Having a Career With Borderline Personality Disorder

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. 

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Effects of BPD Symptoms at Work

It is quite possible to have career success when you're not overwhelmed by your symptoms. But the effects of BPD can vary in different workplace settings, affecting your job performance and your ability to "fit in" with your coworkers.

BPD symptoms can affect your career in a few different ways. If you have BPD, your self-image, goals, and even your likes and dislikes may change frequently, and it can be difficult to commit to one career path. This unstable self-image or sense of self can put you behind in terms of job growth since you may miss out on promotions or opportunities linked to seniority.

Many with BPD also have a tendency to see people and situations as all-good or all-bad, commonly referred to as all-or-nothing thinking or splitting. For example, you may start with what you think is a dream job. Then one day you receive a poor performance review or you make a mistake.

Instead of seeing this as something you can correct and overcome, you may feel completely demoralized and quit believing that this job is your dream job. Frequently changing feelings and all-or-nothing thinking can also lead to problems with workplace relationships, resulting in unstable relationships and divisive workplaces.

Symptoms of BPD can also interfere with concentration, which can lead to poor work performance. For example, frequent dissociation can inhibit your ability to finish your tasks in a timely fashion.

Finding the Best Job for You

There is no "best" job for people with BPD. It is very much dependent on the individual situation. Everyone's symptoms are different and a career that works for you may not work for someone else and vice versa.

What's most important is to find a job that works for you. Here are some things to consider when deciding what kind of job is the right fit for you:

  • Creativity: Many people with BPD thrive when they have the opportunity to be creative. Having a career that involves being creative may keep you from getting bored.
  • Schedule: If you think you'll need to take time off for doctor's appointments or to see your therapist, part-time work or a job with a flexible schedule are good options. Additionally, daytime hours are best so that you can maintain your sleep schedule.
  • Work environment: What kind of workplace do you thrive in? Some people do better in a quiet, relaxed workspace where they can easily concentrate, while others enjoy having lots of things happening all at once. The key is to find an environment that will support you and help you thrive. Stressful and unsupportive work environments can exacerbate mental health challenges.

Get to Know Yourself

Self-knowledge is the most important part of finding a fulfilling career. Some things you'll want to understand about yourself include your:

  • Interests
  • Limitations and triggers
  • Personality traits
  • Physical abilities
  • Skills
  • Strengths
  • Values

How to Cope With BPD in the Workplace

Some ways to cope with the struggles of the day-to-day demands include:

  • Avoid stressful situations. Taking a step back from potential confrontation can help you see a situation more clearly. It also gives you the opportunity to use positive communication skills more effectively, which is especially important in work relationships.
  • Take your medication and keep your appointments. Taking the meds prescribed to you and keeping appointments with your providers is very important, even if you think you're feeling better. Always consult with your doctor before stopping or changing your medication. Work with your therapist to balance work with your scheduled sessions.
  • Try relaxation exercises. Relaxation techniques like deep breathing and meditation can help you maintain some stability if you ever find yourself in a stressful situation.

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 be sure to remember 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. They 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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