Identity disturbance is a phrase used to describe a loss of your sense of self. It is a key characteristic of borderline personality disorder (BPD) and can be a troubling symptom for those experiencing it. However, finding treatment for your BPD can help you to build a strong sense of identity and help you to overcome the painful nature of identity disturbance.
What Is an Identity Disturbance?
Your beliefs, values, feelings, and behaviors all make pieces of your identity. Therefore, identity disturbances are characterized by dramatic shifts in these behaviors and rapidly changing beliefs. Common symptoms of identity disturbances include:
- No concrete sense of self,
- A self-image that changes often, or
- A lack of identity altogether.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) lists identity disturbance as one of the nine diagnostic criteria for BPD. It describes it as having the following characteristics:
- Shifting goals
- Sudden changes in opinion
- Frequent career shifts
- Fluctuating sexual identity
- Regularly adopting new friend groups
Incidentally, identity disturbances can occur outside of BPD as well. In fact, it is seen in about half of other personality disorders. However, treatment for identity disorders can help. In reality, seeking professional therapy can help those suffering from an identity disorder to build back a stronger sense of self. In addition, treatment can improve the emotional functioning of the person receiving care.
BPD and Identity Issues
If you have BPD, identity issues can disrupt several aspects of your life. For example, constantly switching your career goals can result in never settling into a job and developing a routine. In addition, changes in your values can make it difficult to keep long-term relationships.
Of course, this may also happen in reverse: not being able to build long-term relationships or daily routines may disrupt your sense of self. In this way, your self-image becomes unstable because of constantly changing circumstances and friend groups, and never developing a sense of self.
Whichever comes first, people experiencing an identity disturbance often feel empty inside. Therefore, they try to fit in with diverse crowds, acting as a chameleon, but feel no continuity in their moods and behaviors over time. This can ultimately confirm the lack of identity or sense of self.
Other Signs of BPD
Identity disturbance may be the first sign of BPD you notice, but there are several other signs as well. People with BPD will typically show signs of:
- Fear of abandonment
- Intense relationships that are short-lived
- Lack of identity
- Feelings of emptiness
- Impulsive behaviors, such as substance use or driving recklessly
- Rapid emotional swings
These symptoms can make it difficult for people with BPD to have long-lasting connections with others and can make you feel like you’re on a rollercoaster. But there is hope – treatment from mental health professionals can help you to manage your mood swings, reduce impulsive behavior, and find your core sense of self again.
How Common is Borderline Personality Disorder?
BPD is relatively uncommon, with 1.6% of the population having this mental illness. However, the impact can be devastating. Although only a small part of the population has this disorder, the rate among people in inpatient psychiatric care is one in five. Fortunately, treatment does help, and seeking treatment as soon as possible is the best course for achieving recovery.
Borderline Personality Disorder Risk Factors
The largest of the borderline personality disorder risk factors is genetics. Having a family member with BPD makes it much more likely that you may be experiencing this personality disorder as well, though it is by no means a guarantee.
Certain environmental factors have also been associated with BPD. For example, fear of abandonment–one of the key diagnostic criteria of BPD–can be brought on by early childhood experiences, such as:
- The loss of a parent through divorce or death
- Physical or sexual abuse
- Parental neglect
People with BPD report these events at much higher rates than the general population, which may lead to their impulsive behaviors, emotional instability, and trouble forming long-term relationships.
How to Treat Borderline Personality Disorder
Recent years have seen great advancements in the treatment of BPD. For instance, dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) specifically treats borderline personality disorder, and decades of research have proven it to be successful.
DBT focuses on practical skill-building, emotional regulation, and acceptance. By helping clients to achieve stability in their emotions and their life, they can build a concrete sense of identity and rid themselves of the feelings of emptiness. In addition, DBT places a heavy emphasis on mindfulness, or conscious attention and awareness. In this way, people are taught to experience the world nonjudgmentally and accept things as they are. This can be an extremely helpful skill for managing distressing situations or intense emotional reactions.
Mental Health Help at Baton Rouge Behavioral Hospital
The effects of BPD can be devastating, but treatment from mental health professionals can help. If you’re ready to learn more about effective treatment for your BPD, reach out to Baton Rouge Behavioral Hospital by calling 225-300-8470 or filling out our online form. With Baton Rouge Behavioral Hospital, you don’t have to go through this alone. Our compassionate and experienced team can help you to overcome the symptoms of BPD and regain control of your life.