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"As if possessed by an angry demon" - living with borderline syndrome

Living with Borderline Syndrome

29-year-old Maya is an attractive woman with long blonde hair and green eyes. She sits a little nervously in the psychotherapeutic practice and tries to find the right words: “Sometimes I feel like I am possessed by an angry demon that I cannot control. If he gains the upper hand, for example, I no longer know how much my friend Bernd loves me.

It's like I've got bad butterflies in my stomach. Then black waves rage inside me and my feelings explode. Five minutes ago the world was perfectly fine, and suddenly everything is different. Bad things run through my head and with all my might I want to hurt Bernd so badly that there is no turning back. I want to chase him to hell, I just can't live anymore and I'm freaking out.

Then I yell at him, verbally abuse him, throw objects at him and attack him like a fury. Bernd had had enough after my last breakout. He got up and told me he was leaving for good. Desperately I clung to him and begged him to stay. The good and normal in me was back, the demon was gone. I knew again how much Bernd loved me.

Above all, my love for him was suddenly so strong again that I had the feeling that I couldn't go on without him. But even after our hours of reconciliation talks and passionate sex, an uneasy feeling remains. I don't trust him anymore, I don't trust anyone anymore, I feel all alone in this world and I'm angry. I am often under so much tension that I don't know what to do with myself. And when it gets too much, I somehow feel numb and empty inside.

Sometimes I wish that the demon would kill me and deliver me from my suffering. I want to be able to feel myself again. If the pressure gets too much I start scratching my arms or legs until it starts bleeding just so I can feel myself again. When the blood flows, it calms me down for a moment and I get back to myself a little. Or I'll take a burning candle and burn my skin.

The pain temporarily relieves me and brings me back to the here and now. Sometimes I punish myself in this way if I don't meet my own perfectionist standards or because I feel like a bad person. "

What is borderline syndrome?

Maya suffers from the borderline syndrome (English: Grenzlinie or Grenzgebiet), a symptom that is located in the border area between psychosis, neurosis and personality disorder. Borderline syndrome has now been recognized as a disease in its own right and is assigned to emotionally unstable personality disorders in the International Classification of Mental Disorders (ICD-10).

Borderline is a chaos of emotions. Euphoric feelings of happiness turn into abysmal sadness in the next moment, great love becomes great disappointment, romance alternates with drama: it's black or white, but never gray. “Feeling happy is pure euphoria. Being sad feels like being burned. To be in love is like trying to crawl into the other, ”Maya said, describing her feelings.

Borderliners have difficulties in differentiating their emotions and in dealing with their extreme mood swings. Even minimal causes are enough for them to fall from a happy phase into a deep depression or to have outbursts of anger. "To have to endure all the feelings that can change every hour, sometimes even every minute," says Maya. From one moment to the next, Borderliners can be attacked by overwhelming anger, fear, panic attack or complete despair.

They are unable to control these rapidly changing moods and their impulses. In order to relieve their inner pressure and to feel themselves again, they injure themselves, for example repeatedly scratching their forearms with a knife or a razor blade, squeezing out burning cigarettes on their skin or banging their head against the wall.

Many borderliners also suffer from other mental illnesses such as eating disorders, depression, sexual disorders, anxiety and mood disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorders. Some also take refuge in alcohol, medication or drugs in order to weaken their negative, destructive feelings and to dampen them through the intoxication - at least for a limited period of time.

Repeated suicidal thoughts and actions are also a big problem, especially since these thoughts keep coming up in stressful situations. Around eight percent of borderliners kill themselves, around half of them have previously attempted at least one suicide.

Borderline can hit everyone!

How many people are actually sick with borderline, there are still no reliable figures. On the one hand, this is due to the fact that a large number of those affected do not seek professional help and are therefore not recorded. Many celebrities are also said to have suffered from borderline, including Princess Diana, Marilyn Monroe and Romy Schneider.

Scientists assume that around one to two percent of the population suffer from borderline syndrome. Two thirds of them are women. Borderline is a disorder that begins in early childhood. In most cases, even in infancy and early childhood, there were difficulties in establishing a secure emotional bond with parents or other important caregivers.

For example, a drug addict mother cannot provide secure attachment to her child. Sometimes she will shower it with monkey love, swear to him that it is her whole purpose in life, then again she will angrily reject it if she suffers from withdrawal symptoms or completely neglect it if she is intoxicated with drugs.

A kind of love-hate relationship develops, which is very confusing and unsettling for the child. Many borderliners had traumatic experiences, sexual abuse or were emotionally neglected during their childhood and adolescence.

Misunderstood, unloved and marginalized - what prejudices borderliners struggle with

Borderliners are often stigmatized and struggle with a variety of prejudices. Perhaps the most difficult thing to cope with is the isolation and loneliness into which their illness drives them over time. Most of the time, their social environment withdraws and meets them with incomprehension or even rejection.

