Because borderline personality disorder is a mental illness that affects emotional regulation, people tend to focus on the mental and emotional symptoms people experience, but people with BPD can also experience physical symptoms.
When you live with BPD, heightened emotional extremes can take a toll on the body.
I experience extreme physical symptoms because of my BPD.
Here are some surprising symptoms that you might not have known are associated with BPD.
1. Sensory Block During Dissociation
Dissociation is one of the nine classic symptoms of BPD, but what we don’t always talk about is how detachment from reality can affect your senses. In periods of dissociation, perception may be distorted and memory loss can occur.
Staring into space and temporarily having hearing blockage during severe dissociation is fairly common. It’s like I’ve left the room in spirit but my body is just left frozen and staring at the wall. It takes quite a long time to snap out of it. Especially if I’m by myself.
Also when I dissociate, I get tunnel vision, my ears start ringing, I start sweating profusely, my pulse rises and my face burns.
2. Developing Rashes or Worsening of Skin Conditions Like Eczema
In times of intense stress, the body increases production of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. When the body over-produces cortisol, it can suppress the immune system and cause an inflammatory skin response like eczema or other kind of rash.
I get random hives. More prominent when I’m having an episode or bring really stressed out.
3. Sensory Overload
Sensory overload is a symptom many people with PTSD can experience. Though PTSD and BPD are different conditions, one study found that 53 percent of people who met the criteria for BPD also met the criteria for lifetime PTSD. Because of this, it makes sense that many with BPD experience this physical symptom.
I become overwhelmed sensory-wise and certain noises/lights and crowds hurt me physically.
4. Constant Fatigue
Fatigue is a common symptom of depression, which is also co-morbid condition for BPD sufferers. I will have emotional extremes lasting anywhere from a few hours to a few days, the periods of depression can be emotionally and physically taxing.
Constant tiredness and fatigue — even if you do nothing or very little all day because your mind is busy processing racing thoughts and constant emotions throughout the entire time is exhausting!
Hypervigilance is a heightened state of arousal that puts one (usually someone who has lived through trauma) on high alert, even in times of safety. Studies have shown most patients with BPD have lived through trauma, especially in childhood.
My BPD forces me to be in fight-or-flight mode for things other people find unimportant. This includes someone walking away from me while we are in public, loud noises, kids screaming, people staring at me, someone mentioning the way I eat or someone bringing up things I’m insecure about. These things bring me into a panicked, fight-or-flight mode and it comes out as rage.
6. Digestive or Stomach Issues
Stress can affect digestive functioning. The gastrointestinal tract is sensitive to emotion. Anger, anxiety, sadness, elation — all of these feelings (and others) can trigger symptoms in the gut. When you live with a disorder like BPD that is characterized by constantly fluctuating emotions, your gut usually responds.
I’ve definitely had a lot of digestive issues related to the stress I feel at agonizing over what people around me are doing and what it means for my relationship with them.
A physical symptom I have is really bad stomach problems. With BPD, your body over-stresses and the acid in your stomach increases and causes ulcers.
7. Muscle Aches and Pain
Another common physical symptom of stress and anxiety is muscle pain and aches. I often experience high emotional stress due to rapid cycling moods, so this kind of physical symptom has been pretty common for me.
There is a physical toll that the anxiety takes on your entire body. Aches from muscles being constantly tensed, fatigue all day every day no matter how much you sleep the night before, heart palpitations, nausea, and shaking so hard I can’t even hold onto my phone, then even more exhaustion from dealing with meltdowns caused by already being exhausted. It’s a vicious endless cycle.
8. Body Temperature Changes
Emotional stress may also contribute to temperature changes in the body. One article I read examined how stress may even induce “psychogenic fever,” a high body temperature response to emotional events or chronic stress.
When my anxiety runs too deep, my body temperature changes to too cold in both feet and hands. The episodes can last up to three days with brutal consequences, such as insomnia, exhaustion and excessive eating or not eating at all.
9. Chest Pain
Chest pain has been linked to common psychiatric conditions like anxiety and depression — diagnoses many people with BPD also have. Chest pain is a psychiatric symptom in up to 25 percent of patients. Chest pain can also be a symptom of panic attacks.
I live with a constant heaviness in my chest.
Though we often think of mental illnesses as only “mental,” your mind is intimately connected to your body. Living with borderline personality disorder and experiencing BPD symptoms like splitting,uncontrollable rage or chronic emptiness whatever shape your disorder takes is deeply personal, yet extremely frightening. In closing I would just like for my fellow sufferers to know that you are not alone my BPD warriors.