Ian Curtis and BPD (or another disorder)
Rarely do you find an individual artist who expresses his/her emotions and pain as clearly as did Ian Curits. He was the lead singer and song writer for the band Joy Division. In May of 1980, two days before their first U.S. tour, Curtis hung himself in his kitchen. Joy Division reformed as New Order and had a major impact on dance/rock music. But Joy Division was an amazing band. Curtis’ lyrics read like a suicide note. He had epilepsy and the medication he was taking for it supposedly depressed him. The lyrics on their two albums (Unknown Pleasures and Closer) are fought with pain, shame and depression. Two years ago there was a bio-pic about Curits (“Control”) and a documentary about Joy Division. Again, rarely do you find someone who expresses his pain in such clear terms. Here is a sampling of Curtis’ lyrics:
Mother I tried please belief me
I’m doing the best that I can
I’m ashamed of the things I’ve been put through
I’m ashamed of the person I am
Isolation, isolation, isolation
New Dawn Fades
Different colours, different shades
Over each mistakes were made
I took the blame
Directionless so plain to see
A loaded gun won’t set you free
So you say
Forgive and forget’s what they teach
Or pass through the desserts and wastelands once more
And watch as they drop by the beach
This is the crisis I knew had to come
Destroying the balance I’d kept
Turning around to the next set of lives
Wondering what will come next.
Worn like a mask of self-hate
Confronts and then dies
Don’t walk away
Individuals diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) often have multiple suicide attempts, but are rarely successful. Also, BPD is much somewhat more common in females. Being in the medical field, I cast doubt on the speculative “BPD” diagnosis. I personally feel that there are huge problems in the way that psychiatry classifies and diagnoses mental illnesses. Most of the diagnoses are based solely on subjective findings, and are subject to huge biases. Also it often seems that some diagnoses are similar and often almost interchangeable. Because accurate diagnosis and management can mean the difference between life and death, more science is desperately needed in these areas.
More likely, he was severely clinically depressed or he was suffering from bipolar affective disorder.
I do wonder if it had been diagnosed, if it would have made a difference (would he still be alive today)? I believe that this question cannot be answered.
Not only do borderlines, experience suicidal and parasuicidal difficulties, sadly many are sucsessful. BPD has the same prevalance in both males and females, however it may appear to be more prevalent in females as seventy five percent of all humans beings presenting to services, are female which can only suggest male role model stereotypes are preventing men from accessing help. Not being in the medical field but actually being a having BPD, rarther than making assumptions about others that do, cast doubt on the validity of your speculative “BPD” opinions.
I have recently gained a major understaning as to Bi-polar. Ian Curtis was at the forefront of a new wave in the music scene that essentially ‘spawned’ the ’80’s Manchester scene. He was a genious, yet on the eve of going to America he ‘chose’ to take his life in the meantime. Epilepsy may well have been a contributory factor but I am verement that Ian Curtis suffered with Bipolar disorder. I can even be surer that, once he took his own life, he suffered no more. While I am also sure there are many people that are working hard to break down the stigma and taboo that generally surrounds the issue of mental health, I think that Stephen Fry is an absolute legend as he has set his tasks on breaking down the taboo and inherent misunderstanding that surrounds this terrible affliction. I shall be expressing my thanks to him in the medium-term. Danny
I can relate so well to Ian Curtis…I am diagnosed with both bipolar and borderline personality… I have attempted suicide 8 times now over 30 yrs…and I’m still alive…I suffer from depression…and I really can understand how Ian felt to love deep, suffer inside and eventually lose control….RIP Ian….
WEATHER OR NOT IAN WAS DIAGANOSED WITH BPD OR BI-POLAR SYNDROME (AS I HAVE BEEN) I HIGHLY DOUBT IT WOULD HAVE MADE A DIFFERENCE AS TO WEATHER OR NOT HE WOULD BE HERE TODAY ….WHEN A PERSON AS SICK-AS SAD AS IT IS-WANTS TO TRULY END THEIR LIFE THEY WILL BE SUCCESSFUL …….THE ONLY THING THAT MAY HAVE BEEN ALTERED IN IAN’S CASE WOULD BE PERHAPS THE TIME ……IN OTHER WORDS IT MAY HAVE TAKEN A FEW MORE ATTEMPS BUT IF HE REALLY WANTED TO END HIS LIFE AND I BELIEVE HE DID HE WOULD HAVE SUCEEDED…… 🙁
Just so sad, people cannot see whats going on inside and make disparaging comments or react with indifference to those suffering form BPD and other mental issues. ADD, which I deal with, is also misdiagnosed often and its effect of those who have it highly minimized. I feel bad for Ian and that his only way out was to take his own life.Such a beautiful mind, such talent. He is at peace now though. 🙂
I think Ian Curtis shows symptoms of Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), in his inability to connect emotionally with anyone over time (because of trauma experienced as a baby). It is a result of neglect or abuse in the 3 first years of life. RAD later often becomes borderline personality disorder, or you can have symptoms of mini- psychosis. You can be very manipulative, as he was towards his wife (its a defence mechanism), and also be sensitive.
Everything changes when you touch it.
I found this post from years ago after reading Debbie Curtis’s and Peter Hooks books about Ian. I feel so strongly that he was likely borderline, not depressed like most people have characterized him as. I was looking up to see if anyone else interpreted it the same way.
Of course, I never knew the man. I can’t make a proper diagnosis. I just identified so strongly with some of his traits as a person with BPD.
I have comorbid Major Depressive Disorder, and I know others with depression. Ian did not seem simply depressed to me. I associate it with low ambition, melancholy, and emotional numbness (which, to be fair, seems he may have had). Of course depression shows itself in many different ways. Depressed people can also self harm and commit suicide. Depression can be a life long illness. But there was more to Ian, I think.
Peter Hook said he never saw Ian as a depressed downer. He was just one of the lads. This could be due to the fact that he was just a bloke in his early 20s with little life experience and no education on how to spot the warning signs. But he mentioned several times about how much of a “people pleaser” Ian was and that his personality was chameleon-like. He didn’t know who the “real” Ian was, and doubted that Ian knew either.
This is classic BPD to me. The sense of unstable identity and desperately wanting people to like you is something I can relate to. Maybe it’s just Ian’s personality (not necessarily disordered) but I got the impression it was pathological.
Unstable relationships? Absolutely. It was basically what killed him. He was so manipulative to Debbie and didn’t want her to leave him, even when he was having the affair with Annik. The fact that he cheated on her in the first place represents intimacy problems.
Self harm and suicide is common with depression, but more strongly associated with BPD. The fact that he attempted multiple times before finally completing suicide suggests a deeper problem embedded in his personality. Debbie’s book makes it seem like he was like this practically his whole life.
He seems to experienced depersonalization, but this is harder to posit since it is such a misunderstood symptom and hard for uneducated people to articulate. Debbie describes Ian feeling like he was “floating” (exactly how I experience it) which she attributes to drugs or early warning signs of epilepsy. Admittedly, I am not as intimately familiar with epilepsy. It could be due to that, but given everything else, it fits the BPD description. Lyrically, I think “disorder” is about epilepsy and depersonalization. The way he yells “FEELING, FEELING, FEELING” describing his inability to feel and connect gives me chills. The song has such a spacey quality to it, too, which feels very much like depersonalization. “I’ve got the spirit but lose the feeling” seems to describe some external force making him feel disconnected. Depersonalization makes you feel outside of your own body.