Why are Borderlines so Sexual?

The Why’s of Sex, Promiscuity, and Borderline Personality Disorder

Why are you so sexual my dear Borderline? That’s a good question isn’t it? One that does not come with a quick answer. This is a first. I’ve found almost no information on why sex seems to be such a prominent feature of Borderline Personality Disorder. What I have found has been only a paragraph or a sentence here or there. So let’s look at what I’ve found, what I feel, and what some of my own theories are.

One of the more obvious theories as to why people with BPD have such reckless sex lives is the fact that they constantly feel emotional emptiness. “Even when they find a stable emotional relationship their fear of abandonment causes them to become paranoid about the stability of their relationship and the validity of the love coming from their partner. A possibility for the reasoning behind sex and borderline personality disorder is that the sufferer of BPD actually tries to self-sabotage their relationship in order to end the relationship before they are actually abandoned by their partner. Another theory as to reckless sex and borderline personality disorder is that the BPD sufferer actually gets an emotional high from bonding with the sexual partner even if only for a short time. They are literally trying to fill in emptiness inside themselves and they try and try to fill that void with sex. After having a sexual affair the person with borderline personality disorder may not have the same amount of guilt as someone with non-BPD. The reason is projection; oftentimes people with borderline personality disorder project their negative behaviors onto others including their partners. This means that someone with borderline personality disorder who is having a reckless sexual affair may have a tendency to build a fake affair that their spouse or loved one is having in their head. They literally make themselves believe that their partner is also cheating and that they are therefore justified in having their reckless sexual affair.”

A previous article I mentioned notes that there may be a number of reasons for the more negative attitudes about sex. “First, many women with BPD are survivors of child abuse, which may contribute to overall negative reactions to adult sexual experiences. Also, women with BPD are more likely to experience a great deal of conflict in their relationships, so they may feel less positive about sex because relationships in general feel less fulfilling.”

Having these negative attitudes doesn’t however, justify why we may still have an attitude directed towards reckless sex. I would take this from a different angle and say that perhaps due to previous abuse there is a subconscious need for approval where it was not given, withheld, or used against us. Overt sexual behavior may be a way of taking back control, exerting control in the present where control was once absent.

Also, knowing that we have the ability to interest and consume someone with our sexuality or ability to seduce them is a form of validation of our own self-worth.
Those are my thoughts currently. I’m sure I’d have more but I’m utterly brain fried from today and yesterday at work. I’ll be sure to post more on this if the thoughts should arise.

So there’s that. To fill an emotional emptiness with a physical, well ::grins:: I don’t have an argument for this. I also believe that when it comes to sex, people with BPD are more likely to be sexually open and adventurous. We can be virtually uninhibited. Or exactly the opposite. I’ve noticed a trend towards the extremes. Either we’re all or nothing. So you may have borderlines like myself that are ALL for sex or those that have severe issues from resultant traumatic experiences and avoid it whenever possible.  

Another theory comes from Thomas R. Lynch, a psychologist at Duke University. He and his colleagues found a clue in the reading of facial expressions. “The researchers asked 20 adults with BPD and 20 mentally healthy people to watch a computer-generated face change from neutral to emotional. They told subjects to stop the changing image the moment they had identified the emotion. On average, the people with BPD correctly recognized both the unpleasant expressions and the happy faces at a much earlier stage than the other participants did. The results suggest that BPD patients are hyperaware of even subtly emotive faces—problematic in people who are intensely reactive to other people’s moods. So, for example, a hint of boredom or annoyance on a person’s face that most people would not notice might produce anger or fears of abandonment in a person with BPD. Conversely, someone with BPD might see a happy expression as a sign of love and react with inappropriate passion, leading to the whirlwind, stormy romances that rock the lives of people with BPD.”

I’ve talked about hypersensitivity before. It’s very easy to read too much into what we see in someone else and I do think this theory has some validity, but I don’t think it’s substantial all on its own. This may be a contributing factor but not the main reason.
I’ve said before that I use sex as a means to be close, but not too close. It’s comforting. It allows that very real, very human connection that makes me feel less hollow and alone, while maintaining my safeguards.  I’ve been so hurt and traumatized due to past abuse and experiences that while some part of me does need this closeness, at the same time I do not trust it. There’s something more personal about letting someone into my mind, than into my body. If I can distract them with my body, they’ll have proven themselves not trustworthy enough to get into my mind, but at the same time, I have someone near. I’ll have validated my own paranoia and satisfied my need to not be alone. How’s that for messed up. When I’m alone I feel empty. Sex is one of those ultimate expressions of being not alone. Having your life literally interwined in the arms and legs of another, it’s an encompassing experience, without being completely consumed. There’s the ability to maintain a distance while holding someone close. Or maybe there’s some overdeveloped primitive instinct that if we find a partner, let them into our lives in such a way, we will develop a bond. And from there maybe a lasting one. The more partners, the greater the likelihood of this happening.

