Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a recognised mental disorder that impacts all areas of life, including the workplace. If you have been diagnosed with BPD, you might experience frequent interpersonal conflicts, feelings of emptiness, and intense mood swings.
Obviously, these issues can create unwanted situations in the workplace. This article will help you deconstruct the problem and find ways to cope.
Borderline Personality Disorders in the Workplace
Borderline personality disorder, or BPD, is a highly prevalent mental health condition. Like all personality disorders, it features certain pervasive and maladaptive behaviour patterns. As it falls into the ‘Cluster B’ of personality disorders, these patterns show extreme emotional reactivity.
For instance, people with BPD tend to have unpredictable and dramatic responses to things. Therefore, someone with this condition may have various kinds of challenges in the workplace. This article aims to assist readers in understanding BPD, how it can affect the workplace, and what to do about it.
Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorders in the Workplace
In this section, we’ll take a look at some of the main symptoms of borderline personality disorder in the workplace. Clinically, an individual must show five or more of the following diagnostic criteria set by the DSM 5 .
Fear of Abandonment
Typically, someone with borderline personality disorder struggles a lot with a chronic fear of being abandoned or left out.
At the workplace, this comes up as an excessive need to be included in all spaces, even when inappropriate. An individual with BPD may take offence or show intense emotional reactions even if the perceived abandonment isn’t real.
Recurring Interpersonal Issues
Secondly, individuals with BPD have a tendency to shift between extremes in their attitude towards others. For instance, they either put people on a pedestal or they think the worst of them.
Naturally, this black-or-white thinking doesn’t apply in the real world and may lead to clashes or conflicts. Consequently, they may have recurring interpersonal issues with other colleagues.
Another characteristic symptom of borderline personality disorder is identity disturbance. Basically, this means that the individual keeps experiencing inconsistencies in their beliefs, values, and behaviours.
Understandably, this can be quite painful and shame-inducing for a person. At the workplace, the individual may have difficulty committing to jobs and goals.
People with BPD are known to have impulsive streaks that can involve careless spending, risky decisions, and self-sabotage. Sadly, this can also include substance abuse and addiction. Expectedly, this can cause absenteeism or unreliable behaviour in the office.
Intense Mood Swings
Usually, individuals struggling with borderline personality disorder experience frequent mood swings. These are triggered and perpetuated by the pervasive patterns of the above-mentioned symptoms.
At times, this can also cause self-harming behaviour and suicidal tendencies. Obviously, this can impact a person’s ability to work.
An unfortunate side to such mood swings is difficulty in controlling anger. Generally, this can manifest as inappropriate or intense anger, frequent or constant anger, and even physical altercations. None of this is acceptable in a professional space.
Inability to Handle Stress
Another symptom of borderline personality disorder that critically impacts the workplace is the inability to handle stress. Customarily, the stress can lead to paranoid thoughts and even dissociative symptoms.
Effects of Borderline Personality Disorders in the Workplace
Let’s take a glance at how the symptoms of borderline personality disorder affect the workplace.
Commonly, people with BPD end up being controlling regardless of whether the individual is an employer or employee. It’s because they function from a place of insecurity caused by their disturbed identity and inability to handle emotions.
If something in the situation triggers this insecurity, the person attempts to exert control over the workplace. As a result, employees may start seeming too rigid and employers authoritarian.
Failure at Teamwork
As anticipated, these tendencies make it very hard to foster teamwork. Any kind of collaboration requires mutual respect and open communication. Alas, these qualities are hard to sustain when a person with struggling with borderline personality disorder.
For example, the individual may be good at heart and passionate about the work. However, because of interpersonal issues, low self-esteem, difficulty handling emotions, and stress-related paranoia, they are unable to follow through .
Inability to Take Feedback
Giving and receiving feedback is a crucial element of a healthy workplace. But, if you have BPD, even constructive criticism may trigger feelings of abandonment, identity confusion, mood swings, and impulsivity.
Hence, your colleagues might start walking on eggshells around you, afraid to spark a downward spiral. This can cause career stagnation or further feelings of alienation.
