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When Eccentricity becomes Borderline Personality Disorder

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BPD EccentricitiesDo you have a particular lucky coin you must carry in your wallet at all times? Do you take great care to make sure when making your bed that the tag on the comforter is in the lower left hand corner of the mattress? Do you avoid stepping on cracks in the sidewalk at all costs?

What happens if you discover you don’t have your coin? What if you step on a crack? The resulting behavior may be what makes the difference between a quirk and an indication of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

Foibles and Quirks

These differences were explored in a recent discussion, “Foibles, Quirks and Shortcomings,” between Borderline Personality Disorder experts Dr. Charles Swenson and Dr. Kelly Koerner, as part of the National Education Alliance Borderline for Personality Disorder’s (NEA BPD’s) series, Connecting the Dots.

“The words ‘foibles’ and ‘quirks’ themselves sound kind of funny,” said Swenson. “When questioning people I treat in therapy, I find myself wondering, is this just a foible? Is it a quirk? These characteristics are not in my DSM-IV, but the difference between the way these terms sound and the impact they have on people’s lives is huge.”

Swenson continued to describe two “universes of behavior” when it comes to differentiating the terms.

“We find the universe of foibles and shortcomings, weaknesses and flaws that are really painful, both for the person that has them and often for the people around them,” he said. “And then there is the universe of quirks that really don’t carry the connotation of failure, or pain. They just make the person different. They’re eccentric.”

BPD Symptoms

The DSM describes nine symptoms characteristic of individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder. In order to be diagnosed with BPD, the text states you must show an “enduring pattern of behavior that includes at least five of the following symptoms”:

  • Extreme reactions
  • A pattern of intense and stormy relationships
  • Distorted and unstable self-image
  • Impulsive and often dangerous behaviors
  • Recurring suicidal behaviors
  • Intense and highly changeable moods
  • Chronic feelings of emptiness and/or boredom
  • Inappropriate, intense anger, or problems controlling anger
  • Having stress-related paranoid thoughts


The DSM goes on to state that “seemingly mundane incidents may trigger symptoms.”

For most, losing a coin could be considered a “mundane incident.” If you, however, were to lose your lucky coin, would you experience anger or rage? Would you take it out on those closest to you? Would it affect, maybe even distort, the way you view yourself or your outlook on life?

“The terms ‘foibles and shortcomings’ sound almost cute or funny. It points to a sort of politeness or tolerance,” said Dr. Koerner. “In reality, they are a source of such pain and such trouble for the patient, within themselves as they try to change the behavior and find themselves falling short, and within their relationships.”

Borderline Personality Disorder treatment centers offer programs that teach behavioral management and coping skills if you find your eccentricities are taking over your ability to function in relationships, and in everyday life.

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