when they’re managing their emotions well, they are great people to be around, being funny, intelligent and lively.
Every source we researched for this article mentioned Resilience as a positive benefit of BPD. It’s the ability to bounce back from difficulty, trauma or harm. Many of those diagnosed with BPD have struggled with negative behaviours such as addiction, self harm, eating disorders and suicidal behaviours. So the simple fact that they have the ability to manage their emotions around these challenges shows resilience in the face of what they’ve dealt with in the past, and they are nothing short of super heroes!
Psychologist Annie Tanasugarn on Medium.com says that having a friend or significant other with BPD can help uplift and motivate you when you’re feeling down, overwhelmed, depressed, or just tired of juggling work, family and school life. She says they’re good at giving encouragement with supportive texts or emails. Or their high energy can help give you an energy boost to help keep you going towards your goals. But Annie also explains that this energizer bunny high energy can also be a form of self protection to help carry them through the emotional crashes of BPD.
Christine Hammond at PsychCentral says people with BPD are intense about things they’re passionate about – whether that’s a specific person, or art, dance, music, sports, food, literature or anything else. They don’t know how else to be other than all in with things they are interested in. They don’t need anyone to tell them to follow their passions because they already will be! Because of this, those with BPD are hardworking and driven to achieve their dreams.How inspiring!
Can you relate to any of the signs and symptoms of BPD? What about some of the positive traits? If you have BPD, does knowing that there are benefits to BPD make you feel better? Can you think of some other positive traits of BPD that aren’t mentioned here? Let us know in the comments below! And as always, please reach out to some professional mental health assistance if you are struggling with any of the things discussed here. Stay safe! If you want to learn more about BPD you can check out our video on our YouTube channel here:
Burgmeester (2021, December 30). 20 Celebrities and Famous People with Borderline Personality Disorder. The Narcissistic Life. https://thenarcissisticlife.com/famous-people-with-borderline-personality-disorder/
(n.a.). 2020, May 13. Famous People with Borderline Personality Disorder. Inspire Malibu. https://www.inspiremalibu.com/famous-people-with-borderline-personality-disorder/
(n.a.)(n.d). Strengths and qualities of BPDBorderline In the ACT. https://www.borderlineintheact.org.au/living-with-bpd/strengths-and-qualities-of-bpd/#:~:text=Bold%20%E2%80%93%20Impulsivity%20is%20a%20BPD,%2C%20art%2C%20performance%20and%20writing.
M, M (2015, September 29) The Advantages of having BPD. Linked In https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/advantages-having-bpd-michelle-mcfatridge
Eveland, E (2016, April 16) Embrace the Benefits of Borderline Personality Disorder.HealthyPlace. https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/borderline/2016/04/embracing-the-benefits-of-borderline-personality-disorder
Lo, I (2018, May 17) The Unexpected Gifts Inside Borderline Personality Disorder. Psychology Today https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/living-emotional-intensity/201805/the-unexpected-gifts-inside-borderline-personality
Hammond, C (2020, June 28) The Gift of Borderline Personality Disorder. Psychcentral. https://psychcentral.com/pro/exhausted-woman/2020/06/the-gift-of-borderline-personality-disorder#1
Todd, C (2018, December 5).13 Facts Everyone Should Know About Borderline Personality Disorder. Self.com https://www.self.com/story/borderline-personality-disorder-facts – point #12
Tanasugarn, A (2021, September 1) 5 Positive Qualities Of Borderline Personality Disorder. Medium.com https://link.medium.com/XU65lCPHzsb
Mayo Clinic (2019, July 17), Borderline Personality Disorder. Mayo Clinic https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/borderline-personality-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20370237