Do you know what borderline personality disorder (BPD) is? Many people have never heard of it, despite the fact that more than three million people are diagnosed with it each year in the United States alone. Symptoms include but are not limited to: depression and anxiety; an extreme fear of abandonment; black and white thinking; reckless, impulsive behavior; uncontrollable rage at situations that do not call for it;; and suicidal ideation. This condition is usually (but not always) the result of abuse.
There are a number of reasons you may not have heard of BPD. It often is seen as a “fake” disorder, made up by those seeking attention. This is ironic, because needing attention is a symptom of BPD. However, studies such as this one have shown that BPD is a real disorder, and affects those who have it just as much as any other disorder.
BPD often is falsely portrayed as a scary disorder, along with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Individuals with BPD often are labeled manipulative, abusive, or dangerous, even though there is no proof that having it makes someone inherently violent or abusive. In fact, people with mental illnesses, including BPD, are much more likely to be the victims of violence than to be violent themselves.
The lack of awareness of BPD hurts those who spend years wondering what is wrong with them, and why they feel this way when so many others do not. Without knowing that other people have gone through the same things, they are left to feel alone and broken.
I myself was diagnosed with BPD when I was 17, but I started showing symptoms long before then. When I was in middle school, I became depressed, in addition to the anxiety I had been feeling since I was a very small child. I did not go to school for days, and when I did, I mostly wore sweatpants, and was distant and inattentive. When a friend and I got in a fight that ruined our friendship, I became so distressed that I self-harmed and was forced to go to a mental rehabilitation facility. This happened again the following year, when a close friend of mine moved away and decided never to speak to me again.
When I got into my first serious relationship in high school, I never left my significant other alone, texting them all day, every day. If they did not respond in more than 10 minutes, I became so scared of being abandoned that I would have breakdowns where I screamed and sobbed. Around this time, I also became filled with rage at the slightest inconvenience, and found myself hyperventilating often. More symptoms of BPD emerged as I got older, and they only got more intense.
If I had known about BPD back then, I could have made the connection that these experiences were symptoms of my personality disorder, and that they were not my fault. I could have reached out and gotten help much sooner, and I could have found a community of people with similar experiences that I could relate to. I could have seen there is nothing wrong with being mentally ill, it is just as normal as not being mentally ill, and it is nothing to feel bad about.
Spreading awareness of BPD, and showing that it should be embraced instead of feared and hated, is incredibly important. Finding a name for what you experience can bring so much relief, and can allow individuals to find community with others like them, and get treatment if they would like to. Awareness of BPD could change lives for the better.
Schmahl, C. (n.d.). Faculty of 1000 evaluation for Neural Correlates of Negative Emotionality in Borderline Personality Disorder: An Activation-Likelihood-Estimation Meta-Analysis. F1000 – Post-publication Peer Review of the Biomedical Literature. doi:10.3410/f.717954824.793463060