Pathological personality traits in negative affectivity – Depressivity: Frequent feelings of being down, miserable, and/or hopeless; (DSM 5)

In one study about 96% of patients with BPD met criteria for a mood disorder, and about 83% also met criteria for the major depressive disorder. Peoples with major depression disorder typically have feelings of sadness or guilt whereas depression in people with BPD seems to be associated with feelings of anger, deep shame, loneliness, and emptiness and is often triggered by interpersonal issues. Research has shown the best way to treat BPD patients with depression is to focus on the BPD symptoms and the depression symptoms will be addressed as well.
This trait from the DSM 5 sounds hopeless doesn’t it? Literally. However at this point it is just a trait and not an impairment. I think it is safe to say that most of us have difficulty with mood swings and when we feel down we usually feel the situation is hopeless. Some of us have learned to control this trait and have learned to take steps to get us out of this mood before it becomes a disorder. I think the terms being down, miserable and hopeless need some further explanation.
Being down is defined as “being in a weaker or worse position, mood, or condition.” Interestingly the dictionary also includes “express strong dislike of a specified person or thing”,
as in “Down with …”. First of all, let me say that in the case of those of us with BPD, the down with phrase usually is referring to ourselves. We are so ready to devalue everything we say and do and blame ourselves for everything that goes wrong. The second part is also telling. We definitely feel inferior so we assume that we are in a weaker position so that we often overreact within a discussion or conflict.

Miserable is an entirely different kettle of fish. It refers to being extremely unhappy or uncomfortable. It is usually situation based. We often blame others for making us feel uncomfortable. We often feel small or inadequate and cave in at the first sign of doubt. Hopeless is closely related to being miserable. It is a feeling that causes a sense of despair about something. We feel inadequate and incompetent in meeting expectation put on us by others leading to feeling of shame or anger. When the anger subsides, the shame increases and hopelessness sets in. So what can we do about it?

My Five Suggestions for borderliners

1. First of all acknowledge that you have this borderline personality trait. You accept it for what it is. It is a predisposition to feelings of being down, being miserable, and hopelessness. It is probably part of your genetic predisposition coupled with early childhood experiences. By the time you became an adult, it is a mind states or schema that is firmly entrenched in your brain. You are not to blame here anymore that a three year old is not to blame for feeling unloved and hopeless. You give yourself permission to have these feelings.

2. You also realize that you are no longer that child. You are an adult in complete control of your emotions and feelings. Your brain, by nature, has a lot of neuroplasticity. You can change your brain patterns by changing your thinking patterns.

3. Do a daily self-analysis. Every time you feel down, miserable, or hopeless, write it down and look at the situation that brought about these feelings. Then use your active imagination to go back into that situation and handle it by being in charge emotionally and resolve it with the positive approach and outcome. Then, if possible, go back to the source of the conflict and do it right this time.

4. Practice seeing the good as well as the bad. Look at all the times you handled situation beautifully. Give yourself some credit for the coping skills you have developed to this point. You will probably see that when you probably handle most conflict situation like a pro.

5. Chart your progress and celebrate your successes. As time goes by you will find that you are getting better at dealing with your feelings. Be patient with yourself. It probably took twenty plus years to develop these patterns so give yourself the right to make mistakes and slip back into old patterns from time to time. Reassess; make amends; and keep on going.