This article on Epainassist.com has been reviewed by a medical professional, as well as checked for facts, to assure the readers the best possible accuracy.

We follow a strict editorial policy and we have a zero-tolerance policy regarding any level of plagiarism. Our articles are resourced from reputable online pages. This article may contains scientific references. The numbers in the parentheses (1, 2, 3) are clickable links to peer-reviewed scientific papers.

The feedback link “Was this Article Helpful” on this page can be used to report content that is not accurate, up-to-date or questionable in any manner.

This article does not provide medical advice.


Splitting in Borderline Personality Disorder: How Long Does It Last & Ways to Cope With It?

Our personalities are what define the manner in which we think, feel, and behave. These are often shaped by our environment, genetic traits, and overall experiences. And our personalities are a huge part of who we are and what makes us different from the other people around us. Many people in the world suffer from personality disorders, which are mental health conditions that make you feel, think, and behave in a different way than other people. If left untreated, personality disorders can create problems or distress in the lives of those who have them, as well as their families. There are many types of personality disorders in the world, and one very common personality disorder is known as borderline personality. One of the key behavior experienced by many people with borderline personality is known as splitting. Read on to find out about what is splitting in borderline personality disorder.

What is Borderline Personality Disorder?

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a common type of personality disorder that causes a person to experience difficulty in processing or to manage their emotions. The condition often involves having self-image issues, mood swings, and behavioral changes.(1, 2, 3, 4, 5) Additionally, it can also cause a sense of insecurity and instability. These symptoms can cause people to develop strained relationships with their loved ones and engage in impulsive behaviors. According to the National Alliance of mental Illness (NAMI), approximately 1.4 percent of the population in the United States have borderline personality disorder. Out of this, almost 75 percent of the diagnosed cases are women.(6, 7) Many experts believe that borderline personality disorder is equally common in men, just that it is usually misdiagnosed as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Borderline personality disorder is typically characterized by:

  • Unstable relationships
  • Difficulty managing behavior and emotions
  • Self-image issues

One of the critical behavior that is shared by many people who have borderline personality disorder is known as splitting countertransference, or just called splitting. Let us find out what is splitting in borderline personality disorder.(8)

What is Splitting in Borderline Personality Disorder?

The term splitting means to divide something. People with borderline personality disorder tend to identify themselves, situations, and other people in black and white. This means that people with this disorder may simply characterize people, situations, objects, or beliefs as being all good or all bad. They may do this even after knowing and understanding that the world is a complex place, and there can be shades of grey as well, along with black and white.(9, 10, 11)

People with borderline personality disorder often search for validation, considering their own emotions about others, beliefs, objects, situations, and even themselves. This makes them much more prone to splitting since they try to shield themselves from anxiety caused by loss of trust, betrayal, and potential abandonment.(12, 13)

How Long Does The Splitting Last In Borderline Personality Disorder?

Individuals who have borderline personality disorders often feel intense fear of instability and abandonment. To deal with these fears, they start using splitting as the main coping and defense mechanism. This means that they may, in a straightforward manner, separate negative and positive feelings about the following:

  • Other people
  • Themselves
  • Situations
  • Beliefs
  • Objects

Splitting usually occurs in a cyclic manner, and it tends to happen very suddenly. A person with borderline personality disorder often sees the world in all its complexity.

However, they often change their feelings from good to bad very rapidly and regularly.

Generally, a splitting episode tends to last for a few days, weeks, months, or even years before settling.

Similar to other mental health disorders, a split is triggered by some type of an event that leads to a person with borderline personality disorder to take certain extreme emotional viewpoints. These events might look to be relatively ordinary, including getting into an argument with someone or traveling on a business trip.

Usually, triggering events involve some minor separations from a person they feel close to, and it leads to a fear of abandonment.(14)

Examples of Splitting in Borderline Personality Disorder

It is possible to identify splitting primarily through the language of the person with borderline personality disorder. You will find them using extreme words during their characterizations of others, self, beliefs, objects, and situations. These may include words like:

  • Never
  • Always
  • Bad
  • Good
  • None
  • All

Some examples of splitting are given below:

  • Example 1: You are feeling generally good about yourself and set out on a road trip. However, one wrong turn can make you feel temporarily lost, and suddenly, all the good feelings about yourself tend to disappear, and you start to feel bad about yourself. You may begin to say negative things to yourself or others. While making a wrong turn does not mean that a person is worthless, but a person who has borderline personality disorder will split their perception of reality to avoid the anxiety or others seeing them as worthless.
  • Example 2: Suppose you have a mentor who you admire a lot, and they have helped through in many ways, both personally and professionally. So you begin to idolize them. A person with borderline personality disorder starts to feel their mentor is without flaws. One day if the mentor undergoes some problem in their personal life, you suddenly view this turmoil as a sign of weakness, and you start thinking of your mentor as a failure and fraud. You suddenly want nothing to do with them and start looking for a new mentor.

Such a type of splitting can cause a person to feel hurt, confused, and annoyed by the sudden shift in your change of behavior and perception.

How to Cope with Splitting When You Have Borderline Personality Disorder?

