BPD Problems: Imprinting

When someone shows me support or comforts me, sometimes I get deeply emotionally attached to that person. I can’t stop thinking of them, I always want to be in contact with them, I desperately want to please that person and have their approval, I ache when I don’t see him them. I even get jealous and hurt if I see that person spending time with someone else. In a completely non-romantic way, I love that person. My friend who also has BPD calls this “imprinting.”

Imprinting sets me up for disaster. I become clingy. I build up this grand illusion of how perfect this individual is because they’ve blessed me with their kindness.

And when that illusion is shattered by just the smallest disappointment—like not really maintaining contact with me or getting annoyed with something I do or say—I crash into a massive depression. I almost feel upset with that person, as many borderlines do, but instead I turn that into self-loathing. I panic that they will leave me, but at the same time I feel they are justified in doing so because I’m worthless. Then I distance myself as much as possible from that individual.

As you can imagine, many people are confused by this completely maladaptive behavior. Only after learning I had BPD did I even realize that “imprinting” isn’t normal. It’ll be the first thing I tackle in DBT.


DBT Self-Help Resources: Ideas for Practicing Observing by coming back to your senses

To be used with Mindfulness Worksheets 2-2c:

2, 2A and 2B - Mindfulness Core Skills Practice

2C - Mindfulness Core Skills Calender

And Mindfulness Worksheets 4-4b:

4 - Mindfulness “What Skills”: Observing, Describing, Participating

4A - Observing, Describing, Participating Checklist

4B - Observing, Describing, Participating Calender

Source: Marsha M. Linehan (2015) DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets, Second Edition The Guilford Press

Copyright 2015 by Marsha M. Linehan.

a very general overview of what bpd is like for me: “borderline personality disorder makes me hate myself with horrendous passion and my mental health is grossly subpar. i love it. i do not ever want to get better even though i really want to get better.”

BPD Is Not A Life Sentence

“One of the most harmful misconceptions about BPD is that it is a life sentence—that people with BPD will struggle with the disorder for their entire lives, and that little can be done about it. The term “personality disorder” does not help the situation, as it implies that there is something fundamentally flawed with an individual’s personality, or who they are as a person.

In fact, there are many reasons for hope. First and foremost, studies have found that rates of recovery from BPD are much higher than previously thought. In one of the longest studies on BPD, Dr. Mary Zanarini and colleagues found that, over 10 years following hospitalization:

86% of people with BPD stopped meeting criteria for BPD for at least four years.

50% of people recovered completely (as shown by no longer meeting BPD criteria and having good social and work functioning)

Many of these people were receiving some kind of treatment, but some were not. Although many people with BPD clearly struggle for a long time, BPD is not a hopeless diagnosis, and many people recover.

A second reason for hope is that treatment works. The most extensively researched treatment for BPD is dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT), developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan at the University of Washington in Seattle. DBT involves the following:

Weekly individual therapy sessions aimed at helping clients reach their goals, reduce self-destructive behaviours and move forward on a path toward a more fulfilling life.

A weekly training group that teaches skills in the areas of mindfulness (paying attention to the present), emotion regulation (understanding and managing emotions), interpersonal effectiveness (dealing with relationships and acting assertively), and distress tolerance (surviving crises, and accepting yourself for who you are)

Availability of the therapist by phone, e-mail, or other means in between sessions when help is needed.

Several rigorous clinical trials have shown that DBT works. In my own experience, I’ve seen clients improve their lives and relationships, achieve goals they never thought they could achieve, reduce their suffering, and even use what they’ve learned to help others in their lives and in the mental health community.

Aside from DBT, other promising psychological treatments have emerged in recent years, further showing that there is hope for recovery from BPD: mentalization-based therapy (MBT), schema-focused therapy (SFT) and transference-focused psychotherapy (TFP).

Medication also can be helpful for people with BPD (especially mood stabilizers, atypical antipsychotic medications, and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs). Experts caution, however, that treatment by medication alone, without any psychological treatment or therapy, is not advisable.

The bottom line is that BPD is not a life sentence: Many people recover and sustain their recovery, and effective treatments exist.”

Anger and BPD
  • Me:There is always a battle of anger inside of me... I don't know how to judge these situations and I can't win without knowing if my emotion is justified.
  • Therapist:What do you mean?
  • Me:I don’t know when people really are hurting me or when I am just overreacting and overthinking everything.
  • Is this person really attacking or abandoning me? Or is it just me wanting to make myself even more miserable so I feel justified in my actions?
  • I don’t know when to be angry with them and when to be angry with myself.

All there is left to say is

I still feel everything 
I still hear every sound
I still listen to every word 
I still fixate on every thought
I still notice every action
I still care for every person

I have lost everything
I have gained everything 

I am everything
I am everything I can be

I have every reason to believe
I am more than what I was once made out to be
I have every reason to believe 
I am lovable
I am strong 
I am somebody
My heart is pure

I have every reason to stop 
Asking permission to feel
Everything I feel

I am enough
I have always been enough

Everyone who believes anything less
Is undeserving of my love
And undeserving of everything 
I have left to give
Undeserving of every ounce of love
I have left
Hidden between the crevices of 
My very bones 

I will give it to another
I will give it to another 
Another who believes in everything I am
Another who believes in everything I can be 

And everything that is still lost, 
Will find its way back home again

—  I am Enough, 365daysofdarkness