21 comments on “Why are Borderlines so Sexual?

  1. My therapist told me that my anxiety disorder inceases my senses. I've never been promiscuous in practice, but I have in want. I am hypersexual as well.I think everything inside my head, heart, and well you know are increased. Bad explanation i guessgood post

  2. After reading your blog I have to wonder if my son does not also display attributes of BPD. He is HIGHLY sexual and if his girlfriend says she is going somewhere out with out him he comes up with the wildest things to think she is doing. Right now he is pushing me cause I won't allow her here every night with him because I feel he is too obsessed with her

  3. To me I look at it as the features of impulsivity and chronic feelings of emptiness. I think of it as an addiction with the recklessness usually associated. For me, thank God, I went the opposite way…I didn't want anything having to do with a man in a sexual way.

  4. @ singwingedangel. This could be a symptom of many disorders or none at all. It is actually best to just deal with him as he is rather than put a label on it. If it troubles you, you might want to think about therapy for yourself to learn how to manage yourself with him and understand him. Best wishes to you.

  5. @Clueless… I like that a lot. Perhaps the medium of choice is not the core issue (sexuality) but the impulsivity and need to fill that empty space and ward of the evils that come with boredom. Hm. This is definitely something for me to think about. Impulsiveness is the primary issue. How that impulsiveness is demonstrated is secondary. Sorry I'm a little repeat-o this morning. Thank you! You've given me a new perspective to think about.

  6. This paragraph…this sums up EXACTLY how I feel about my relationships although I will also let them into my heart (the co-dependant part of me) and off we go with the tug of war in this love/hate ordeal. Thank you for putting it into words for me."I’ve been so hurt and traumatized due to past abuse and experiences that while some part of me does need this closeness, at the same time I do not trust it. There’s something more personal about letting someone into my mind, than into my body. If I can distract them with my body, they’ll have proven themselves not trustworthy enough to get into my mind, but at the same time, I have someone near. I’ll have validated my own paranoia and satisfied my need to not be alone. How’s that for messed up."

  7. Hi my name is Paul I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder in 2005 I just wanted to say that having read some of the blogs and comments on this site I am amazed,uplifted,thankful. I feel truly,truly empowered by the words I have read. I am now involved with the K.U.F. (Knowledge and Understanding Framework) this is an awareness programme and is designed to help hospital staff and front line staff I.e housing officers, probation officers, police officers, prison officers ect… have a better understanding of people who have a diagnoses of personality disorder. I help to deliver this training. A core element of the delivery of the K.U.F. Awareness Programme is the authentic and EQUAL co-facilitation of both professional and user trainers.Anyway the thing is this from what I am reading here can I ask if any of you guys would mind if I used some of your stuff as this is just the kind of thing that we need in helping the professionals better understand us and there for better help us???

  8. I am on the other side of this i am the non borderline that got caught up with a married borderline and i fell in love, it was not only the sex which is beyond anything i have ever known it was the adoration, and the extreme love, but the sad thing is it did not last, once she knew she had me the cruelty started, i became a demon that was trying to destroy her, that had hurt HER!! But i was so deeply in love, i spent years doing everything she asked, changing my life moving to be near her, cutting off anyone that might make her jealous all the while she was married and treating me in the worst way, but i never blamed her, i blamed myself for every bad thing she did to me, because in my mind i could not understand how someone could love me that much and connect so deeply emotionally and physically and then turn into a monster that hated me for no reason. I believed in my heart i found my soulmate and she would leave him when she was able and love me forever if i could just be perfect like she once saw me as.. I didnt learn until i started researching that she was borderline and all the accusing and extreme mistrust and the affairs and the cruel behavior was not me. To this day i still miss her, there is no one to talk to when you lose someone you love and it was an affair, people just say you should have known better, but i truly believed she loved me, it is so hard to let go that whirlwind of adoration, sex and love a borderline puts you through…Anyway i know under it all she was a beautiful person, she just never knew it.

  9. ::smiles:: No not at all. I was planning on commenting on your comment as well, I just needed to take a little break so my head is clearly in your comment and not still mired in the ones previous. I love having other people contribute.

