Why We Need to Talk About Borderline Personality Disorder
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) and other forms of mental illness are often stigmatized, and negative attitudes toward those who have BPD are common. If you have BPD, you may experience a variety of forms of stigma such as people avoiding you because they think you might be unstable, or people blaming you for your condition and telling you to grow up or change your behavior.
Negative attitudes are often based on lack of knowledge and understanding about BPD, or misinformation about this condition. People are often uncomfortable talking about any form of mental illness. But talking about BPD and other forms of mental illness is important because misinformation and stigma can make people apprehensive about getting help. It can be difficult to live with the symptoms of BPD, even without the added stigma or rejection because of your condition.
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Preconceived Notions about BPD
BPD is a complex mental illness characterized by unstable relationships, mood swings and impulsive behavior. Individuals with BPD have an intense fear of abandonment and may go to great lengths to avoid it. Emotional reactions can be extreme and may include suicidal tendencies or self-harming behaviors. Others may erroneously believe that these behaviors are intentionally manipulative.
People with BPD are often thought to be weak-willed, unstable or dangerous. Others may believe a person with BPD is self-indulgent or too immature to make their own choices and decisions. The belief that BPD is untreatable persists among many people, but this is no longer true.
The Harmful Effects of Stigma against BPD
All forms of mental illness are sometimes stigmatized, and BPD is probably among the most stigmatized. It’s an illness that’s misunderstood among many people, sometimes including doctors and other healthcare professionals. Stigma can lead to many harmful effects, including misdiagnosis. Inaccurate diagnosis can lead to an ineffective approach to treatment.
The public often assumes that a person who has BPD can’t be responsible or stable, or that the illness can’t be treated. Other harmful effects that you may experience because of stigma can include:
- Reluctance to seek treatment or to keep appointments to avoid being discovered
- Harassment or bullying
- The belief that you’ll never get better and that you won’t succeed at various challenges
- Misunderstanding by friends, family, coworkers, and others
- Reduced opportunities for work
- Difficulty finding housing
When a person has BPD and avoids obtaining treatment to avoid being judged, symptoms can worsen. Those with BPD may participate in impulsive behaviors that may have dangerous outcomes, such as unsafe sex, excessive spending, and reckless driving. They often turn to substance abuse or self-harm as a method of coping with overwhelming emotions. Self-harming behavior frequently includes suicidal threats or attempts.
Reasons to Talk About BPD
BPD affects both men and women, and it affects approximately 1.4 percent of adults age 18 or over in the United States. It’s a form of mental illness, not a character flaw, weakness or a refusal to grow up. Feelings of misunderstanding and being stigmatized may be a constant struggle for those who have BPD. A sense of isolation or a belief that it’s not acceptable to ask for help can make this illness much more difficult to overcome.
Judgementalism from others almost always stems from a lack of understanding rather than facts. More open discussions about BPD can help to reduce preconceptions and may help people to be more compassionate toward those who are dealing with mental health challenges. The more people understand that BPD is a treatable illness and nothing to be ashamed of, the more those who struggle with BPD will feel free to get help without fear of being judged. BPD is treatable, and with proper treatment, it’s possible to bring symptoms under control and lead a life worth living.
If you or a loved one are struggling with borderline personality disorder or another mental health concern, please contact us at (855) 409-0204 or submit the form below and a treatment specialist will contact you.
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Since 2004, Lori has worked with the behavioral health treatment community to bring awareness about mental health disorders and evidence-based treatments. Lori strives to help people better understand mental illness and provide support to those needing help and their families. As a mental health advocate, Lori works to be a voice for those suffering from borderline personality disorder, depression, anxiety, trauma, or any other disorder.