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Borderline Personality Disorder: Splitting

In the context of borderline personality disorder (BPD), splitting refers to a defence mechanism or cognitive distortion that is commonly associated with the condition. It involves a person's tendency to perceive themselves and others in an all-or-nothing manner.

Individuals with BPD often struggle with emotional regulation and have difficulty maintaining stable and consistent views of themselves and others. Splitting is characterized by the extreme and polarized perception of people, situations, and experiences as either all good or all bad, without recognizing the complexity and nuances that exist.

For example, individuals may idealize their partner one day, thinking they are the best thing that has ever happened to them and feeling intense love, and then within the blink of an eye completely devalue them after a conflict, feeling hatred and considering separation. The shift in perception or feeling can be based on a minor flaw or perceived slight, and can be very sudden. Both ends of the continuum bring up feelings that are very real and very intense, which can lead to chaotic extreme behaviours or decisions when acted upon, and then subsequent regret when the emotional activation as subsided.

Splitting can occur in any kind of relationships, including partners, friends, family members, or work colleagues. However, it can also occur within the person themselves. They may be feeling confident and good about themselves one minute, and then a small comment, thought, or mistake may trigger a wave of feeling worthless, incapable, or like a horrible person.

Splitting can lead to unstable relationships, emotional turmoil, and intense fear of abandonment. It can also contribute to impulsive behaviors, such as drastic changes in goals, values, or career paths, as well as a fluctuating sense of self-identity.

Therapy can effectively tackle splitting, and help to enhance awareness of cognitive distortions, develop emotional regulation skills, and find ways of integrating positive and negative aspects of themselves and others in a more balanced way. If you are experiencing symptoms of BPD and want to find out how therapy can help you, please book a consultation with Dr. Terrighena on (852) 2521 4668 or

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