Mervin Smucker. The abandonment panic cycle with borderlines

The primary trigger of a borderline’s acting-out behaviors is abandonment panic; a pervasive fear of abandonment which threatens to overwhelm the individual and recreate the traumatic affect associated with memories and fears of early abandonment experienced (abandonment depression).  Thus, when borderlines perceive the signal or threat of abandonment, an abandonment schema is activated.  The ensuing abandonment panic response of borderlines propels them to activate behaviors and responses designed to ward off, and defend against, the overwhelming threat of abandonment depression.  Borderlines do this by engaging in acting-out behaviors (e.g. suicide gestures, or other acts of self-abuse), which precipitate a crisis.  An outcome, or secondary gain, of the crisis of often a feeling of re-connectedness with significant others (e.g., through hospitalization, emergency phone calls or therapy sessions, evoking of “caring” responses from people close to them).  Thus, what may appear to be dysfunctional or maladaptive behaviors, often has the effect of actually protecting borderlines from abandonment and keeping them connected with significant others.

Mervin Smucker