Due to the fact that borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a highly complex condition, there are, notoriously, many misunderstandings and misconceptions surrounding the true nature of this extremely serious psychiatric illness ; they include the following :
1) The condition is untreatable – unfortunately, until relatively recently, many of those working in the field of mental health regarded BPD as essentially untreatable. It is very sad that this meant a lot of individuals were left to suffer extreme distress which could, with proper treatment, have been alleviated.
Fortunately, there is now much research showing that, in fact, treatment can be very effective for those suffering from BPD (for example, dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) – click here to read my article on this).
Above diagram shows DBT at the top of the list of therapies for BPD, followed by : STEPPS ; Mentalization-Based Therapy (MBT) ; Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Therapy ; and Dynamic Deconstructive Therapy (DDT).
Indeed, approximately three-quarters of those who receive proper treatment will improve so significantly that they no longer meet the criteria to be diagnosed with BPD (click here to read my article about how successful treatment can be).
2) Stigmatization – It is true that there is still significant stigma surrounding the diagnosis of BPD, but things are improving.
It used to be the case that many mental health professionals even refused to work with BPD sufferers because they were regarded as too difficult and challenging. This situation has greatly improved due to the much better understanding that now exists surrounding what compels BPD sufferers to behave the way they do and how this behaviour is very often linked to intense feelings of distress and having suffered a deeply painful childhood.
3) Diagnosis – In the past, psychiatrists frequently did not even like to diagnose their patients with BPD because they did not wish to stigmatize them. Again, now, with the accruing of much greater understanding and knowledge about both the causes and true nature of the condition, psychiatrists are not so likely to be deterred from diagnosing the illness.
There is, in fact, great value in receiving a correct diagnosis of BPD, as it allows the sufferer to understand the source of his/her difficulties and what may have caused them (click here to read my post about the link between childhood trauma and the subsequent development of BPD,) therefore making it far more likely that these difficulties can be effectively addressed. Learning about one’s illness and its likely causes means that an individual no longer needs to fight it with ‘one hand tied behind their back’
4) The misconception that those who suffer from BPD are deliberately manipulative – it used to be claimed by some that individuals with BPD had a tendency to be deliberately manipulative. In fact, however, when BPD sufferers become intensely angry, for example, or otherwise ‘act out’. it is generally the case that such behaviour is impulsive, spontaneous and completely unplanned.
Indeed, because one of the symptoms of BPD is an impaired understanding of how social interaction operates, they are unlikely to have the necessary skills to plan out the intricacies of how to approach others in a manipulative and self-serving way.
5) The misconception of ‘attention-seeking’ suicide attempts – the fact of the matter is, an absolutely astounding ten percent of individuals with BPD ultimately end their lives by suicide. THIS SUICIDE RATE IS ONE THOUSAND TIMES GREATER THAN IN THE GENERAL POPULATION IN THE UK! That statistic speaks most eloquently for itself, I think. Given this horrendous figure, one is left wondering, and deeply bewildered, as to why those with BPD do not demand MUCH MORE ATTENTION, LEFT AS THEY ARE, SO OFTEN, TO FEND FOR THEMSELVES WITH NO PROPER MEDICAL INTERVENTION.
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David Hosier BSc Hons, MSc, PGDE(FAHE).