Borderline Personality Disorder and Relationships

SHIRT & TIE [small] (final)(This is the fifth in the series on the relationship between bisexuality and Borderline Personality Disorder [BPD].)

In previous blogs, we have established a link between BPD and bisexuality. We have looked at two symptoms for BPD on the DSM4: symptom 1 –  fear of abandonment, and symptom 3 – identity disturbance or poor self-concept.  Today we want to look at the second symptom which is “a pattern of unstable interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation”. The DSM5 describes it as, “Intense, unstable, and conflicted close relationships … alternating between over involvement and withdrawal”.  From my review of the literature, it appears that difficulty in interpersonal relationships may be connected to problems with the mechanisms involved with bonding. This goes back to childhood issues such as abuse or neglect.

The relations between parental bonding and attachment constructs and borderline personality disorder features were examined by Nichol et al in 2002[1].  In a sample of 393 18-year-old’s, low parental bonding and attachment scores were associated with borderline features including insecure, anxious, or ambivalent attachment, and a perception of a relative lack of caring from one’s mother.

So what is happening biologically for people with BPD.  Bartz et al investigated the effects of intranasal oxytocin (OXT) on trust and cooperation in borderline personality disorder (BPD)[2]. Their data suggests that OXT does not facilitate trust and pro-social behavior in BPD’s but may actually impede it. They suggest that this may be due to possible neurochemical differences in the OXT system.

So where does this difference originate and how does it occur? First of all, we have to view OXT not only as a hormone generated by the pituitary gland but also as a neuromodulator. In plain English, that means that OXT affects the functions of the brain. This is usually done through the excitement or suppression of neurotransmitters.  In other words, OXT works differently in people with BPD by suppressing rather than exciting the transfer of messages within the brain and from the brain to the rest of the body.

We know that OXT is involved in bonding and that bonding to one’s mate creates aversion to any other potential sexual partner. When we look at aversion, we can get some clues from the rats and wolves[3].  In the case of wolves, one experience with tainted mutton made them swear off sheep for the rest of their lives. We all have experienced a nauseating sensation after an intense emotional experience and what could be more emotional than feeling rejected by one’s own mother? Could it be that when the outflow of OXT between mother and child during early childhood is accompanied by rejection that it literally leaves a bad taste in the mouth of the child by affecting the digestive system?

So how does this apply to our sexuality? We  know that sexual attraction usually involves a release of OXT. We also know that OXT can result in aversion and even nausea when presented with an opportunity for sex with members of the opposite sex for gays and lesbians and that some heterosexuals experience similar reactions about have same sex experiences. Could this indeed be the workings of OXT?

Gays, lesbians, and heterosexuals usually have no trouble bonding, and it is the work of the bond that creates the sense of aversion, and it is the aversion that creates the emotional reaction. What about bisexuals? Because we have difficulty bonding we also have no aversion mechanisms. Therefore, we can have sex with either men or women without experiencing overpowering negative emotion. We still have the OXT rush but not biologically imprinted restrictions. We have no difficulty devouring the delirious meal set before us.

What I am suggesting is the people with BPD have difficulty forming lasting relationships because we have difficulty bonding. The OXT release has the opposite effect, we simply associate it with rejection and have an aversion to bonding itself. We enjoy sex for the sake of sex but reject the bonding that goes with it. We burn our bridges and walk away from potentially painful experiences.  That does not mean, however, that we cannot have lasting relationships. It just means that we have to work harder to form stronger and more encompassing emotional and mental bonds in spite of the negative flow of OXT.

My five suggestions for bisexuals.

  1. We don’t give up on the bond. We can still  form mental and emotional bonds by creating and repeating feelings of love for our partners .
  2. If we feel emotional aversion, we can accept it, face it, and understand where it is coming from. We can then choose to recreate a feeling of love. Every time we do this, it reinforces our love bond.
  3. We do not let our aversion feelings interfere with our sex life. We focus on the physical and emotional pleasure and use this experience to again reinforce our love bond.
  4. We keep focusing on the positive aspects of our relationship and consciously build our mental-emotional bond.
  5. We do little things to show our partner we love them. Flowers and chocolate works for women and a good back rub does wonders for a man (by the way men like chocolate too, and women like back rubs).

 

 

[1] Angela D. Nickell, Carol J. Waudby, Timothy J. Trull, (2002). Attachment, Parental Bonding and Borderline Personality Disorder Features in Young Adults. Journal of Personality Disorders: Vol. 16, No. 2, pp. 148-159. https://doi.org/10.1521/pedi.16.2.148.22544

 

[2] Bartz, Jennifer; Simeon, Daphine; Hamilton, Holly; Kim, Suah; Crystal, Sarah; Braun, Ashley; Vicens, Victor; and Hollander, Eric. Oxytocin can hinder trust and cooperation in borderline personality disorder. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, Volume 6, Issue 5, 1 October 2011, Pages 556–563, https://doi.org/10.1093/scan/nsq085

 

[3] Gustavson, Carl R.; Sweeney, Michael; and Garcia,John. Prey-lithium aversions. I: coyotes and wolves 1. Behavior Biology, Vol 17, 1976.

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