When I was first diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD), I felt incredibly isolated. I didn’t have any specialist help which meant that I turned to books and the internet to learn about the condition. The depth of the stigma that I discovered during my research was shocking, both from academic and more informal sources. I encountered psychology books that described people with the condition as manipulative, YouTube videos that depicted people with BPD as chainsaw-wielding monsters, and websites vilifying people with BPD who so much as dared to be in a relationship.
Stigma of BPD
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is one of the most stigmatized mental health conditions, along with conditions such as schizophrenia, dissociative identity disorder and other personality disorders. I have been discriminated against by healthcare professionals, struggled for years to talk openly due to stereotyping and see few compassionate representations of the condition in the media. There are three main myths about BPD and I will outline them here.
Myths about borderline personality disorder abound. Are we “crazy?” Are we “impossible?” Are we “doomed?” One of the main reasons I wanted to start writing and blogging about borderline personality disorder (BPD) was to address the stigma I’ve encountered as a woman living with this diagnosis out in the world. Today, I thought I would break down three of the most common myths about borderline personality disorder (BPD) I’ve encountered and my thoughts (as well as science’s) about each of them.
Coping with a new borderline diagnosis can be challenging. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to accept your borderline diagnosis and start healing.
I need people to stop using the borderline diagnosis as an insult. As someone who writes primarily about mental health, it’s easy for people to figure out that I’ve been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) via a quick Google search. Part of me is relieved that it’s in the open – it frees me of the shame bestowed by secrecy and saves me from having to explain myself to people. But the other part of me worries that people who learn about my diagnosis will pigeonhole me based on their own misunderstandings of what BPD entails (Reclaiming Borderline to Reduce Stigma).
When defining borderline personality disorder (BPD), most resources will present you with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) criteria, but I wish to reframe the borderline personality disorder diagnosis. Not only is the DSM flat-out wrong about certain aspects of BPD (such as its understanding of people with BPD as lacking empathy), but it reduces a complex experience of being human to a diagnosis packed with bias. Let's reframe borderline personality disorder and think about the diagnosis differently.
The new movie, Welcome to Me, definitely offers an offensive depiction of borderline. Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a complex and challenging illness for those with expertise; so I wasn't entirely surprised that Welcome to Me failed miserably in representing BPD. If my sentiment wasn't already clear, I hated this film. The TV caricature with a borderline label contained traits uncharacteristic of BPD. The movie, Welcome to Me, is offensive and reckless; this movie transmits misinformation to the public, further stigmatizing borderline personality disorder.
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is complex and challenging--for both patients and their doctors (among other clinicians). As patients suffering at BPD's mercy, however, sometimes we forget that doctors of borderline personality disorder are human and deserve sympathy, too.
I’m very open about my condition. I even write about it on Facebook and volunteer information in class. And I like calling myself “a borderline.” The peculiar self-reference is deliberate. For a while I subscribed to the idea that we are not our diseases—we are not borderline, we have borderline—and to be fair, I still do; however, I also think there’s power in language and have decided to reclaim "borderline" to reduce stigma.
While working on an article for a different web site, I stumbled across a study about mental illness among journalists. According to the study, the rate of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is higher among journalists than the general population. While journalists tend to have "positive personal attitudes" toward mental illness, they are often afraid to reveal their mental health struggles.