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The 19 Schemas of Borderline Personality Disorder

Updated: Oct 17, 2022

Since Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a mental illness that operates on a spectrum, there are a variety of schemas that can cause harm. Schemas are maladaptive coping mechanisms that someone learned to survive during their childhood. Examples of BPD schemas are abandonment, emotional deprivation, social isolation, and self-sacrifice.

BPD schemas can develop as a result of an unhealthy upbringing. Not everyone with BPD suffers from all of the listed schemas in this article. It is possible to suffer from one or more schemas, and it differs in severity from person to person.

BPD schemas

Schemas are mental concepts to organize someone's knowledge and regulate their cognitive processes and behavior. The brain utilizes schemas as a shortcut to help us handle similar occurrences in the future. For example, if we had negative experiences expressing our emotions as children, we may believe that sharing our emotions is a bad thing. Most schemas are maladaptive and harmful. Throughout one's life, schemas can be changed and redeveloped.

1. Abandonment The idea that you can't rely on other people when you need them. The belief is that others are unable to provide lasting emotional support and protection because they themselves are emotionally unstable and unpredictable or because they will eventually die or leave you for someone else.

2. Mistrust The belief that other people will hurt you, humiliate you, manipulate you, or cheat on you. As if you are usually given the shortest end of the stick by others.

3. Emotional deprivation The feeling that support and guidance are absent and that your need for emotional support is not adequately met by others. The lack of attention, warmth, friendship, understanding, a listening ear, or the lack of availability to share feelings with others.

4. Defect/shame The feeling that you are defective, bad, unloved, unwanted. Or the feeling that you are not accepted by significant others when you expose yourself. It may be accompanied by a sensitivity to criticism and rejection. The awareness of oneself in the company of others and then feeling insecure.

5. Social isolation/alienation The feeling of being isolated from the rest of the world. The belief that you are different from others and not part of a group.

6. Socially untalented/undesirable The feeling of not being found attractive and not interesting. The idea of ​​being less socially skilled and competent than others.

7. Dependence/incompetence The belief is that you are unable to deal with everyday responsibilities without the help of others. You often feel helpless.

8. Vulnerability to pain and disease An extreme fear that catastrophe is inevitable and that you will not be able to avert the danger. The fear focuses on illnesses, the feeling of going crazy, earthquakes, elevators collapsing, planes crashing, and being the victim of a robbery.

9. Not developed self A very emphatic emotional involvement and closeness with one or more significant others (often parents). This is at the expense of being able to function as an individual. It is accompanied by the feeling that at least 1 person with whom the involvement exists cannot be happy or survive without the constant support of the significant other. It can also go together with feelings of not being able to be yourself enough, feelings of being alive, and not knowing where to go.

10. Failure The idea of ​​being less good than peers in school, work, sports, etc. The belief that you are a failure or will eventually fail. It is often accompanied by a feeling of being stupid, not talented, lower in social status, and less successful than others.

11. Grandiosity The idea is that you are worth more than others, have more rights and privileges than others, or are not bound by rules of involvement with others. The belief is that you can do everything you want, regardless of whether it is realistic or at the expense of others.

12. Insufficient self-control/self-discipline Constantly struggling or refusing to control one's goals. Wanting to achieve their goals quickly and get annoyed when it takes time. It can go hand in hand with avoidance of pain, confrontation, and responsibility at the expense of meeting personal needs.

13. Submission Constantly relinquishing control to others to avoid anger, punishment, or abandonment by the other person. It manifests itself, among other things, in the suppression of one's own wishes, decisions, and emotions. Ultimately, it builds up the idea that your own wishes or opinions are unimportant.

14. Self-sacrifice Constantly monitoring and fulfilling the needs of others at the expense of oneself. This is to prevent other people from experiencing pain and to avoid being found self-centered.

15. Approval search/Recognition search The emphasis is on seeking approval, recognition, and attention from others at the expense of developing a solid personality. Your sense of self is dependent on the reactions of others. Sometimes there is an emphasis on status as a way to gain appreciation, admiration, and attention. This goes hand in hand with hypersensitivity to rejection.

16. Negativity/pessimism A lifelong focus on the negative aspects of life (pain, death, loss, disappointment, conflict, guilt, things that can go wrong, and betrayal). Positive/optimistic aspects are neglected or ignored. The belief that everything will eventually go wrong. There is a fear of making mistakes. These people worry a lot, feel vulnerable, complain a lot, and are indecisive.

17. Emotional inhibition Not daring to be spontaneous and to speak or behave spontaneously. The individual deals with the fear of rejection, feelings of shame, and fears of losing control over their behavior and feelings. They have control over their anger and aggression. These people have difficulty expressing vulnerability, and there is a lot of rationality.

18. High demands You set high standards for what you do, usually to avoid criticism. There is a constant feeling of pressure, and it is difficult to slow down. You are very critical of yourself and others. The emphasis is on perfectionism, fixed rules, and time efficiency so that more can be accomplished.

19. Strictness/punitive The belief is that people should be punished for the mistakes they make. It is associated with a tendency to be angry. Punishing yourself and others when expectations or demands are not met. Difficulty forgiving people who make mistakes.

For those interested in knowing more about me, the schemas I've struggled with the most are abandonment, social isolation/alienation, dependence/incompetence, approval search/recognition search, and emotional inhibition.

BPD Schema therapy

Schema therapy can help with these maladaptive coping mechanisms. In most cases, only the three schemas that bother the individual the most are treated. When this is treated, the additional schemas are likely to play a smaller role. In the near future, an article with more information about schema therapy will be published on this Blog.


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