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Hypocrisy in Borderline Personality Disorder

Social relationships can be difficult to maintain when one individual involved does not have the same moral values or virtues as other members of the group. For individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder, maintaining social relationships is extremely difficult for this reason. Individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder often do not understand or recognize the importance of social norms or rules which exist. One important rule for social relationships is that all parties involved should be true to themselves and their beliefs. However, for individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder, hypocrisy creates a catalyst for maintaining social relationships.

Hypocrisy Defined

The word hypocrisy is defined as an act of pretending to be something that you are not. Many times, individuals refer to others as being a hypocrite because they are acting in a way they claim they do not or engaging in behavior which defies the beliefs or values that they claim to have. Hypocrisy is an act that leads to distrust between individuals as the hypocrite can never fully convince others that he or she is true to their word.

Hypocrite Behaviors in BPD

Self-Image and Mirroring

Individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder is a mental illness in which the individual struggles with establishing empathy, strenuous relationships, and identity issues. Many individuals with Borderline Personality Disorders engage in mirroring behavior in which the individual with BPD takes the ideas, preferences, beliefs, and values of another person and adopts them as their own. For the individual with BPD, this form of behavior is an attempt to become desirable to their target as they appear to share the same interests.

However, this mirroring behavior contributes to the difficulty for individuals with BPD to establish their true self. In some cases, the individual with BPD may have difficulty fully establishing the full adoption of such behaviors. For example, the individual with BPD may find someone they admire who is deeply involved with non-profit organizations and charities. However, the BPD individual may only research on the surface and thus not truly understand some of the more complex processes of these organizations. It would be in this type of scenario which the individual with BPD would be exposed and possibly accused as engaging in hypocrisy.

A difficulty with Establishing Empathy

Another area in which individuals with BPD struggle with being viewed as a hypocrite is in their difficulty in establishing empathy with others. For many social situations, the expression of empathy helps to create a sense of unity and bonding between individuals. However, individuals with BPD struggle with understanding how to convey empathy or what situations deem empathetic expressions to others.

Many times, this stems from the disconnection they feel in their own emotional expressions. For example, some individuals with BPD may not recognize grief from a loss in others and make inappropriate comments or jokes, because they do not recognize that there are underlying emotions present. When the individual with BPD is unable to establish or express empathy to others, it presents the image that the individual is not being true to their established statements of friendship and concern for others. In these cases, this can lead others to believe that the individual with BPD is a hypocrite.

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Splitting

One common cause for individuals around those with BPD to believe they have hypocritic behaviors or patterns derives from the symptom commonly labeled as ‘splitting’. Individuals with BPD use splitting as a coping or defense mechanism to help them establish a level of understanding and separation in areas of life that may not be easy to cope with. When splitting occurs, the individual with BPD takes a black and white view of the world around them. They see things, and most people, in such a way as there can be no good with bad and no bad with the good.

This ideology contributes to their inability to be empathetic when someone they have labeled as good makes a mistake which demonstrates negative or bad consequences, such as being locked up in jail. For the individual with BPD, there is no reasoning that someone who is good should do something bad. This behavior also contributes to the experiences of ideation and devaluation. The love/hate relationship often experienced by those around individuals with BPD can lead to feelings of indecisiveness or a lack of truthful expression from the individual with BPD. Splitting can cause the BPD sufferer to experience an extreme fondness for someone then turn to hate because of the slightest infractions in their behavior.

Internal Struggles with Hypocrisy

Self-Doubt

For the individual with Borderline Personality Disorder, the accusations from others can lead to self-doubt or the belief that they are not able to be a true person. They may begin to question their own actions and motivations and believe that they are truly a hypocrite because it is in their nature to change and adapt to situations to become desirable to others.

A common struggle for individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder is the changing levels of interest. Many individuals with BPD express intense feelings for a topic or hobby in the beginning but then lose interest in pursuing it after a brief period. This adds to the internalization of the fear of hypocrisy. Given that individuals with BPD also struggle with a low self-image, this ever-changing level of interest combined with the inability to complete goals as a direct result further their self-image issues. Many individuals with BPD express a difficulty establishing their own true identity, which contributes to the presentation of hypocrisy for those around them.

Both the internal and external struggles with hypocrisy for individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder present unique challenges for the individual and those that surround him or her in social circles. For these social experiences, it is essential for the individual with BPD to keep in mind that their behaviors can seem erratic, indecisive, and dishonest to others who do not experience these types of symptoms. Taking positive steps, such as seeking treatment options like medication and therapy, can help to reduce these symptoms and create the platform for a healthier social life.

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Angela Sartain, PhD Psychology
Angela Sartain, PhD Psychology

Angela is currently finishing up her doctoral degree program in General Psychology. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family, reading, and crafting crochet dolls for her small business.

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