I believe I have spent the last 3 years in a relationship with a man who has borderline personality disorder. Can i actually begin to get the same disorder. I’m finding myself behaving in ways and feeling things I’ve never felt before in my life. I feel like I’m loosing my mind at times, we are in process of separation and I’m showing signs of the disorder it’s very scary.

A You believe that you have symptoms of borderline personality disorder but you did not provide any details. Generally speaking, however, I do not believe that it is possible to develop borderline personality disorder simply because your partner (or soon-to-be ex) has the disorder. It is theoretically possible that you are beginning to recognize that you may have borderline personality disorder. Perhaps it took interacting with someone with that disorder for you to be aware of your own symptoms.

There is a rare mental health disorder called shared psychotic disorder (or folie à deux). It is a delusional disorder in which two or more people, who share a close emotional bond, exhibit the same symptoms. To be diagnosed with this disorder, an individual would have to meet the following criteria, according to the DSM:

  • the development of a delusion in the context of a close relationship with another individual in which it has been established that they have a delusional disorder;
  • with regard to content, the delusion is similar to the individual who has an established delusional disorder; and
  • the psychiatric disturbances are not better accounted for by another psychotic disorder, physiological problem or substance abuse.

The more likely scenario is that you are reacting to your partner’s behavior but without more specific details it is difficult to know with certainty.

Individuals with borderline personality disorder are commonly involved in what the DSM terms “stormy relationships.” In other words, they have significant difficulty in relationships. It is one of the hallmark traits of the disorder. Individuals with borderline personality disorder strongly desire connecting with others but often act in a manner that drives people away. A popular book written on the subject called I Hate You Don’t Leave Me: Understanding Borderline Personality Disorder by Jerold Kreisman and Hal Strauss, describes this trait and others associated with the disorder. I would highly recommend it. It offers valuable insights into why individuals with borderline personality disorder act the way they do.

Kreisman’s newer book Sometimes I Act Crazy also has received good reviews. In addition, I would recommend any book written by Marsha Linehan. She and several colleagues recently wrote a book called: Loving Someone With Borderline Personality Disorder: How To Keep Out-Of-Control Emotions From Destroying A Relationship.

If you continue to be concerned about your reaction to the breakup, then you may want to consult a therapist to help you get through this difficult time. The therapist can determine if you have borderline personality disorder or are experiencing a reaction to your partner who has a mental health disorder. It is an important distinction. If you would like to write back and be more specific about your symptoms, I may be able to better answer your question. I wish you the best of luck. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 3 Aug 2011

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2011). Could I Develop Borderline Personality Disorder From Being Around My Ex?. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 28, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/08/03/could-i-develop-borderline-personality-disorder-from-being-around-my-ex/