  10. I see more truth in what you say for me personally. Completely attaching/fusing or to completely push away is very accurate from my experience. I also think sex can be very much like an addiction. It's a very complicated interaction because it engages every aspect of you. "Addictions fill a sense of emptiness. All addictions are a defense against something that the person, who may or may not know it, does not or is unable to deal with. Risky, behavior and addictions are dangerous ways to manage their complex and overwhelming emotions. "This strikes me as very familiar. You sum that up very nicely.

  11. 'Normal' women do in fact take a bit of effort to get into bed. This is a combination of evolutionary and societal factors. Most women do not want to seem 'easy' to potential suitors (men), because that would cheapen their value as mates. Just as a 35 year old man living at home with his parents would cheapen HIS potential mating value. Nature is what it is.Nevertheless . . . you have admitted that physical intimacy is more comfortable for you than emotional intimacy. I admire you (honestly) for that. But you must consider, then, how this affects your sexual partners. After the mother-child bonding experience, SEX is the primary way that humans form attachments. The act of sex releases chemicals in the body that 'open' human beings to greater intimacy. This being the case, if you KNOW that emotional intimacy is very difficult for you, you should make sure that your sexual partners do not expect anything from you beyond the act of sex. As the foremost theorist of attachment theory said: 'People who can't handle intimacy should get dogs.' Sex eventually leads to intimacy; it's a fact of NATURE. It doesn't happen in all cases, but in most cases, it does. Therefore . . . knowing what you know, you have a RESPONSIBILITY to reflect on your own behavior and how it affects OTHERS. You cannot throw another person's emotional well-being to the winds and simply hope that they don't form an intimate attachment with you via sex. Such reflection necessarily leads to a modification of behavior. Responsibility is NOT understanding what we do to hurt or potentially hurt other people while continuing to do it; it is gaining self knowledge and then putting that knowledge into PRACTICE so that we can STOP DOING THINGS THAT HURT PEOPLE. And one's personal feelings in this process are SECONDARY. The most important element is how our actions affect others. None of us is the end all be all of existence. For myself: if I do keep doing things that hurt people – especially with the knowledge that I'm doing it – I WILL feel emotional pain. This pain is a result of the ALIENATION from society that I feel from acting poorly. This is a healthy response. Such pain motivates me to treat others in a more respectul manner so that I can feel better about MYSELF. As has been said: If one wants to build self-esteem, one has to do esteemable things. HOWEVER . . . I do not have BPD, so I am not a prisoner to emotional lability. I do not say this to insult; it's simply a fact. I have the ability to resist my emotional impulses and 'take a step back' and examine my behavior before I act. I don't do it all the time; we all cave in to our impulses here and there; it's part of human nature. But the PWBPD is severely handicapped in this respect. I eventually came to see my ex BPD as a 'Prisoner of her emotions.' She was like a slave to whatever emotion she was having. Her reality was LITERALLY defined by whatever emotional current was running through her head at any give moment. She had absolutely ZERO ability to 'step back' and ask herself, 'Gee, maybe what I'm feeling right now isn't representative of reality,' or 'Maybe I'm just upset and not thinking straight.' Again, no insult, but she was like a three year old trapped in a 42 year old body. How could ANY NON out up with that for too long? In fact, anyone who DOES put up with that for a period beyond a few months needs some serious therapy themselves. Again . . , this is just a view from the other side of the fence. I haven't come here to be contentious. I can understand how what I've said might be upsetting. Nevertheless, I stand by my personal truth. I should also add that it would be impossible for me NOT to include any of my own feelings in this. But I shouldn't be surprised that BPD's get upset when OTHERS express their 'emotions.'

