Borderline Personality Disorder is probably one of the most stigmatized yet underrepresented mental illnesses out there. What people know about BPD, if anything, is often times cherry-picked and wrapped in Hollywood style dramatics.
This exaggerated idea of us even finds its way into the mental health system. Many mental health professionals don’t want to work with us, believing we are too hard to treat or just don’t have experience with Personality Disorders.
Which leads me into the first misconception…
1) It’s impossible to treat us
This stereotype often found in the mental health community is definitely not true. DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy), one of the most successful therapies used for treating people with BPD, was created in the 1980s by a psychologist named Marsha Linehan, who also had BPD herself. And this has been the preferred treatment for BPD ever since.
In addition, there have been several studies done that show BPD can get better with age. I personally can’t attest to this, as I am 21, but only time will tell.
- BPD is only found in Women
Although 75% of people diagnosed with this disorder are women, there have been reports that indicate that there may be more men with BPD than expected. Many of them possibly being misdiagnosed with something else such as Bipolar Disorder or PTSD.
- We don’t feel empathy
Having low empathy is not one of the following nine symptoms of BPD:
- Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment
- A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by extremes between idealization and devaluation
- Identity disturbance: Markedly or persistently unstable self-image or sense of self
- Impulsive behavior in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging
- Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-harming behavior
- Emotional instability in reaction to day-to-day events
- Chronic feelings of emptiness
- Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger
- Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms
Although, some may see these symptoms and equate that to having low or no empathy. People with BPD are often thought of as having ‘3rd degree burns over 90% of our bodies’, as coined by Marsha Linehan. Meaning we feel everything. Everything we do and feel is in extremes, which can include empathy.
- Everyone with BPD is the same
There are nine symptoms and out of those nine you need at least five to be diagnosed. So, there are countless combinations of traits one could have. So someone with BPD can have completely different symptoms compared to someone else who also shares the same diagnosis.
Plus, we’re still human. We all experience things in different ways. This disorder is also on a spectrum. So, someone might experience all nine symptoms to a severe degree, compared to someone who might only experience five at a lesser degree.
- Borderline Personality Disorder and Bipolar Disorder are the same thing
I can see how these often get conflated. Firstly, BPD is a personality disorder and Bipolar Disorder is a mood disorder, but they do share some similar symptoms. For example both disorders experience mood swings, albeit in a different way.
Often times, when people use the word ‘Bipolar’ flippantly, (think ‘Oh she’s so Bipolar’), the mood swings that they’re talking about are more in-line with someone who has BPD. We experience mood swings several times throughout the day, everyday. Some can last just a few minutes, to a few hours, or sometimes a few days.
As with Bipolar Disorder, I don’t have personal experience with this, so I don’t feel comfortable speaking on it, but here is a great article highlighting the difference between the two.
To be inclusive in bringing awareness to mental health, we must speak about the lesser-known or ‘scary’ mental illnesses and challenge these stereotypes. You can’t paint people with one brush. We are individuals with different feelings and experiences. Although, as pervasive and unwanted these symptoms are, we can still love and be loved, feel joy and happiness, and experience life.
I encourage you, even if you have never personally struggled with a mental illness, to challenge these biases that permeate our society. Everyone has been touched by mental illness in some way, whether that be you personally, a family member, or a neighbor. With a history and culture that hasn’t been very kind to us, education is the key to disrupt and change these unfair stereotypes.
Author Bio: Payton is a lifestyle blogger over at intheflux.com where she talks about mental health, social issues, and lifestyle and wellness topics. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.