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Dissociation and Borderline Personality Disorder.

Dissociation is an unexpected partial or complete disruption of the normal integration of a person’s conscious or psychological functioning that cannot be easily explained by the person. Dissociation is a mental process that severs a connection to a person's thoughts, memories, feelings, actions, or sense of identity. Dissociation is a response to trauma, and allows the mind to distance itself from experiences that are too much for the psyche to process at that time. Dissociative disruptions can affect any aspect of a person’s functioning.

Since dissociations are normally unanticipated, they are typically experienced by others as startling, autonomous intrusions into the person's usual ways of responding or functioning. Due to their unexpected and largely inexplicable nature, they tend to be quite unsettling. Dissociation is often a coping mechanism for survivors of trauma. Depersonalization disorder is sometimes triggered by trauma, but may be preceded by only stress, a bad drug experience, or no identifiable stress at all.

Dissociation can be associated with borderline personality disorder: disturbances in and uncertainty about self-image, aims, and internal preferences (including sexual); liability to become involved in intense and unstable relationships, often leading to emotional crisis; excessive efforts to avoid abandonment; recurrent threats or acts of self-harm; and chronic feelings of emptiness.

Numerous studies have shown a strong correlation between child abuse, especially child sexual abuse, and development of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Many individuals with BPD report having had a history of abuse, neglect, or separation as young children. Patients with BPD have been found to be significantly more likely to report having been verbally, emotionally, physically, and sexually abused by caregivers. They were also much more likely to report having caregivers (of both genders) deny the validity of their thoughts and feelings. They were also reported to have failed to provide needed protection, and neglected their child's physical care. Parents (of both sexes) were typically reported to have withdrawn from the child emotionally, and to have treated the child inconsistently.It has been suggested that children who experience chronic early maltreatment and attachment difficulties may go on to develop borderline personality disorder.

Psychological "Splitting"

If a person fails to accomplish this developmental task, borderline pathology can develop. The borderline personality is not able to integrate the good and bad images of both self and others. People who suffer from borderline personality disorder have a ‘bad representation’ which dominates the ‘good representation of themselves. This makes them experience love and sexuality in perverse and violent qualities which they cannot integrate with the tender, intimate side of relationships. These people can suffer from intense fusion anxieties in intimate relationships, because the boundaries between self and other are not firm.

A tender moment between self and other could mean the disappearance of the self into the other. This triggers intense anxiety. To overcome the anxiety, the other is made into a very bad person; this can be done, because the other is made responsible for this anxiety. However, if the other is viewed as a bad person, the self must be bad as well. Viewing the self as all bad cannot be endured, so the switch is made to the other side: the self is good, which means the other must be good too. If the other is all good and the self is all good, where does the self begin and end? Intense anxiety is the result and so the cycle repeats itself.

Splitting creates instability in relationships, because one person can be viewed as either all good or all bad at different times, depending on whether he or she gratifies needs or frustrates them. This, and similar oscillations in the experience of the self, lead to chaotic and unstable relationship patterns, identity diffusion and mood swings. Consequently, the therapeutic process can be greatly impeded by these oscillations, because the therapist too can become victim of splitting.

Originally posted on patty.vox.com