People with borderline personality disorder (BPD) sometimes have a more challenging time holding down a job than others. Because being successful at work usually depends on one’s knack for playing well with coworkers and building long-term, trusting relationships, it can be difficult to keep a position if you have BPD symptoms.
What Is BPD?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), this disorder is a mental illness that substantially affects a person’s ability to control their emotions. This lack of control can make impulsive behavior more the norm than the exception. It can also alter how a person feels about themselves and damage their relationships with other people.
Symptoms of BPD
Those with BPD can experience radical mood swings and not have clear impressions of themselves. Probably one of the most noticeable symptoms is their feelings toward others. Those with BPD can swing rapidly from extreme fondness to intense hatred for people. This includes family, friends, and loved ones. Obviously, feelings that turn on a dime can foster unstable relationships and emotional pain.
Something else very evident in those with BPD is that they tend to view things in black and white, all good or all bad. Their sentiments and values can change in moments, leading to impulsive or reckless behavior.
Other BPD signs or traits may include the tendency to avoid real or perceived abandonment. It’s not uncommon for people with the condition to dive headfirst into relationships or jump ship just as quickly. Spontaneous and often negative behaviors, such as unsafe sex, spending sprees, substance abuse, binge eating, and reckless driving, are other ways this disorder can manifest. Sometimes people with the condition exhibit self-harming behavior, such as cutting, or have ongoing suicidal thoughts.
Those with BPD also sometimes experience chronic feelings of emptiness. They can frequently display inappropriate, intense anger. Feelings of dissociation, such as observing oneself from outside one’s body, are also common.
How BPD Can Lead To Trouble at Work
In a National Library of Medicine (NLM) study on BPD and employment, nearly half of those surveyed were unemployed, many were on disability, and just a small percentage were fully self-sufficient. It makes sense that people with the disorder have a harder time holding jobs, despite their talent level or work ethic.
Symptoms of BPD at work can differ, including the various ways that these factors can sway job performance and the ability to “fit in” with coworkers. Like anyone else, people with BPD often have had work experiences that upset them, the colleagues who worked with them, or both. Individuals with BPD usually don’t just let it “roll off their backs” or have a “poker face,” as corporate America and society teach employees to do.
It’s not that they’re being immature or belligerent. Having a hard time controlling emotions is a signature trait of the condition. Nobody wants to get caught crying or yelling at work.
This difficulty with controlling impulses plays an integral role in work issues, as well as in the risk of suicide. Most people with BPD will attempt suicide at least once, and of those who try it, the majority will be successful. This rate is more than twice the rate of suicide in people who don’t have a personality disorder.
Additionally, a lot of people diagnosed with BPD have a co-occurring disorder, such as major depression, anxiety, or substance abuse. They are usually not just coping with one problem that makes it hard to focus, get along with coworkers, prioritize and be successful in their careers. It’s typical that people with the condition initially idealize their jobs. Still, those feelings soon give way to negative thoughts about their coworkers, usually in response to a sense of rejection. This often leads to quitting and having an unstable work history and times of financial crisis.
Managing BPD and Work
Those with BPD can better manage workplace stress by seeking treatment to have a better life and enjoy more success in the workplace. Many treatment facilities teach clients life and workplace skills, such as mindfulness, emotional management, and teamwork effectiveness.
A solid BPD treatment facility should also have options for those who have co-occurring disorders that can affect their work lives, such as issues with substance abuse or anxiety.
Additionally, those with BPD could learn relaxation techniques, such as yoga, to help them with stress management.
What Jobs Are Recommended for People With BPD?
Many people with BPD enjoy rewarding careers. A broad category includes creative fields, such as content writing or copywriting, graphic design, and event planning. Also helpful are jobs with a flexible schedule so that the stress of a strict time frame doesn’t overwhelm and individuals can work when they feel good. Additionally, remote jobs can be ideal as the contact with coworkers is still there but minimized or electronic, making the chances for emotional upsets less than for onsite employment. Realty can be a very lucrative career path for individuals with BPD to work when they are up to it.
Though not meeting all of the above criteria, some other recommended positions include teacher, social worker, nurse, and therapist. All of these careers focus on nurturing, helping people, and developing strong relationships, all reported traits of those with BPD. An unorthodox career choice those with BPD might consider is rancher, where they care for animals and take breaks if they are overwhelmed. There are many careers available that suit the Bperson’sn’s traits and gifts.
Marked by extreme mood swings, lightening-quick emotional reactions, and impulsive behavior, BPD can very much affect people’s careers. Since finding success in most professions depends on one’s skill in interacting with others and building long-lasting, trust-based relationships, it can be hard to hold down and thrive in a job. What can be done about feelings that can’t be controlled, super-rapid, love-to-hate opinion changes on co-workers, and feelings that the boss and the team are out to get you? Worse yet, what if all of these stressful situations lead to suicidal thoughts? We at Acera Health help those with BPD deal with job stress and learn how to thrive in their careers. Call (949) 647-4090 for more about our programs.
Melody is a highly skilled proactive clinical administrator, with more than 17 years of experience serving the community in the behavioral health field.
Her clinical management career started in 2011 as a compliance manager and program director. In 2018, she became an executive as chief clinical officer (CCO). She is a seasoned licensed marriage & family therapist.