What is Object Constancy – and how does it affect people with BPD?


Object Constancy is a developmental trait we learn as infants. You’ll probably know about it if you’ve ever studied or had children of your own.

Essentially, object constancy is being able to recognise or remember that people and objects still exist despite not being in your field of vision.


In terms of Borderline Personality Disorder this means that people with a lack or deficiency of object constancy fail to remember that people are consistent, trustworthy and reliable.

When infants are very young they will often experience separation anxiety if a parent leaves even if for a few seconds. They will eventually learn that when their parents leave, they still ‘exist’ and can return.

As personality disorders are believed to be rooted partially in issues or trauma during the developmental stage of life (though not for everyone), people diagnosed with a personality disorder may exhibit an inability to understand that people remain constant when not with them.


This leads to relationship and interpersonal issues when growing up, and is often recognised as the root of Fear of Abandonment, Selective Amnesia, False Accusations and Dissociative Memories in those with BPD.

It may show itself in ways such as:

. Calling or texting repeatedly when partner is away
. Assuming a partner is having an affair if they are a little late home
. Believing that they are abandoned when left alone
. Accusing their child of drinking/doing drugs if they are late home from school
. Needing constant reassurance that they are loved when left alone
. A partner does not have time to text or call so they believe that they are hated by them
. Exhibiting self-injurious behaviour out of fear of abandonment
. A dissociative ‘fugue’
. Forgetting all of the ‘good’ and focusing entirely on ‘bad’ points in an argument

This is a complex and often stigmatised trait, as it presents itself in difficult to understand behaviours.

However, learning to recognise how your loved one’s feelings are being communicated through their behaviour will help to understand the inner turmoil they are experiencing.

While it may seem completely baffling and unreasonable to you, please remember that what your loved one is feeling is entirely valid, and is a manifestation of their fear.

It helps to be open and allow them to voice their fears rather than provoking further pain by increasing the emotional stimulus.

See this previous post ‘How Can I Help?’ for further information.


3 responses to “What is Object Constancy – and how does it affect people with BPD?

  1. Pingback: The Looking Good/Feeling Good Enigma | THE BPD INFORMER·

  2. Pingback: BPD & the Insatiable Validation Fix | THE BPD INFORMER·

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