Lack of Stability
All these mental health issues can cause a person to miss out on the experience of stability. Living with BPD is popularly believed to cause non-stop “drama”, which impacts a person’s work severely.
Since there are recurring conflicts, triggers, emotional reactions, impulsive decisions, and volatility, a person cannot sustain progress and stability .
Tips to Deal with People with Borderline Personality Disorder in the Workplace
Now that we have covered the issues caused by BPD in the workplace, let’s talk about some useful tips for employees and employers.
Clear Protocols & SOPs
Firstly, it is important to establish clear protocols and standard operating procedures (SOPs) at work to counter these negative effects. When there are step-by-step instructions to follow, the boundaries become visible and easier to uphold.
This can prevent interpersonal conflicts from exacerbating and offer concise solutions for resolution. Moreover, communicating these regulations openly and honestly will also help implement the protocols with BPD-inflicted individuals.
Culture of Mental Health Care & Support
Surprisingly, people with borderline personality disorder thrive if provided with a safe space that accommodates their mental health needs. A workplace culture that understands the emotional and psychological context of their issues can avoid unhelpful shaming and stigmatisation.
Additionally, such a culture can benefit all staff members and promote collective well-being. Organisations can achieve synergy when the work culture supports mental health.
Sensitivity Training for Colleagues
Another effective strategy to mitigate the negative impact of borderline personality disorder in the workplace is to psychoeducate . Colleagues need to be sensitised and trained to navigate recurring challenges with afflicted individuals.
As a result, there will be fewer misunderstandings, and people may take roadblocks to tasks less personally. It will also help employees to offer each other more empathy and compassion.
Encourage Professional Help
Lastly, it is imperative to understand that one shouldn’t try managing the effect of BPD in the workplace without professional intervention. This is a clinical disorder with long-term implications and requires expert guidance.
Apart from encouraging the afflicted individual for therapy, such services should be made accessible to the whole team.
Treatment of Borderline Personality Disorders in the Workplace
Finally, let’s discuss some of the most practised, evidence-based treatment strategies for borderline personality disorder. Sharing information about this is vital to show that these problems are not permanent and can be overcome with consistent efforts.
Dialectic Behaviour Therapy
Mostly, mental health professionals suggest dialectical behaviour therapy  for borderline personality disorder. It is a specific type of cognitive behavioural therapy, which is designed to help a person think differently.
Essentially, this therapy is adapted to the unique requirements of someone with BPD. Some of the areas it helps with include reducing impulsivity, emotion regulation, and interpersonal problems.
A new wave in mental health acknowledges that borderline personality disorder could actually be misdiagnosed complex PTSD . Primarily, this means that the different maladaptive patterns of behaviour associated with BPD are actually stemming from childhood trauma.
Trauma-informed therapy is a specific kind of individual psychotherapy that addresses issues related to attachment and chronic stress. It takes a body-based approach and can achieve life-changing improvements.
Expressive Arts Therapy
Other popular treatment approaches used by professionals for borderline personality disorder include art therapy, dance/movement therapy, puppet therapy, and psychodrama. These techniques are great for the workplace as they can also be enjoyed and done in a group setting.
Psychiatrists also prescribe different kinds of medication for dealing with specific symptoms of borderline personality disorder, such as impulsivity, mood alterations, and suicidality. In general, an eclectic approach that combines all these different modalities achieves the best results in treatment.
Borderline personality disorder is a clinical mental health condition with long-lasting effects in all areas of a person’s life. Clearly, this includes the professional front as well. Symptoms of BPD not only impact the person’s ability to perform at work but also the dynamics of the workplace.
Some of the problems that occur in the workplace due to BPD include controlling behaviour, failure at teamwork, inability to take feedback, and lack of stability. Fortunately, there are several tips one can take to mitigate these effects in the office. Further, there are multiple approaches to treatment that are research-backed and effective.
Our experts at United We Care offer excellent guidance on these issues and can support you in your healing journey.
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