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Need Insight into the Capacity for Financial Decision Making in Borderline Personality

When someone with low-functioning borderline personality becomes elderly, how can you tell they if they have lost the capacity to make decisions for themselves, particularly financial ones?

It seems as if this personality struggles with executive function and slow processing speed. Problem solving is hard, choices are almost impossible to settle on unless a crisis compels the choice. Actions don’t match words and promises. There is no identity, no sense of self, hence no self-knowledge or instinct about wants and needs — just emotion, impulse… Categorical and abstract reasoning are weak. Home shopping and parasocial relationships are the drugs of choice that fill the emotional hole. Hundreds of thousands of dollars become piles of purchases and packages.

I know “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” is par for the course if you have a borderline in your life, but is it common for them to actually rewrite history? For example, discuss a choice, he struggles, but decides on x. Because he can’t function fully independently, you help with steps to do x, but at the first sign of discomfort, he explodes and claims that he never wanted this in the first place. Further, the revised history, of you as controller, decider and persecutor, becomes part of his permanent life narrative.

This is scary if this person has capacity to sue. Should we risk coming near him to help?

I know that all this has to do with external locus of control and black-and-white thinking (an inability to hold ambiguity in mind) that is characteristic of borderlines, but the weak EF, the compulsive daily spending/vulnerability to salespeople, the history-rewriting? Are these red flags? If not, can you name the red flags we should be looking for? (From the USA)

A:  Thank you for your email. There is often an overlap between psychological and legal issues, and I believe your questions and description already has enough “red flags” to be concerned about the legal implications.

I highly recommend a legal consult. Someone with good experience with elder-law and families. This will be the best consultation for right now. Beyond the diagnosis and stress, there are legal issues that you can become aware of and take measures to correct.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

Need Insight into the Capacity for Financial Decision Making in Borderline Personality

Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: http://www.dare2behappy.com/. He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2018). Need Insight into the Capacity for Financial Decision Making in Borderline Personality. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 28, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2018/01/26/need-insight-into-the-capacity-for-financial-decision-making-in-borderline-personality/


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 23 Jan 2018
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 23 Jan 2018
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.