Hey! Great question!
Object permanence/consistency is
understanding that just because something isn’t “there” and can’t be
seen, felt, heard, etc, in any way, that it still exists and is ‘there.’
-Ever notice that an infant or a young child cries when their mom/dad leave the
room? Then suddenly, they’re back, and the infant/child is okay again?
-Or how they act surprised and confused during peek a boo to see that their mom or whoever/whatever is still there?
-Even a jack in the box can be used as an example. It’s hidden, then it’s not, and they’re confused/surprised.
-Perhaps you’ve noticed other examples? A toy out of reach/sight,
etc? Maybe even separation struggles from starting school, going
I don’t like to compare things to “children/seeming childlike” but it’s
important to realize that I’m using this as a description of certain
development factors, a concept, as well as an example (hopefully) most people will
be able to recognize. I’m not staying it is “childlike,” nor do I use
that term as an insult anyway. Children are not insults).
something people have to develop. When they are young,
people develop this object permanence through various ways, such as
through experiencing touch, handling, seeing, and other senses, while
they neurologically develop the understanding that objects/people are
A strong and common factor of borderline personality disorder is struggling with this object permanence/consistency.
not like they may suddenly believe that someone, an object, or the presence of something, doesn’t ‘exist’ anymore as much as it may
affect the perception, emotion, and triggers of someone with BPD.
Here’s a way to understand by looking at some symptoms and factors of BPD and connecting them to it:
BPD is a
chronic mental disorder caused by emotional hypersensitivity +
dysregulation. In BPD, neurobiological emotion and systematic reactions fire off
rapidly, longer, easily, and with more intensity as they are
hypersensitivity and do not regulate, balance out, or process well and
the same as others.
In BPD, there are certain neuro factors that may affect the development of object permanence.
Two factors in BPD include:
-Less active and smaller in volume abnormalities in the limbic
system which has functions linked to: emotional reactions, memory,
decision making, motivation, behavior, learning and developmental
ability, thought pattern, instincts, psychotic symptoms, seizures, and
senses/the way the body perceives external stimuli.
volume in frontal lobe which has functions linked to: decision making,
communication responses, ability to comprehend consequences,
emotional-based memories and triggers, and relations such as to people, events
I bolded the factors that clearly play a part in perception, memory, relation, etc.
factors can reinforce the development of BPD. Neglect/not being there,
abuse, and reactions to a separation insecurity/anxiety, etc, can be
another factor resulting in one having difficulty in it and could
influence the development.
A part from those factors listed, specific symptoms may relate.
for example. Dissociation is very common in BPD. It is a complex
term to describe a “lack of/disconnection from reality.” Dissociation
happens when the nervous system/brain is too overwhelmed by intense,
overwhelming, or immediate stimuli/reactions. It then, for lack of
better wording here, shuts down to avoid any more emotions or reactions,
to ‘protect’ the individual from experiencing anymore intensity
or pain. It often happens in response to stress, immediate real or
perceived threats, depression, or panic/anger
reaction time may vary depending. If it is an immediate reaction, for
instance, it can last seconds, to minutes, to hours. If it is a result
of persistent depression/disturbance, someone may experience persistent
As parts of the system ‘shut down,’ it has a
lot of affects on the individual functioning. Symptoms may include
double vision, hearing/sight impairment, fatigue, a heavy, unreal, or
floating feeling, feel ‘separated,’ feel ‘disconnected from reality,
like in a dream,’ lack awareness, have memory struggles, experience
brief black outs, etc. All of these are a result of functions/senses and
systems ‘shutting down’ so to speak.
This clearly influences the way
someone with BPD may perceive their environment, people, and ‘be
connected,’ etc. This also influences memory, consciousness, emotions,
relations, and so on.
This leads me to explain the
identity/sense of self based symptoms of BPD. This can sometimes be very
much connected to dissociation at times, and vise versa.
Main symptoms of this include: Dysphoria (Dissatisfaction, uselessness, worthlessness), excessive self-criticism, radical
behavior and/or appearance changes, despising ones self, fluctuating
between life aspects, no direction with goals, values, morals, and
Simply put, the way they perceive themselves, their
worth, identity, life, etc, may be very affected and rapid, which can
then clearly influence their perception and the way they can relate and
connect to objects/people, in a broad sense.
Which then leads me
to splitting. Splitting refers to a pattern of thinking in response to a
BPD reaction. It is a defense mechanism and/or a
result of improper development of the neurological/emotional development
or a disturbance in it.
In this case, BPD and emotional disturbance or emotional trauma.
It is a process that describes difficulty to separate certain
reactions and emotions to situations, people,
and even themselves. This results in “black and white thinking” “all or
nothing thinking” etc.
I explain what this is here and provide examples for more depth and understanding here (x).
someone has an understanding of this, it may be easy to see how this
can also affect the thought process of an individual with BPD and their
perception of objects, people, relations, etc, and the consistency of
them/if they are ‘either there or they are not.’
FINALLY, another main symptom of BPD is the real or perceived “failure,” abandonment, rejection, and criticism
based symptoms: Extreme reactions to such, such as lack/loss of
autonomy, intense grief, despair, torment, humiliation, or reactions of other
Object permanence is all based on whether something is “there” or not. This is strongly connected to this symptom.These intense
reactions for whatever cause, may result in object permanence
difficulty or vise versa.
They have a
difficult time perceiving that they are “still there.”
To them, it can be like a torment.
Based on everything I just
said, here are some examples by putting different aspects together and
how it can result/relate to object permanence struggles in a variety of
ways as it can differ for everyone:
-Someone with BPD has a
reaction (abandonment hypersensitivity) by panicking or worrying
(emotional dysregulation) and by perceiving a worst possible outcome
(splitting), and perceives that someone/the object is not returning or
isn’t there because it isn’t in immediate reach (object permanence), and
then dissociates because of the intensity. They then struggle with
their sense of self and worth because of the ‘loss,’ which these two
symptoms then make the object perception even more difficult.
-Persistent calls, communication, etc, for validation, reassurance, and connection, when separated, having a difficult time perceiving love care, or someone to ‘still be there’
with BPD dissociates and has difficulty connecting with their
surroundings, loses touch with reality, then struggles with the object
consistency of something/someone
And so on.
Overall, this is very complex, gets specific, and everything here can connect to each other.
here’s a way to understand by looking at the symptoms and factors of
BPD perception, emotion, and triggers by connecting them to object
Understanding this way may also help one see how a
personality disorder differs
from mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and other disorders, as
personality disorders occur on a daily affected baseline areas of one’s
every day life-
functioning, behavior, emotion, thought pattern, perception, and
interaction, rather than in discrete episodes or something else.
could go on, I almost did go into different types of memory, etc, but
there is a lot here. Hope I helped :) and feel free to message/ask for any
clarifications. Sometimes I’m wondering if I stated something clearly.