Attachment Styles and Borderline Personality Disorder (Psychology Today)

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How different attachment styles influence borderline personality disorder.

  • There are different presentations of borderline personality disorder, including classic BPD, quiet BPD, and high-functioning BPD.
  • Which type someone displays may depend on their attachment styles, adopted from childhood.
  • People who are high on the anxiety dimension are more likely to have a negative view of themselves and have dependency issues.
  • Individuals high on the avoidance dimension have developed negative views of others and are mistrusting.

We cannot paint everyone with borderline personality disorder with a single brushstroke. Even though people may carry the same diagnostic label, their unique life experiences and innate temperaments will create different coping styles and thus symptom profiles. In this article, we will review how different attachment styles may affect your push-pull behaviors and explain various BPD symptoms.

Attachment Styles and Adaptation Strategies

Our parents’ responses to our attachment-seeking behaviors shape how we see the world later in life.

In the most ideal scenario, we would have had attachment interactions with someone loving, attuned, and nurturing, who can mirror our emotions back to us accurately and does not ask us to carry their distress. That will be how we develop a sense of safety and trust for those around us. We would internalize the message that the world is a friendly place; we trust that someone will be there for us when we are in need.

However, if the message that we were given by our caregivers was that the world was unsafe, it could affect our ability to withstand uncertainty in life. Since we may feel unable to sit with any ambiguity in communication, we may demand constant reassurance, quickly flip into black-or-white thinking, feel the impulse to end everything, or plunge into despair whenever conflict arises.

Attachment theory was originally developed by John Bowlby (1907-1990), who started by observing how infants react to being separated from their parents. Psychologists found that without conscious intervention, we tend to stick with our childhood attachment styles. To put it simply, if we have an anxious attachment pattern, we might become attached and clingy; if we have an avoidant attachment pattern, we tend to cut off to protect ourselves.

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