A potent symptom of BPD is a poor sense of self. Plenty of people without BPD struggle with identity issues, too. But people with BPD often have a very profound lack of sense of self. If you struggle with the feeling that you have no idea who you are or what you believe in, this may be a symptom you can relate to.
One of the symptoms of BPD listed in the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” (DSM), the standard for diagnosing mental conditions, is identity disturbance, or a markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self.
When some people think of BPD, they recognize chronic suicidality, self harm and a long history of suicide attempts. However, I believe at its core- the client has a very poor sense of self which is manifested in several different types of behavior (the ones that give BPD such a bad name: cutting, substance abuse, manipulation, poor boundaries). Those suffering from BPD partake in unhelpful behaviors because they don’t know who they are and have not been shown/taught how to be themselves and feel comfortable in their own skin.
In addition, many people with BPD come from chaotic or abusive backgrounds, which may contribute to an unstable sense of self. If you determine who you are based on others’ reactions to you, and those reactions have been unpredictable and/or scary, you have no framework for developing a strong sense of identity.
Despite all of this, there is hope! Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is an evidenced based practice that can effectively treat those with Borderline Personality Disorder as well as other disorders including anxiety and depression.