|April 30, 2002
Personality Disorder (BPD) is different from any other type of psychiatric
or medical illness in one very key way. That is that one of the symptoms,
rage, is frequently directed toward the very people who love the Borderline
sufferer most. Episodes of rageful tantrums or rageful attacks directed to
the loved one, are one of the hallmarks of the disorder. I would further say
that Borderline Personality cannot be diagnosed if these type of rageful
attacks do not take place. Because rage is such a key feature, the recipient
of the rage will undoubtedly, over time, be profoundly affected by the rage.
This rage can, in many cases, be rightfully seen as abuse. The abuse can
take the from of verbal or physical abuse, but ultimately it take a
tremendous toll on the loved one. The loved one develops symptoms that are
very similar to the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), those
||recurrent and intrusive
distressing recollections of the abuse.
distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or
resemble an aspect of the abuse.
||physiological reactivity on
exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an
aspect of the abuse.
||efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings,
and/or conversations associated with the trauma
||efforts to avoid activities, places,
and/or people that arouse recollections of the trauma.
||inability to recall an important aspect of
||difficulty falling or staying asleep
||irritability or outbursts of anger
||exaggerated startle response I remember
when I finally left my wife who had severe BPD. I explored the
relationship extensively in my book "The
Courtship Dance of the Borderline."
I reread this paragraph recently and remember how true it was:
From the book: "At moments I felt guilty for feeling good, because it
seemed that it was at Jacqueline’s (ex-BPD wife) expense. It was precisely
because she was not there that I could feel some peace. For what had felt to
be an eternity, she had conditioned me not to feel any pleasure outside of
her. Her fearsome tantrums had been intolerable in their wrath. Immediately
I noticed that my sleep had improved. No longer did I worry that she might
attack me in bed. My body felt more relaxed, my thoughts seemed slower and
more focused. I felt that I could think about things without worrying about
what Jacqueline would say or how she would react. But even with the distance
from South Africa, I felt her presence and I jumped and startled when the
phone rang or a car backfired."
There should be no doubt that Borderline Rage profoundly affects the
psyche of the loved one. In these relationships, it is not only the BPD
sufferer who needs help, but the sufferer's loved ones. I would strongly
encourage anybody who has been the victim of BP rage attacks to be in
therapy so that they too can begin to heal. If not an empty, insecure,
mistrustful shell of the former self will be all that remains.
Anthony Walker, MD
Copyright 2002 by Anthony Walker, MD. To reprint, please
contact the author at