BPD : How It Affects Men And Women Differently

We have seen that those who have experienced significant childhood trauma are more likely than the average person to develop borderline personality disorder (BPD) in their adult lives.

It is now known that borderline personality disorder (BPD) affects men and women in equal numbers. However, the way this serious condition (one out of ten BPD sufferers, tragically, end their lives by suicide) affects individuals’ emotions and behaviour tends to differ depending upon whether the sufferer is male or female.

I outline these differences below:

1) Men are less likely than women to seek psychotherapy for their condition, often because they see seeking help as a sign of weakness and, therefore, a source of shame

2) However, if men do seek treatment, because BPD is stereotypically associated with females and therapists may be poorly trained in recognizing BPD in men, they are frequently misdiagnosed. Such misdiagnoses include :

– addiction to alcohol or drugs (when, in fact, this should not be the primary diagnosis as it is a symptom of the underlying BPD)

– bipolar disorder

– antisocial personality disorder

– narcissistic personality disorder

3) Men do not obtain medication for the treatment of their condition as much as women do (due to receiving a wrongful diagnosis or because they do their best to conceal their illness from the medical profession and from society in general).

4) Men who have BPD are more likely to:

– act impulsively

– thrill/sensation-seek

– take high risks

– seek out novel and exciting experiences

– drink heavily

– become involved in crime

5) Men are more likely, also, to suffer from intermittent explosive disorder (I.E.D) running alongside BPD than are their female counterparts

6) Men are five times more likely than women to take their own lives.

However, it is also true that women are more likely to attempt suicide than men are – it’s just that a much higher proportion of their suicide attempts do notsucceed’ (this is, in part, due to the fact men tend to use more lethal methods to try to kill themselves than women). Lessage et al. (1994) conducted a study of completed suicides in a group of 18 to 35-year-olds. About 30 per cent of these completed suicides had a diagnosis of BPD (about 10 per cent of BPD sufferers end their lives by suicide). Also, the majority of the suicide completers were male (and few were in treatment at the time, adding further weight to the assertion that men with BPD tend to be reluctant to seek psychiatric help compared to women).

It may also be that women’s suicide attempts may, sometimes, be more half-hearted, or more of ‘a cry for help’, although this, of course, is by absolutely no means always the case.

7) Women are more likely than men to also suffer from eating disorders, mood disorders and anxiety disorders if they have a primary diagnosis of BPD

NB:  Anyone who thinks they may have BPD should consult an appropriately qualified and experienced professional for advice. Therapies can include, CBT,  DBT  and/or medication.


Lesage AD, Boyer R, Grunberg F, et al. Suicide and mental disorders: a case-control study of young men. Am J Psychiatry. 1994;151(7):1063-1068. doi:10.1176/ajp.151.7.1063

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).


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