Borderline personality disorder (BPD) & splitting

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It’s not always easy to get a good read on a person’s character with a first impression, or to figure out the circumstances surrounding a situation. And if you have borderline personality disorder (BPD), it can be even more difficult. But that’s why many people with BPD may resort to splitting as a defense mechanism.

Read on to learn about BPD splitting as well as common causes and signs of the coping mechanism.

What is BPD splitting?

Borderline personality disorder is a Cluster B personality disorder that refers to dramatic and unpredictable thinking or behavior. It can often cause splitting, which is a type of dramatic thinking. 

Borderline personality disorder splitting, or dichotomous thinking, refers to an unconscious reaction to uncertain situations. It means that the person has a quick yet extreme change in perception of a person, belief or situation. 

Splitting allows a person with BPD to see things as black and white due to their inability to cope with contradicting thoughts and opinions. This means essentially deeming the other overall person or situation as good or bad, and it stems from the fear of instability and abandonment that’s caused by BPD.

BPD affects about 1.6% of the general population, but it’s important to note that splitting doesn’t only affect people with borderline personality disorder. It can occur with a variety of other mental health disorders, including:

Common causes of BPD splitting

There are dozens of possible situations that can lead to BPD splitting, but they all invoke extreme emotions. They are also situations that are often deemed normal or unproblematic by people without a mental health disorder.

Common causes of BPD splitting are:

  • Temporary physical separation from someone close to them
  • Traveling for business or a special event
  • Getting into arguments 

Splitting can stem from:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Lack of ambition
  • Lack of empathy for others
  • Desire to take risks during times of distress
  • Hypersensitivity

6 common signs of BPD splitting

Possible signs of BPD splitting may not always feel obvious to the person with a mental health disorder who is experiencing it, but they may be clear to people on the other side of their emotions. The person with BPD is rarely aware that they are splitting because the black-and-white thinking is so unintentional that it’s not even registering in their mind how drastically their mindset is shifting.

Six common signs of BPD splitting include:

  • Making snap judgments — While we all can be a bit quick to judge others sometimes, splitting can cause a person to consistently make snap judgments without much consideration or context about a problem or person.
  • Switching opinions with absolute certainty — Splitting can cause a person to have complete certainty of one perception before switching to the completely opposite point of view.
  • Changing perception about someone — A common sign of splitting is putting a person on a pedestal but then calling them toxic later on, or vice versa. This can result in begging someone to stay in one’s life after pushing them away or trying to cut them off.
  • Needing attention — Splitting related to a mental health disorder often stems from the fear of being abandoned by those closest to an individual. That’s why a sign of splitting is constantly craving attention as well as assurance from friends and family to alleviate the self-doubt.
  • Describing things as absolutes — Splitting is often referred to as “black-and-white” thinking or “all-or-nothing” thinking. Splitting will result in people using absolute terms such as “never,” “always” or “none” to reinforce the complete certainty of their perception.
  • Feeling attacked by differing opinions — By speaking absolutely, splitting will cause a person to feel like there’s no room for debate. So when others share opposing opinions, especially those close to them, they can get very upset, angry and defensive.

Lightfully Behavioral Health can help if you’re showing signs of BPD splitting

Splitting is a common behavior of many mental health disorders, especially borderline personality disorder, and it can be harmful in several ways. Not only does it prevent personal growth and development, but it can also damage relationships. The constant need for assurance, extreme defensiveness, and inability to see a difference in opinion can affect personal, familial and professional relationships. 

But we’re here to help. At Lightfully, you can confront your splitting triggers and learn how to adjust your mindset through a variety of therapies.

We offer four programs at our treatment centers to assist you with your splitting: residential treatment, Virtual Intensive Outpatient Program (vIOP), Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), and Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP), also called our Day Treatment Program. 

Change is possible. When you’re ready to take the first step to help your BPD splitting, reach out to our Admissions Concierge Team. We’ll take the next steps together, toward the fullest, brightest version of yourself.

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