There are a disproportionate number of litigants who have Borderline Personality Disorders than exist in the overall population, due to the nature of their behavioral traits. Individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) commonly have associated personality disorders such as antisocial personality disorders, which make them more likely to come to the attention of the criminal law or appear in civil litigation, including employment law matters. Such individuals perceive or provoke behaviors in others which then cause the Borderline person to allege wrongdoing. As you will see below, the stance of a victim, but not a passive victim, is the Borderline person’s most common trait. However, a certain vagueness and seeking out of complication can mark the litigation of a Borderline Person in the form of protracted litigation, rife with appeals and conflicting motions, to the extent the Borderline person is impacting the course of litigation.

Otto Kernberg, M.D., in his book about Borderline Personality Disorders, observes he never has seen a patient with Antisocial Personality Disorder who did not also have a Borderline Personality Disorder. My clinical experience is the same. Typically, the person with BPD acts and others react. The reaction is usually both reasonable and proportionate to the seriousness of the initial act, but nevertheless the borderline person views the reaction as unpredictable and excessive, which reinforces their underlying attitude of victimization. This leads to escalation when the borderline person rapidly retaliates against the person who he sees as victimizing him. In the act of escalation, there is another proportionate, usually more serious, response which creates in the borderline person’s mind anger, helplessness, indignation, and a sense of victimization. The person against whom the borderline is acting usually tries to restore order but is helpless in doing so. It is common that as the inflammatory situation begins to cool off, the borderline person will then add fuel to the fire and reignite the chaotic situation. As most attorneys know, where there is chaos, miscommunication, ignition and a cause of action, litigationmay also follow.

Dr. Theodore Millon, in Disorders of Personality, states “borderlines will have had rather checkered histories in their personal relationships and in school and work performance. Most will have exhibited an extreme unevenness in fulfilling normal social functions and responsibilities. Rarely do they persevere to attain mature goals. Their histories show repeated setbacks, a lack of judgment and foresight, tendencies to digress from earlier aspirations, and failures to utilize their natural aptitudes and talents. It is often easy to trace the consequences of their adaptive inflexibility and their involvement in self-defeating vicious circles. Many have shown flashes of promise, stability, and achievement but these periods usually are either short-lived or are dependent on the presence of a highly tolerant and supportive social system. Most fail to learn from their experiences and involve themselves in the same imbroglios, quandaries, and disappointments as they have before. Life is like a merry-go-round of getting into predicaments and discord and then spending time extricating oneself from them. Few things are ever accomplished and much in life is undone. The borderline patient goes round in circles, covering the same ground as before, getting nowhere, and then starting all over again.”

Individuals with Borderline Personality Disorders often have other mental disorders, sometimes multiple ones. In addition to antisocial personality disorders noted above are mood disorders that are common, substance related disorders, eating disorders, particularly bulimia, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, and brief psychotic episodes.

The underlying poor sense of identity in the individual who has a Borderline Personality Disorder creates vulnerabilities in many spheres and in the DSM IV TR (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision) the following behavioral patterns are identified as being abstracts of the impaired identity, sometimes referred to as identity diffusion (by others).

Those include: A pervasive pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, instability of self-image, instability of mood and affect, marked impulsivity, frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment, unstable and intense interpersonal relationships, impulsivity which may involve excessive spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, or binge eating to name several, recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, threats or self-mutilation behavior, affective instability coupled with irritability and anxiety, chronic feelings of emptiness, inappropriate or intense anger or difficulty controlling anger, and transient stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms including brief psychotic episodes.

Individuals with Borderline Personality Disorders are at high risk for suicide, which is probably related to either dissociative symptoms or severe depression.