BPD Splitting: Signs, Common Symptoms, and How to Help Your Teen


Borderline personality disorder (BPD) splitting affects how someone responds to certain stimuli. It can affect how you view the world and cause extreme emotional fluctuations. BPD splitting significantly impacts your mental health as it can cause you to feel distressed in many situations, affecting your lifestyle and relationships. This can be a stressful experience, especially for teens and young adults who may be experiencing symptoms for the first time.

What Is BPD Splitting?

BPD splitting is a common symptom for people with a mental illness, particularly borderline personality disorder (BPD). BPD splitting is a subconscious response to stressful or unsettling circumstances. People suffering from it commonly see situations in black and white and often struggle to see alternative perspectives or middle ground; they will also develop extreme feelings in response.

Individuals suffering from BPD and other personality disorders use splitting as a coping strategy. Early childhood traumas, like abuse and abandonment, can be linked to its development.

A person with BPD may become emotionally and physically worn out from viewing and reacting to the world through a lens of optimism or negativity. People close to the person with BPD splitting are increasingly impacted by their behavior, which can cause stress or breaks in their relationships. Splitting is a frequently employed defense mechanism carried out subconsciously to guard against strong negative emotions of isolation, abandonment, and loneliness.

What Causes BPD Splitting

Similar to other mental health conditions, it can be challenging to pinpoint the exact causes of borderline personality disorder splitting. However, splitting behavior can often be linked to early life traumas.

Someone with BPD splitting may find that certain situations, such as an argument, may trigger internal feelings that will be expressed through intense binary emotions. Difficult situations can often be the catalyst for a split. People without BPD splitting may occasionally perceive similar incidents as trivial or insignificant.

Our childhood development is often connected to the root of the cause. As we mature, we develop the ability to theorise about certain situations and understand them. People with BPD splitting tend not to follow ordinary trains of thought. Frequently, they experience intense emotions and find it difficult or overwhelming to accept certain concepts.

Usually, splitting occurs after challenging situations. By compartmentalising ideas, a psychological defense mechanism is established. Inherited traits can also influence the likelihood of developing BPD splitting.

Signs and Symptoms of BPD Splitting

There are a few common signs and symptoms associated with BPD splitting, some of which may be more obvious than others. Splitting in borderline personality disorder is commonly triggered by a situation that will stimulate an emotional response.

Splitting episodes can last from a few hours up to a few months. Episodes will vary depending on the individual and the severity of the condition. Many teens and young adults with BPD splitting will frequently be unable to recognise whether their response is improper or is a result of their condition.

Some of the most commonly experienced signs and symptoms include:

  • Erratic changes in behavior – people with BPD splitting may display impulsive behavior. They may also be inconsistent with their behavior and change their mind continuously. For example, they might say that they will never do a particular thing again, then contradict themselves the next day.
  • Substance abuse – many young people and teens who suffer from splitting may use drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism for their negative, overwhelming emotions.
  • Emotional dysregulation – when someone with the condition splits their perception, they see someone or something as good or terrible, and they are likely to act differently than normal.
  • Devaluation – people with BPD splitting may feel unworthy of affection or repugnant. This irrational thinking could also apply to their thoughts toward other people, things, or circumstances.
  • Idealisation – when someone experiences a split, there will be a significant shift in thinking toward idealisation. A person, place, thing, or circumstance that had previously caused a minor reaction can be showered with unending praise, optimism, and happiness, despite indications of previous problems.
  • Increased self-assurance – someone who has experienced splitting may have an unrealistic level of self-confidence and believe that no matter what they do, they will not fail.

If you know a teenager or young adult displaying some of the signs and symptoms above, it is important to offer support to help them handle some of their challenging emotions.

Managing Triggers of BPD Splitting

Triggers of splitting can vary depending on the individual and circumstances. They may also occur regularly or occasionally. Understanding the triggers can be beneficial for learning how to manage the behavior associated with the condition. Some common triggers include:

  • Unexpected changes
  • Receiving criticism
  • Unfamiliar social settings
  • Seasonal changes
  • Significant events such as anniversaries
  • Unexpected plans
  • Substance use

Triggers can be extremely obvious, or they can appear invisible to someone unaware of them. Similar to substance usage triggers, emotional reactions can be triggered by anything or anyone.

Supporting Someone With BPD Splitting

Living with BPD splitting can be challenging for the individual with the condition and the other people involved. However, there is support available for you and the person in question. Some of the available support includes:

Mental health services – many mental health services, such as medical practices, support groups, or charities, will be able to provide medical advice and support, and coping skills to help you manage the episodes that occur in relation to the condition.

Manage your own emotions and responses – when supporting someone with splitting, it is important to manage your own emotions and ensure that you behave calmly towards challenges and situations. Having a relaxed exterior will help to calm situations that may develop.

Encourage treatment – if your teen is struggling with their symptoms, it is essential to encourage them to seek professional help and treatment. This could be done by reinforcing the message that it is okay to ask for help or discuss possible treatment options.

Remind them that you are there to help – someone with BPD splitting may feel isolated or alone from time to time. Gently reminding them that you are there can make a huge difference and stop them from feeling lonely and isolated.

Set boundaries – Set boundaries with a loved one who has BPD splitting at all times. If that line is ever crossed, remove yourself from the situation and attempt to explain your withdrawal as objectively as possible. Instead of putting the relationship at risk, setting limits helps maintain it.

Contact Us

At The Wave, we understand the complexity of personality disorders. That’s why we offer all our teens and young adults fully personalised treatment programs alongside a range of holistic and alternative therapies. Contact us today to find out more.

Fiona - The Wave Clinic

Fiona Yassin is the founder and clinical director at The Wave Clinic. She is a U.K. and International registered Psychotherapist and Accredited Clinical Supervisor (U.K. and UNCG).

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