Labelling People As Having BPD May Adversely Affect Their Treatment


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A study conducted at Bath University in the United Kingdom has found that labelling an individual as suffering from BPD can lower the standard of treatment they receive.


The study involved 3 groups of mental health clinicians and required them to watch a video of a man manifesting symptoms of anxiety disorder.

However, each of these 3 groups was given different sets of information about the man featured in the video. These differences were as follows:

GROUP 1: Those in GROUP 1 were provided with only simple and basic information about the man in the video

GROUP 2: Those in GROUP 2 were given the same information as those in GROUP 1 AND ADDITIONALLY given information about the man’s behaviour that implied he might be suffering from BPD.

GROUP 3: Those in GROUP 3 were ADDITIONALLY informed that the man in the video had previously been FORMALLY DIAGNOSED as suffering from BPD by a psychiatrist.


Despite the fact that mental health clinicians in each of the 3 groups watched exactly the same video and were given identical instructions to make an evaluation and assessment of the man in the video, the researchers involved in the study found that many of them had been negatively influenced in their interpretations of what they saw because they believed the label of borderline personality disorder had been attached to the patient.


The results of the study suggest that mental health clinicians may be negatively influenced in their analysis of a patient’s behaviours by their prior expectations, even if those prior expectations are predicated upon false information – in this case, that the man in the video was likely to have or was formally diagnosed as having borderline personality disorder as those in GROUP 2 and GROUP 3 respectively believed due to the bogus information with which they were supplied by those running the experiment.

Researchers at Bath University (where the study was conducted) suggested that such negatively biased attitudes towards patients based upon the psychiatric labels (in this case, borderline personality disorder) that have been foisted upon them may adversely affect the treatment they receive.


Lam, D.C.K., Salkovskis, P.M. and Hogg, L.I. (2016), ‘Judging a book by its cover’: An experimental study of the negative impact of a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder on clinicians’ judgements of uncomplicated panic disorder. Br J Clin Psychol, 55: 253-268.

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


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

David Hosier MSc holds two degrees (BSc Hons and MSc) and a post-graduate diploma in education (all three qualifications are in psychology). He also holds UK QTS (Qualified Teacher Status). He has worked as a teacher, lecturer and researcher. His own experiences of severe childhood trauma and its emotional fallout motivated him to set up this website,, for which he exclusively writes articles. He has published several books including The Link Between Childhood Trauma And Borderline Personality Disorder, The Link Between Childhood Trauma ANd Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and  How Childhood Trauma Can Damage The Developing Brain (And How These Effects Can Be Reversed). He was educated at the University of London, Goldsmith’s College where he developed his interest in childhood experiences leading to psychopathology and wrote his thesis on the effects of childhood depression on academic performance. This site has been created for educational purposes only.

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