It’s easy for teens with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) to have virtually no sexual, emotional, physical, or psychological boundaries. Especially if an adolescent has experienced sexual or physical abuse, the ability to establish firm healthy boundaries in relationships can feel completely foreign.
A teen with Bipolar Personality Disorder will typically have a swing of moods between mania and depression. Euphoria, elation, racing thoughts, irritability, and substance use are common symptoms of mania. Some teenagers will also engage in other forms of self-harm, such as cutting or risky behavior as a way to take away their emotional pain and accelerate the highs. When feeling low or depressed, the symptoms of depression to look for are decreased energy, insomnia, fatigue, agitation, and suicidal thoughts. And it is very common for teens with BPD to have poor or no boundaries.
Personality Disorders are those mental illnesses that include deep-seated and long-lasting character traits that cause distress or lead to harm of oneself or another. They are those that might impair a teen’s functioning in school, at home, or within relationships. Adolescents with Borderline Personality Disorder tend to display the following patterns:
- Avoiding real or imagined abandonment resulting from a belief in unworthiness or self-rejection
- Having relationships that are unstable with significant idealization or devaluing
- An inability to maintain a stable sense of self, with tendencies of self-loathing, self-hatred, and an inability to be who they are among friends.
- Dangerous and impulsive behavior, such as drug use, frequent experiences of unsafe sex, or running away from home
- Self-harming behavior, such as cutting
- Mood swings from depressive symptoms to those of mania.
- Chronically feeling empty, lonely, or bored and often compensated by impulsivity and dangerous behavior
- Inability to regulate feelings of anger
- Signs of dissociation with reality
However, it should be noted that teens who are not diagnosed with BPD might also have an absence of boundaries. Yet, because Borderline Personality Disorder is often accompanied with trauma, powerlessness, and dysfunctional relationships, the absence of boundaries is common for them.
Essentially, co-dependent relationships will commonly include blurry or nonexistent lines between the two involved in that relationship. Typically unhealthy boundaries occur when each person puts the needs of other first. When each person disregards him or herself and feel like they do not have any rights. Furthermore, because relationship patterns are often passed down from one generation to the next, teens with poor boundaries never learned how to have healthy boundaries in the first place.
In dysfunctional relationships, establishing healthy boundaries will at first feel very difficult. It might feel like you are pushing the other person away. Yet, it is important for the emotional and psychological health of both parties to have clear lines between them. Healthy boundaries have the following characteristics:
- Present and clear
- Appropriate versus controlling or manipulative
- Firm but flexible, not rigid
- Protective, not hurtful or harmful
- Receptive, not invasive or domineering
- Not set by anyone else but yourself.
The following are types of boundaries that a BPD teen might want to know about and apply the above healthy boundary characteristics:
- Material Boundaries: Determining whether or not to lend personal belongings such as money, car, clothes, books, or food to others.
- Physical Boundaries: Deciding how much personal space and privacy you need.
- Mental Boundaries: Recognizing how easily vulnerable you are to suggestions of others or if you easily inwardly react to the words and behaviors of others.
- Emotional Boundaries: Being able to distinguish your emotions and responsibilities from those of others. Healthy boundaries prevent you from giving advice, blaming, or accepting blame. They can help establish an imaginary line that keeps you from feeling guilty about events that are not yours to be responsible for.
- Sexual Boundaries: Being able to protect your sexual intimacy with another and know your particular comfort level.
- Spiritual Boundaries: Knowing what your own beliefs and ideas about God or a higher power and not being easily swayed by the beliefs of others.
Boundaries can be set within any aspect of life and can establish limitation upon how much a teen is willing to let another person in. Learning how to set these limitations during adolescence can create relationships that are long lasting, healthy, and fulfilling.