Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a commonly misunderstood condition that carries a lot of stigma. Misconceptions about BPD can stop people seeking treatment and influence the way people with BPD are treated by others.
So what are these common misconceptions? And what facts can we use to correct them?
Everyone has a unique personality with their own set of characteristics. These characteristics influence the way we think, feel, act and relate to the world around us.
A personality disorder is a long-standing pattern that influences the way people relate to the world. This can cause great distress and difficulties in relationships and reaching life goals.
A diagnosis of BPD, or any other personality disorder, does not mean the person’s personality is flawed, rather, it means the person has a different way of relating to the world. This can cause distress and impair functioning in different areas of life.
It is a common stereotype that only women suffer from BPD.
While a larger percentage of females are diagnosed, around 25% of diagnoses made are for males. Some evidence suggests this statistic is biased and the ratio of females to males with the condition may be more equally distributed than first believed.
Research has found multiple factors that can predispose someone to develop BPD. These include environmental factors such as attachment, childhood trauma and temperament, biological factors such as genetics and neurobiology, and sociocultural factors.
While childhood trauma has been suggested as one of the possible causes of BPD, it is important to recognise that not everyone with BPD has experienced childhood trauma. A combination of these factors are often experienced by people diagnosed with BPD.
Behaviour displayed by people diagnosed with BPD is often viewed and labeled as being manipulative or attention-seeking in nature. However, this is not the case. The behaviour is often impulsive and a way for the person to try and meet their needs.
For behaviour to be considered manipulative there needs to be an element of preplanning, this is not the case in BPD as behaviour is often an impulse in response to intense emotion. For example, an individual may experience intense anxiety about being left alone and may respond by begging the person to stay or physically stopping the person from leaving.
It was originally thought that BPD was untreatable due to poor treatment outcomes and the misconception that it is part of someone’s personality and cannot be changed. This is not the case. There are a range of psychological therapies that have been researched and deemed to be effective in the treatment of BPD.
The most commonly used therapy for BPD is Dialectial Behavioural Therapy (DBT), which was developed to assist people experiencing chronic suicidality and difficulties with regulating or managing emotions. There are a number of other therapies that are used in the treatment of BPD and sometimes a combination of these therapies can be helpful.
By learning more about BPD and understanding these misconceptions we can begin to breakdown the stigma that surrounds this illness, empowering people to seek support and treatment for the condition.
For more information on borderline personality disorder see SANE's Spotlight on BPD, read the SANE BPD factsheet and guide, or watch Stephanie's story.
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