The negative stigma attached to the term “borderline” has rippled through the mental health community and into society at large. The media depicts individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) as being manipulative, emotionally labile, seductive, and dangerous in relationships. The over-abundance of negative attacks on borderline personalities is not only overwhelming, but perpetuates the cycle of stigma. It has become a parody used in popular culture further creating shame in those who identify with the pain and struggle of the borderline experience. Individuals with BPD often feel a sense of being unwanted, emotionally neglected, and a burden on others. They struggle to have interpersonal relationships and to form healthy attachments. More and more, individuals with BPD are finding themselves isolated and in need of help without the requisite safety to reach out.
We must all help to dispel the myths and stigma attached to BPD so that quality care can be freely sought. Below are five dangerous myths about borderline personality disorder:
- Borderline Personality Disorder cannot be treated. Research and clinical observation indicate that many patients with BPD respond well to treatment. This dangerous myth may lead to individuals avoiding therapy and not receiving the help they need and want. The lack of hope communicated by this myth contributes to the problematic cycle of hopelessness, shame, and confusion.
- Only women suffer from borderline personality disorder. Although approximately 70% of individuals diagnosed with BPD are women, it is fairly common for men to have BPD. Despite evidence of minimal difference in the general population between men and women when it comes to meeting criteria for BPD, women are still diagnosed far more often than men. There are complicated historical and cultural reasons for this uneven diagnosing. This myth isolates men from the borderline experience and may create a desire to hide from help.
- Individuals with BPD are attention seekers and master manipulators. People with BPD are struggling moment-to-moment to regulate their emotions. Fears of abandonment are distressing, dysregulating, and result in internal chaos. They must develop a capacity to maneuver in stressful situations to manage their distress and to communicate their needs to loved ones and those who can help. This myth is particularly dangerous in relation to cutting, self-harm, or suicidal behavior. What may seem like a ‘cry for help’ is often the best way these individuals can find to get their voice heard. These individuals should be listened to, taken seriously, and treated with respect.
- All individuals with BPD are the same. Although many people lump individuals with BPD together, the borderline experience can be quite diverse. There are 256 possible combinations of the criteria for BPD. Individual experiences will surely overlap but the differences will express themselves in a way specific to the person’s life, history, and personality. This is why it is crucial for therapists to utilize a series of tools and interventions to tailor a treatment approach as unique as the individual.
- Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is the only form of therapy proven to help individuals with BPD. DBT has made major contributions to the treatment of BPD. DBT researchers have created a large body of literature about the specific needs of individuals with BPD. However, other forms of therapy, including Psychodynamic Psychotherapy have also been shown to be effective in treating BPD.
At WILA, we strive to see the whole person. We understand the importance of self-regulation and are dedicated to compassionate care for those who struggle.