  12. ?I grant you most ‘normal’ women do take a bit of effort to get into bed due to those reasons. However, we also live in a society where women are not always concerned with looking for a mate, and do in fact, enjoy sex because it is physically gratifying. Also, I am active in the lesbian community and I promise you, it does not take a lot to get some women in bed. You’re just making a very general statement and generalizations like that as a rule, have exceptions. I do try to consider how this effects my partners and I’m quite straight forward with the fact that I’m not emotionally comfortable with a lot of things. I also have the unfortunate proclivity of attracting emotionally unavailable and often abusive men, so it’s rarely an issue. I try very hard to take responsibility for myself. I haven’t always known this was the case, but I learn as I grow and incoroporate what I learn about myself into my life when I do realize it. I also WANT an emotionally intimate relationship. I’m just afraid of it. It’s hard for me, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to try. I don’t understand why you’re lecturing me as if I don’t care about how the people I am with feel. I care more about their well being than I do for my own, much to my own detriment. It’s true that a person with BPD is more emotionally liable. That’s the nature of the disorder. I, me, personally, am aware of my actions and have dedicated every single day of my life to understanding my disorder, working on it, and working to treat the people in my life better. That’s the whole point of this blog. You are speaking to me as if the experience you had was one you had with me. I absolutely understand that you have had a bad experience with a Borderline in your life. You have every right to feel the way that you do because I’m sure it was a very painful experience. However, I, am not the one that treated you this way, nor is every other Borderline out there and some of us do act differently. I wouldn’t expect any Non to put up with that kind of behavior because it is hurtful. No one deserves to be hurt like that. We hurt too. There’s emotional responsibility on the part of both people in a relationship. A relationship can only happen between two. Part of the process of therapy is to learn the skills necessary in order to step back and assess our emotions before reacting. This is something I work very hard at, and have taken to almost an extreme where I don’t outwardly react to people at all, and only take it out on myself in private later. This is also not healthy, but in my eyes it’s better than lashing out at the people around me. I appreciate you sharing your experience with me and I value what you have told me because it gives me something to consider. I’m not upset with you. However I will voice my opinions on the things you say here. I don’t believe it fair for you to claim that every Borderline is this way, that I am this way, because you had some that were. This blog is about my experience and how I feel about things and interpret them through my BPD. I’ve never claimed that this is applicable to all Borderlines. I very much expect that it is not. In the same respect, the experience of others is not mine.

  13. The mating process is largely unconscious, as is most evolutionary and social programming we have. The 'mating' ritual is ingrained in us on a DNA-level. While it is true that not all men or women are constantly out looking for a 'mate,' sub-consiously, we are still very driven by our evolutionary mating instincts. And btw, Nowhere did I attribute my opinions to ALL Borderlines. Nor did I deny that women enjoy sex. In fact, I believe that overall, women are more sexual than men. I won't bite the feminist hook on that one. Hell, at least you ADMIT you have BPD and try to work on it!! My ex fit 7 out of 9 criteria, but because she doesn't deliberately self-harm, she refuses to consider that she might be BPD. Never mind that she was actually diagnosed as such at age 20. Talk about self-delusion. That's why I left. She's 42 years old!! With that kind of self-delusion at THAT age, what hope is there? True, there MIGHT be hope, but life is too short and I'm too old to stick around and roll the dice. I have too many people who care about me and rely on me. I don't say this to hurt; I just say it to give an example from the other side of the fence. This is commonly what NON's hear – and there's a reason for it. While we're making our decisions to stay and leave, we're weighing the evidence and looking at things from a 'probability' perspective. At least the less co-dependent among us are. The truly co-dependent will stick around until they're drained dry.Another experience: about 2 weeks into our 'relationship,' my ex BPD suggested that we bring another woman in to the mix sexually 'for my birthday.' I was a little shocked. I mean, sure, experimentation and all . . . but TWO WEEKS?? THIS IS NOT NORMAL. 'Normal' people take a little TIME to get to know one another before getting into that kind of stuff. Two weeks is GANGBUSTERS!! 'Normal' people do not show up with a naughty-nurse outfit on under their coats for a second or third sexual encounter. Most people have to EASE IN to this kind of stuff and get to know each other first. This is just REALITY. I will be on the lookout for such behavior in the future, because the risk of such a person being personality-disordered is just too great.After getting to know my ex, it became apparent that she had had a lot of sex with women. I asked her if that was something she needed in her life – if it was something she needed to feel sexually fulfilled. I asked this question seriously. She said, 'Not at all, I'm not bisexual or anything.' My response was, 'Well, yes you are, because you have sex with both men and women. No judgement on my part. But it is what it is.' She was aghast. AGAIN, massive self-deception. I really think that my ex was whatever she needed to be in the moment. Her sexuality was/is part and parcel of her identity confusion. That's why I turned down the threesome offer. Yeah, it's supposed to be every guy's dream and all; but something felt really 'off,' like she was trying to work out some kind of issue. I sensed some bad ju-ju going on there. Bad enough so that if any other woman gets too kinky too early, I'll be outta there. I'll risk being offensive here. There's that saying among men: 'Crazy in the head, crazy in bed.' I realize now what that means. Olympic-style, anything goes, no holds-barred sex right from the starting gate in a relationship is a BAD SIGN. It's far more normal to start out with good sex, and have it DEVELOP into no-holds barred sex as intimacy increases. I've had this confirmed by my own therapist, and by several other professionals I've spoken with in my search for understanding about BPD. Full-on, anything goes sex from the starting gate is probably a sign that someone 'uses' sex for some other purpose. And that purpose is NEVER good.

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