What’s the difference between PTSD and Borderline Personality Disorder?

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From the blog ptsduk.org

Is it BPD or PTSD?

BPD (sometimes called Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder, or EUPD) is a lifelong mood disorder which can affect how someone thinks, feels, perceives, and relates to others.

People with BPD may struggle with a fear of abandonment, impulsive behaviour, intense emotions and relationships, and an unstable self-image.

Although there’s no single cause, research suggests genetics and brain chemistry may make someone more susceptible to the condition.

BPD often stems from prolonged childhood trauma, which can also increase someone’s chance of developing PTSD. PTSD is a psychological response to a traumatic event (which of course might include childhood events).

The symptoms of PTSD can include flashbacks, depression, anxiety, shame, anger and relationship problems.

Can someone have both BPD and PTSD?

It’s thought that between 25% and 60% of people with BPD also have PTSD. This could be because living with a mood disorder can both increase the risk of experiencing a traumatic situation, and make it more likely that experiencing a traumatic event leads to PTSD.

When someone has both conditions, the symptoms tend to be worse than if they had BPD or PTSD alone.

PTSD can increase the likelihood of dissociative, intrusive and suicidal thoughts in people with BPD.

That’s why it’s so important to get the correct diagnosis.

Making a correct diagnosis for BPD or PTSD

BPD can sometimes be mistaken for PTSD or C-PTSD, and vice-versa.

C-PTSD is a subset of PTSD which is associated with long-term or chronic exposure to trauma – much like BPD.

Both can cause emotional distress, mood swings, flashbacks, anxiety and anger.

It’s thought there are some generalised key differences to look out for, but of course, everybody is different:

Although both conditions can lead to problems maintaining personal relationships, people with BPD tend to fear abandonment, whereas people with C-PTSD may avoid intimacy or relationships altogether because of ‘feeling somehow unlovable or undeserving because of the abuse they endured’.

People with BPD are more likely to self-harm, than people with PTSD or C-PTSD.

‘While both those with BPD and C-PTSD struggle with emotional regulation and often experience outbursts of anger or crying, those with C-PTSD may experience emotional numbing, emptiness, or a detachment from emotions.’

Someone with PTSD may be calmed by going to a familiar environment and being reassured that they are safe. This might irritate someone with BPD, who may respond more positively to being told their feelings are valid.

People with PTSD are more likely to be triggered by a specific external trigger and think and behave rationally outside those triggers.

For people with BPD, the triggers tend to be internal thoughts and feelings, which can be less predictable.

Unfortunately, because of the overlap in symptoms, and because some differences appear similar from the outside, some people with C-PTSD end up being misdiagnosed with BPD, or vice-versa.

Sometimes someone will have both conditions, but only one is picked up.”
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Symptoms of Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD)

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Excerpt from PsychCentral

C-PTSD overlaps with PTSD, but it also has some unique symptoms, such as dissociation and negative self-image.


“Symptoms of C-PTSD often include the same types of symptoms seen with PTSD, such as:

* recurrent and intrusive thoughts or dreams

* flashbacks

* mental and physical reactions to reminders of the traumatic event

* avoidance of people, places, things, or events that remind you of the trauma

* memory loss

* negative thoughts toward yourself or the world

* self-blame

* bad moods that stick around

* detachment and disinterest

* difficulty showing positive emotion

* irritability

* recklessness

* hypervigilance, or being on “high alert

* trouble concentrating

* startling easily

* trouble sleeping

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But if you live with C-PTSD, you could have more severe you could have more severe DSO-type symptoms, like:

* a negative view of yourself

* dissociation, or disconnecting from yourself and your emotions

* emotions that feel “out of control”

* relationship difficulties

* loss of your belief system

* difficulty recognizing reality

* Negative view of yourself”

Continued in response
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How Does Social Anxiety Affect the Brain?

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Excerpt from PyschCentral

“Social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia, is a form of anxiety that causes intense fear and embarrassment in social situations.

For example, it’s common to feel slightly nervous when meeting new people or speaking in public. People with social anxiety disorder can experience a paralyzing fear that makes it hard for them to live everyday life.

We now know that social anxiety disorder affects more than just relationships, work, and other daily activities — it also affects the brain.

Researchers have found that critical areas in the brains of socially anxious people function differently. These areas mainly involve processing emotion, danger, and social cues.

What causes social anxiety?


It’s still not clear exactly what causes social anxiety. Research from 2022 suggests that genetic and environmental influences cause social anxiety, such as upbringing and life experiences.

Research has revealed certain areas of the brain that play a role in fear and anxiety, and we know that genetics affects their function. But researchers don’t yet know which specific genes those are.

Children of controlling, overprotective, or intrusive parents are more likely to develop a social anxiety disorder.

Stressful life events such as sexual or emotional abuse also increase the risk of developing the disorder.