Splitting is a major defense mechanism that is commonly developed by people who have experienced some life traumas early on in their life, including abandonment and abuse.(15)

Long-term treatment for splitting into people with borderline personality disorder involves the development of coping mechanisms that help improve the overall perspective of the events that happen in your life. Reducing your stress and anxiety levels can also help. If you need help dealing with a splitting episode, here are some things you can do:

  • Focus on your senses: It can help to ground yourself by focusing on all your senses. Grounding yourself and focusing on what’s happening around you at that present moment is an excellent way of distracting yourself from your extreme feelings. It will also help you put things into perspective. Focus on what you can smell, touch, taste, hear and see in that specific moment.
  • Calm down your breathing: Splitting episodes are often accompanied by extreme anxiety. Taking long, deep breaths will help you calm down and also prevent your extreme emotions from taking over.
  • Reach out to your doctor: If you find yourself splitting, you can consider getting in touch with your mental health provider. They will be able to calm you and also help alleviate the split while it is taking place.

What Is The Best Way To Help A Person Experiencing Splitting?

It is not going to be easy to help a person with borderline personality disorder who is experiencing splitting. You may feel like you are at the mercy of your symptoms, and your loved ones who try to help them may feel overwhelmed and also at the mercy of the symptoms of that person having borderline personality disorder. If you feel like you are capable of helping your loved one who is experiencing splitting, here are some things you can do:

  • Educate Yourself About Borderline Personality Disorder: It can be easy to feel offended and overwhelmed by the constant up and down behavior of a person with borderline personality disorder. However, the more you find out and learn about this condition and how it affects a person’s behavior and personality, the more you will understand about how you will have to deal with your loved one’s behavior.
  • Identify The Triggers Of These Splitting Episodes: You will find that it is usually the same events that trigger a splitting episode in people with borderline personality disorder. Knowing and identifying these triggers, alerting your loved ones, and helping them void these triggers or manage these triggers may help prevent a splitting episode.
  • Understand the Limits: If you feel like you are incapable of helping your loved one deal with their splitting episodes, it is best to be honest, and let them know about it. Suggest to them that seeking professional help will be a better idea.


Borderline personality disorder is a mental health disorder that is characterized by extremes in a person’s behavior, feelings, and thinking. Many people with this disorder have extreme and set characterizations about themselves, others, beliefs, situations, and even objects, especially during episodes known as splitting. Situations that are usually associated with anxiety and stress are known to trigger these splitting episodes. While it might be challenging at times, but coping with these splitting symptoms is very much possible. Seeking professional help from a mental health provider can help you cope up with your borderline personality disorder and splitting episodes.


  1. Lieb, K., Zanarini, M.C., Schmahl, C., Linehan, M.M. and Bohus, M., 2004. Borderline personality disorder. The Lancet, 364(9432), pp.453-461.
  2. Leichsenring, F., Leibing, E., Kruse, J., New, A.S. and Leweke, F., 2011. Borderline personality disorder. The Lancet, 377(9759), pp.74-84.
  3. Sayrs, J. and Whiteside, U., 2006. Borderline personality disorder. Practitioner’s guide to evidence-based psychotherapy, pp.151-160.
  4. Herman, J.L. and Van der Kolk, B.A., 1987. Borderline Personality Disorder. Psychological trauma, 111.
  5. Gunderson, J.G., 2011. Borderline personality disorder. New England Journal of Medicine, 364(21), pp.2037-2042.
  6. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). 2022. Personality Disorders. [online] Available at: <https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/personality-disorders> [Accessed 9 May 2022].
  7. Nami.org. 2022. Borderline personality disorder | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness. [online] Available at: <https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Mental-Health-Conditions/Borderline-Personality-Disorder> [Accessed 9 May 2022].
  8. Silk, K.R., Lee, S. and Hill, E.M., 1995. Borderline personality disorder symptoms. Am J Psychiatry, 152, pp.1059-1064.
  9. Fertuck, E.A., Fischer, S. and Beeney, J., 2018. Social cognition and borderline personality disorder: splitting and trust impairment findings. Psychiatric Clinics, 41(4), pp.613-632.
  10. Kramer, U., de Roten, Y., Perry, J.C. and Despland, J.N., 2013. Beyond splitting: Observer-rated defense mechanisms in borderline personality disorder. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 30(1), p.3.
  11. de Zulueta, F. and Mark, P., 2000. Attachment and contained splitting: A combined approach of group and individual therapy to the treatment of patients suffering from borderline personality disorder. Group Analysis, 33(4), pp.486-500.
  12. Shoda, H., 1993. Splitting phenomena from a viewpoint of experiencing time: spectrum from multiple personality and Hysteria to borderline personality disorder. Psychopathology, 26(5-6), pp.240-254.
  13. Gerson, M.J., 1984. Splitting: The development of a measure. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 40(1), pp.157-162.
  14. Perry, J.C. and Cooper, S.H., 1986. A preliminary report on defenses and conflicts associated with borderline personality disorder. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 34(4), pp.863-893.
  15. Veen, G. and Arntz, A., 2000. Multidimensional dichotomous thinking characterizes borderline personality disorder. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 24(1), pp.23-45.

Also Read:

Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:May 24, 2022

Recent Posts

Related Posts