Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness Month: What BPD is Like
Tuesday, May 10 2011 Becky Oberg
May is Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) Awareness Month. While there are many sites with excellent clinical descriptions or offer advice for the loved ones of a person with BPD, there is a lack of information on BPD from the point of view of a person with BPD.
So, in honor of BPD Awareness Month, here's what BPD is like for me.
BPD and mental health professionals
BPD is to have your symptoms downplayed or ignored because you're "just a borderline".
BPD is to have your every action viewed through a lens that suspects manipulation.
BPD is to have therapists refuse to take your case because of your diagnosis.
BPD is to have religious counselors think you're living in sin or even demon possessed.
BPD is to know your diagnosis is a code word for "pain in the neck".
BPD is to go in and out of hospitals, where you're treated as if you're making up an excuse to go to the hospital.
BPD is to be put in restraints faster than non-BPD patients when staying in the hospital.
BPD is to be subdued by mental health professionals whenever you start showing anger or frustration.
BPD as seen by other people
BPD is to be seen as "attention-seeking".
BPD is to be viewed as an unstable monster who forces everyone to walk on eggshells.
BPD is to be "the other relative".
BPD is to be looked down on not only because you have a psychiatric diagnosis, but also because your disorder is misunderstood.
BPD is to go through a horrible experience and have your reaction dismissed for "blowing things out of proportion."
BPD is to have no relationship beyond "being civil" because everybody is afraid you might hurt them physically, emotionally and/or verbally.
BPD is having people expect you to just "get over it".
BPD and self
BPD is feeling like everyone blames you for your diagnosis.
BPD is to suffer all the symptoms of a psychiatric disorder while in full control of your mind.
BPD is to feel you're on the border of sanity and psychosis.
BPD is to be terrified of no one being there for you.
BPD is to always be looking over your shoulder to make sure the monster isn't following you.
BPD is never knowing how you'll react.
BPD is not knowing who or what you are.
Clinical BPD symptoms
HealthyPlace.com features a list of clinical symptoms of borderline. Note that this translation is not a diagnosis; simply advice that is no substitute for a qualified mental health professionals treatment.
The criteria for a diagnosis of BPD is five of the nine following symptoms:
- frantic efforts to prevent perceived abandonment (excluding self-injury or suicide attempts)
- a history of unstable relationships--despising a person one moment, the next passionately loving the same person
- a noticeable history of being unsure of one's identity: Am I gay or straight? Am I good or bad? Do I believe this or that?
- two areas of impulsivity with potentially bad consequences: reckless driving, substance abuse, promiscuity, overeating (exclusing self-injury or suicide attempts)
- multiple suicide attempts or episodes of self-injury
- mood swings lasting a few hours
- inappropriate, intense, uncontrollable anger
- chronic feelings of emptiness
- episodes of paranoia or dissociation that come and go when the person is under stress
The Merck Manual contains this tidbit about BPD: "their thought processes are more disturbed than those of people with an antisocial personality, and their aggression is more often turned against the self. They are angrier, more impulsive, and more confused about their identity than are people with a histrionic personality."
BPD is a difficult diagnosis to live with, but it can be treated. I was considered a hopeless case--dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) didn't work on me--but schema therapy did. I'm in crisis considerably less frequently, and I'm able to fight back when my symptoms threaten me. That doesn't mean I'm trouble-free--I don't think that exists--but I know how to face struggles.
BPD does not have to be a hopeless diagnosis.