Is BPD Taken Seriously?

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I’m 19 years old and feel as if I have BPD.I am scheduled to go to a place next month hopefully that is going to be able to help give me some answers. In the mean time I have been reading Information on BPD from the links I found on this website. I found a few articles talking about how some mental health care professionals find people with BPD to be a “lost cause”. Even a woman with the disorder would roll her eyes when her co workers would mention a patient with BPD.

This was troubling to me because anytime I have tried to talk to almost anyone about the thoughts I have as to what I think may be wrong with me, they look at me like I’m crazy. I guess to people in general I seem to be “normal”. I assume this is my own fault for trying to appear that way for much of my life. My worry is that when I go next month, I will have a bad experience. Which i fear could be something I have a hard time letting go of.

I guess my question is how common is this misconception of people with BPD? And if I ask too many questions am I just going to be considered to be acting “borderline”? Thank you so much for listening and for your answer to my last question. I found it most helpful. I’m very greatful.

A: For many years, people with borderline personality disorder were thought to be the most difficult patients. This is because one of the characteristics of BPD is unstable relationships. Some therapists didn’t know what to do when the inevitable instability happened in their relationship with the patient. Being frustrated, and only human, some would then figuratively or actually roll their eyes saying to themselves, “Oh well. She’s borderline.” That let such therapists blame the patient, instead of themselves, for the failure in therapy.

Then along came Dr. Marsha Linehan who developed Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). Dr. Linehan showed us that the roadblock to successful treatment of BPD was in our techniques, not in the patient. DBT is currently the most well-researched and effective therapeutic method for helping people with BPD.

The good news is that Dr. Linehan has shown that Borderline Personality Disorder is treatable and patients are not to blame when treatment fails. She and her colleagues have developed techniques that help the patient — and the therapist — regulate their feelings during difficult stages of treatment.

One of my professional worries these days is that BPD is being overdiagnosed and DBT is being applied to diagnoses for which it hasn’t been shown to be effective. Being frustrated, and only human, some therapists are so delighted to have an effective treatment program like DBT that they start seeing BPD everywhere. (“I’ve got a hammer so everything must be a nail.”) Being frustrated, and only human, some therapists are “adapting” DBT to other diagnoses, sometimes with good effect, sometimes not.

So I guess the answer to your question is another question. Have you carefully researched the program you are intending to attend? If you truly have BPD, it is my opinion that you would be best served by a place where staff are licensed therapists who have been specifically trained in DBT and who design each patient’s treatment according to her or his individual diagnosis. Qualified staff will never see you as a “lost cause.” Difficulties with your therapeutic work will be treated as problems to be solved, not reasons to put you down or to terminate treatment.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 26 Mar 2008

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2008). Is BPD Taken Seriously?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 23, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/03/26/is-bpd-taken-seriously/