Maya told us that she had recently read our borderline guide in a park and placed the book on the bench next to her to let what she had read sink for a moment. Then an elderly lady sat down next to her, looked at the counselor and asked, “Is this another kind of disease that has spilled over from America, something new-fashioned?” Maya was so irritated that it took her some time to answer could. She tried to explain to the older lady what borderline was. However, she showed no understanding and replied disparagingly: “In our time there was no such thing. There was no time for that. Nowadays, more and more stupid diseases are invented just to stop going to work. We used to have to work hard and take care of the children and the household. There was no time for such capers. All this psycho stuff is nonsense, they are all just bored, want to stay at home and lie on the pocket of the state. When I was a teenager, they would have sent such people to a labor camp to haul stones so that they would not have such nonsensical thoughts. ”Maya was shaken and tears ran down because she felt completely misunderstood. She was shocked that there are still people today who cannot and do not want to understand that borderline is a serious illness and who have such strong prejudices against people with mental health problems.

In many cases, even friends and family cannot assess what the disease really means for the person affected. They suffer from the difficult and chaotic behavior of the borderliner, feel hurt by his unjustified hateful tirades and tantrums, cannot follow the back and forth of his feelings and are alternately loved and rejected. The ongoing dramas and self-destructive behavior are so incomprehensible to those around them that the sick person is given the stigma “Beware: Borderliner!”.

Many established psychotherapists consider borderliners to be difficult patients. Often they not only face violent negative reactions from their family or friends, but they also have to take a lot of rejections when looking for a therapist. Dealing with this rejection is far from easy. Some psychotherapists already respond to a call from a borderliner with an unmistakable refusal, others give them labels such as “therapist killer”, “mask-like, unsympathetic” or “early disorder”.

Borderliners suffer from an internal division. They perceive their counterpart as either unreservedly “good” or unreservedly “bad”, they don't know any nuances. So they often idealize their therapist as the best of all, only to be completely disappointed in him because of a little something and to attack him angrily. This behavior led to stigmatization as a therapist killer, but behind such attacks lies the patient's desire to be noticed in his distress and desperation. Maya said of her therapist: “I keep asking myself: Why do I still go to her? It can't really help me and it doesn't really help me. I often have the feeling that she doesn't know me at all, is overwhelmed and doesn't even see my real need. "

For such reasons, borderliners are reluctant to talk about their illness. They are afraid of being rejected and are afraid of having to make lengthy, complicated explanations about their disorder, but still not being understood.

What helps?

For a long time the borderline disorder was considered incurable. To date, there are no drugs against this, but there are some symptoms of the disease, such as depression or unbridled fits of anger. But in the meantime some borderline-specific therapeutic approaches have been developed that give reason for hope.

Dialectical behavioral therapy and mindfulness training

Good successes are achieved, for example, with dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), which the American psychologist Marsha M. Linehan developed in the 1990s. The first step is to learn measures to help bring problem behavior such as self-harming, violent or suicidal behavior under control.

The patients first learn to identify the causes and triggers for this. Then they practice finding other ways to deal with the overpressure of their feelings in the appropriate situations. Self-injurious behavior can be prevented, for example, by substitute stimuli such as rubbing ice cubes on the skin or chewing chili peppers. These stimuli are intended to help overcome the most dangerous phase of internal high pressure without causing serious injury.

In mindfulness training, which is also carried out as part of dialectical behavioral therapy, patients learn, among other things, to perceive their emotions more precisely and in a more differentiated manner, to stop being washed away by them and to deal with relationships more carefully. For example, Maya could learn from our case study to notice early on when her black butterflies are approaching, to observe their emotional surges without being carried away by them and instead to calmly tell her friend Bernd how she is doing.

Further therapeutic approaches are transfer-focused psychotherapy (TPF), mentalization-based therapy (MBT) and schema therapy. If severe trauma has contributed to the development of a borderline disorder, trauma therapy is also suitable.

Support groups can also help borderliners control their symptoms. In addition to exchanging experiences, it is particularly helpful to jointly develop creative, sometimes unusual ways of dealing with the disease.


Borderline is a disease that affects all social classes. It may also be part of a social phenomenon that has become more and more widespread in recent years. Because in a society that hardly values ​​the individual for who he is, and in which the inner orientation and true values ​​dissolve and only those who are successful are recognized, it is not surprising that people are also social Losing ties bit by bit. In addition, the atmosphere in families is more often tense today than it used to be, family structures change faster, couples separate more easily, the number of single parents and blended families is growing. Since the borderline syndrome mainly arises from insecure, confusing and chaotic relationship structures in early childhood, it will probably continue to spread in Germany in the next few years.

On the other hand, there are always better therapy concepts that are specially tailored to this painful mental disorder and that make life with this disease much easier. And last but not least, each and every one of us should be ready to break down prejudices and openly approach people with borderline disorders so that they are not excluded from their fellow human beings.

The authors

Sandra Maxeiner

Dr. Sandra Maxeiner did her doctorate in political and social sciences and completed training as a naturopath for psychotherapy and as a coach. For several years she has been working as a voluntary hospice helper and founder of the association “What really matters in life e. V. «(www.was-real-zaehlt-im-leben.de).

Hedda Rühle

After her training as a nurse, Hedda Rühle studied psychology at the Free University of Berlin. The research assistant and lecturer in the subjects of psychopathology, psychology and psychotherapy also works in her own practice in Berlin. Sandra Maxeiner and Hedda Rühle have already published the reference works “Dr. Psych’s Psychopathology, Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy "(Volumes 1 and 2) and" Dr. Psych’s Ratgeber Depressionen “published by Jerry Media Verlag.

The Publisher


The new book

Dr. Psych’s advisor borderline. With a contribution to the multiple personality. So that you know how I feel. What those affected and their relatives should know.

Borderline counselor