The hope is that by studying how the brain is affected by social anxiety, researchers can develop more effective treatments for the disorder.”

Continued in response

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PTSD: trauma over time

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Childhood abuse impacts our life and does the most damage by repeatedly exploding month after month, year after year.

This strengthens the symptoms of PTSD and makes them almost a habit. We adjust our behavior, avoid triggers, while trying to limit the danger we feel.

Then, we start to anticipate danger, it feels like real fear.

It sure secretes our fear drugs (cortisol and adrenaline) numerous times a day.

We navigate life by avoiding triggers and danger subconsciously. It becomes a habit over time.

Hypervigilance becomes a way of keeping safe.

Avoiding calms our hypervigilance for a while but narrows life.

Hypervigilance happens quickly without thought, every time I go out, enter a building, or plan an outing.

I have never been able to stop my hypervigilance from happening but I can ignore the danger as not real at times.
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Things to repeat for us and others

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May you be happy

May you be healthy

May you be safe

May you be at ease
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Inheriting Anxiety

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In a discussion with my daughter about my defense mechanism, she disagreed with me.

I judged my defense mechanism was broken, she said that judgment was erroneous.

My defense mechanism, my hypervigilance was very, very, very sensitive, she said, not broken.

In the right environment, a hyper-sensitive defense mechanism would keep me alive.

If spotting danger was an asset, I would thrive.

How do we navigate normal life with a nervous system like this?

I inherited anxiety.

Childhood abuse made the anxiety much worse.

Fear and intense anxiety are hard to differentiate.

How do you handle an active defense mechanism?
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My PTSD has exploded.

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My PTSD has exploded.

Somehow my body stays full of anxiety without any strong jolts from my fight or flight exploding.

My solar plexus and gut stay tense and agitated.

My mind is bombarded by negative traumatic thoughts.

PTSD dominates thought and emotion, I try to unplug this mechanism.

I fight to stay present.

My body feels paralyzed with abstract fear.

I fight to calm my anxiety, physically by hiking strenuously uphill and spiritually through meditation.
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PTSD: High Anxiety

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My body feels paralyzed from the level of anxiety and unrest in my solar plexus and gut regions.

At this intensity, my mind races, and it is hard to think level-headed.

It is almost overwhelming.

Funny, how we always try to escape intense anxiety.

I find myself pacing, trying to distance myself from anxiety.

Being on edge has always been close to me.

As a kid, my anxiety was so intense I would freeze up, finding it hard to speak.

My dad brutalized me, it made me an anxious mess, and I felt helpless to protect myself.

All this followed me into adulthood.

Hard for joy or happiness to exist inside intense anxiety and fear.

I fight for my security and sanity, happiness seems a pipe dream.
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Secret life of Fear

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From Dysfunctional family and ACA:


“Adult children often live a secret life of fear.

Fear, or sometimes terror, is one of the connecting threads that links the 14 traits together.

Two of the first three traits describe our fear of people.

While many adult children appear cheerful, helpful, or self-sufficient, most live in fear of their parents, and spouses in addition to fearing an employer.

Others are constantly afraid of failing finances, imagined health problems, or world disasters.

They have a sense of impending doom or that nothing seems to work out.

Even the seemingly bold adult child who shows bravado can be covering up a deep sense of feeling unsafe or unlovable.

At the core of these thoughts is usually the fear of being shamed or abandoned.

Shame is the deep sense that our souls are inherently flawed.

Abandonment means more than being left alone or left at a doorstep.”

The Laundry List – 14 Traits from a Dysfunctional Family or an Adult Child of an Alcoholic

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From https://adultchildren.org/literature/laundry-list/

  1. We became isolated and afraid of people and authority figures.
  2. We became approval seekers and lost our identity in the process.
  3. We are frightened by angry people and any personal criticism.
  4. We either become alcoholics, marry them or both, or find another compulsive personality such as a workaholic to fulfill our sick abandonment needs.
  5. We live life from the viewpoint of victims and we are attracted by that weakness in our love and friendship relationships.
  6. We have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility and it is easier for us to be concerned with others rather than ourselves; this enables us not to look too closely at our own faults, etc.
  7. We get guilt feelings when we stand up for ourselves instead of giving in to others.
  8. We became addicted to excitement.
  9. We confuse love and pity and tend to “love” people we can “pity” and “rescue.”
  10. We have “stuffed” our feelings from our traumatic childhoods and have lost the ability to feel or express our feelings because it hurts so much (Denial).
  11. We judge ourselves harshly and have a very low sense of self-esteem.
  12. We are dependent personalities who are terrified of abandonment and will do anything to hold on to a relationship in order not to experience painful abandonment feelings, which we received from living with sick people who were never there emotionally for us.
  13. Alcoholism is a family disease; and we became para-alcoholics and took on the characteristics of that disease even though we did not pick up the drink.
  14. Para-alcoholics are reactors rather than actors.

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