Because borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a mental illness that affects emotional regulation, people tend to focus on the mental and emotional symptoms people experience.
But people with BPD can also experience physical symptoms we need to talk about.
Dr. April Foreman, a psychologist who specializes in BPD, told The Mighty most people with BPD also live with co-occurring mental illnesses like depression and anxiety (which may come with their own physical symptoms as well). Some studies estimate that 96 percent of people with BPD have a co-occurring mood disorder, and about 88 percent have an anxiety disorder specifically.
When you live with BPD, heightened emotional extremes can take a toll on the body. That’s why we asked our Mighty BPD community to share some surprising physical symptoms they experience. Read what they shared below.
Here are the surprising physical symptoms:
1. Sensory Block During Dissociation
Dissociation is one of the nine classic symptoms of BPD, but what we don’t always talk about is how detachment from reality can affect your senses. According to WebMD, in periods of dissociation, perception may be distorted and memory loss can occur.
“Staring into space and temporarily having hearing blockage during severe dissociation. It’s like I’ve left the room in spirit but my body is just left [frozen] and staring at the wall. It’s quite freaky and takes a long time to snap out of it. Especially if I’m on my own.” — Pheobe A.
“When I dissociate, I get tunnel vision, my ears start ringing, I start sweating profusely, my pulse rises and my face burns.” — Kayla F.
2. Developing Rashes or Worsening of Skin Conditions Like Eczema
In times of intense stress, the body increases the production of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. According to The National Eczema Organization, when the body over-produces cortisol, it can suppress the immune system and cause an inflammatory skin response like eczema or other kinds of rash.
“I developed mild dyshidrotic eczema on my palms and fingers from being so stressed all of the time, mainly from dealing with my BPD symptoms. When I’m more stressed than usual, my hands itch and sting even more. And they sweat like there’s no tomorrow. “ — Holly B.
“I get random hives. More prominent is when I’m having an episode or getting stressed.” — Kady L.
3. Sensory Overload
Sensory overload is a symptom many folks with PTSD can experience. Though PTSD and BPD are different conditions, one study found that 53 percent of people who met the criteria for BPD also met the criteria for lifetime PTSD. Because of this, it makes sense that many folks with BPD experience this physical symptom.
“Being overwhelmed sensory-wise and certain noises/lights hurting me physically.” — Robyn J.