Having a Career With Borderline Personality Disorder

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If you have been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD), it's common to be frightened and worried about how this disorder may impact your life, especially in terms of your career. While BPD symptoms can make things more complicated, many people with BPD go on to have very successful careers. 

BPD and Job Performance

It is quite possible to have BPD and career success. In fact, some maintain strong careers even when they are struggling in other areas of their lives. On the other hand, some people with BPD have lots of trouble in their careers and are either unemployed, underemployed or very unhappy in their jobs. There is no one path for someone with BPD and is very much dependent on the individual situation.

BPD can affect your career in a few different ways. First, you may suffer from identity problems, which can make it hard to settle on one career path. You may feel unclear about who you are and what your passions are. This can cause you to jump from job to job without ever committing to one career and building success in that area. This can put you behind in terms of job growth since you may miss out on promotions or opportunities linked to seniority.

In addition, you may engage in a lot of dichotomous thinking, or "all or nothing" thinking. This means you start what you think is a dream job and think it's perfect. You may idealize it until something happens, like a poor performance review or a mistake. Then you can feel completely let down and demoralized, causing you to quit because it no longer seems like a dream job. This can cause people with BPD to engage in even more "job hopping."

Symptoms of BPD can also interfere with concentration, which can lead to poor work performance. For example, if you dissociate a lot, you may have trouble focusing on tasks which can harm your productivity.

Finally, most careers include some element of interpersonal interaction. You may have trouble at work if you have difficulty maintaining stable relationships. For example, people with BPD are sometimes fired from their jobs because they don't get along well with colleagues, have trouble maintaining appropriate boundaries or generate a lot of conflict in the workplace.

Building a Strong Career

These are all things to keep in mind as you choose a career. It may be that you experience problems in all of these areas, or just one or two. Think about how these symptoms might impact your ability to function daily in the career you choose. For example, if you have problems with significant stress, choosing a career in a very fast-paced or high-stress industry may be ill-advised. A quiet, calm or more soothing environment may be better for you.

At the same time, don't let your BPD diagnosis completely govern or limit your job choices. There are people with BPD who have been successful in every possible profession. Keep your symptoms in mind as you evaluate your strengths and weaknesses, but also, keep in mind that you are a person separate from your diagnosis.

If you're worried about how your symptoms will impact your career, speak with your therapist. He or she may be able to give you some useful strategies to manage your symptoms and suggestions for potential career paths that match your talents.

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Article Sources

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  1. National Institute of Mental Health. Borderline personality disorder. Updated December 2017.

Additional Reading

  • American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illnesses-5th edition, 2013.
  • Elliott CH, Smith LL. Borderline Personality Disorder for Dummies. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2009.
  • Skodol AE, Gunderson JG, McGlashan TH, Dych IR, Stout RL, Bender DS, et al. "Functional Impairment in Patients with Schizotypal, Borderline, Avoidant, or Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder." American Journal of Psychiatry, 159:276–283, 2002.