BPD at Work: Symptoms That Can Block "Fitting In"

Learn How BPD at Work Can Affect Your Job Performance

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Symptoms of borderline personality disorder (BPD) at work can vary, including the differing ways they can affect your job performance and ability to "fit in" with your coworkers.

If you have BPD, you may have had work experiences that upset you, the people who worked with you, or both. If so, do you know why those upsetting events happened--how your BPD symptoms may have played a role?

This example of one person's experience with BPD at work may help you understand your own work disappointments better--and help keep you from repeating them.

How BPD Can Affect Your Job: A Revolving-Door Work History

In this case study example, Bruce has a history of job changes. Over and over, he's happy at first, then less and less happy, then angry, then gone to the next job. Each time this happens, he's at a loss to understand why.

Here's a look at how this happens.

The New Job--From a Happy Start to an Angry End

Bruce is always very excited when he begins a new job. He tells everyone he sees how fulfilling the work is, and for the first few weeks, he cannot say enough about how much he likes his boss and coworkers. He talks up the company and shares his dreams about moving into more and more responsible roles.

However, after only a short time, Bruce begins to feel that his boss is "out to get him." He perceives every work request or direction as an unfair criticism. He also becomes increasingly frustrated about working with his coworkers. He complains about what he sees as their lackluster efforts that no one else seems to notice or care about.

By this time, it's clear to Bruce that his supervisors and coworkers don't like him and are picking on him.

Eventually, Bruce comes to believe that the people at the office are trying to find reasons to fire him, and he reacts in a rage. He yells and swears at his boss while complaining about how unfair the situation is and "always has been." His angry outburst and disrespect toward his boss can only end one way: Bruce is let go to search for another new job.

Symptoms of BPD in the Workplace

In this example, Bruce demonstrates the following symptoms of BPD at work:

  • Intense/Unstable Interpersonal Relationships
    Bruce’s initial feelings towards his coworkers and boss are intense and idealized. He sees them as doing no wrong and as strong allies who like and support him. However, these feelings soon give way to negative, critical thoughts. Now Bruce sees nothing positive about the people he works with, instead experiencing them as hostile backstabbers.
  • Splitting
    When Bruce’s perception changes from appreciation to devaluation, the shift from good to bad thoughts is total. Consumed by his anger, he is unable to recall that he ever felt differently.
  • Sensitivity To Rejection
    Bruce’s excessive sensitivity to what he experiences as rejection triggers thoughts that his boss and coworkers don't like him and are trying to get him fired. His attitude toward his work and colleagues spirals downward until, as before, he's let go.

Was Bruce justified in the way he felt?

What his boss and coworkers actually thought about him as he grew increasingly upset and angry can't be known. It's likely, however, that their actions toward Bruce had little to do with the negative way he perceived them.

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