The Borderline Patient - A Case Study
by Sam Vaknin
Notes of first therapy session with T. Dal, female, 26, diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
Dal is an attractive young woman but seems to be unable to maintain a stable sense of self-worth and self-esteem. Her confidence in her ability to "hold on to men" is at a low ebb, having just parted ways with "the love of her life". In the last year alone she confesses to having had six "serious relationships".
Why did they end? "Irreconcilable differences". The commencement of each affair was "a dream come true" and the men were all and one "Prince Charming". But then she invariably found herself in the stormy throes of violent fights over seeming trifles. She tried to "hang on there", but the more she invested in the relationships, the more distant and "vicious" her partners became. Finally, they abandoned her, claiming that they are being "suffocated by her clinging and drama queen antics."
Is she truly a drama queen?
She shrugs and then becomes visibly irritated, her speech slurred and her posture almost violent:
"No one f***s with me. I stand my ground, you get my meaning?" She admits that she physically assaulted three of her last six paramours, hurled things at them, and, amidst uncontrollable rage attacks and temper tantrums, even threatened to kill them. What made her so angry? She can't remember now, but it must have been something really big because, by nature, she is calm and composed.
As she recounts these sad exploits, she alternates between boastful swagger and self-chastising, biting criticism of her own traits and conduct. Her affect swings wildly, in the confines of a single therapy session, between exuberant and fantastic optimism and unbridled gloom.
One minute she can conquer the world, careless and "free at last" ("It's their loss. I would have made the perfect wife had they known how to treat me right") - the next instant, she hyperventilates with unsuppressed anxiety, bordering on a panic attack ("I am not getting younger, you know - who would want me when I am forty and penniless?")
Dal likes to "live dangerously, on the edge." She does drugs occasionally - "not a habit, just for recreation", she assures me. She is a shopaholic and often finds herself mired in debts. She went through three personal bankruptcies in her short life and blames the credit card companies for doling out their wares "like so many pushers." She also binges on food, especially when she is stressed or depressed which seems to occur quite often.
She sought therapy because she is having intrusive thoughts about killing herself. Her suicidal ideation often manifests in minor acts of self-injury and self-mutilation (she shows me a pair of pale, patched wrists, more scratched than slashed). Prior to such self-destructive acts, she sometimes hears derisive and contemptuous voices but she know that "they are not real", just reactions to the stress of being the target of persecution and vilification by her former mates.
Sam Vaknin is the author of Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain - How the West Lost the East. He served as a columnist for Global Politician, Central Europe Review, PopMatters, and eBookWeb , a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent, and the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory Bellaonline, and Suite101 .
Until recently, he served as the Economic Advisor to the Government of Macedonia.
Visit Sam's Web site at http://samvak.tripod.com
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