After learning about BPD and reading a biography of Kurt Cobain, I suspect that, if he was not a borderline, he suffered from a similar disorder. So, here is a detailed analysis of the case for Kurt Cobain having Borderline Personality Disorder.
I don’t think I have to cite any references on this one. The bio I read makes it clear that Cobain was a junkie and used consistently. Also, despite his slim frame (5’7″, 130 pounds), he used far more heroin than others in his final days and his body was, for the most part, able to take it. He did overdose numerous times. Abuse of pain killers (of which heroin is one), is not uncommon with BPD (sometimes called “Bellman’s Syndrome”).
His heroin use eventually began affecting the band’s support of Nevermind, with Cobain passing out during photo shoots. One memorable example came the day of the band’s 1992 performance on Saturday Night Live, where Nirvana had a shoot with photographer Michael Levine. Having shot up beforehand, Cobain nodded off several times during the shoot. Regarding the shoot, Cobain related to biographer Michael Azerrad, “I mean, what are they supposed to do? They’re not going to be able to tell me to stop. So I really didn’t care. Obviously to them it was like practicing witchcraft or something. They didn’t know anything about it so they thought that any second, I was going to die.”
Eating Disorder (or chronic pain leading to one)
Kurt Cobain had a chronic, undiagnosed stomach disorder from which he developed an eating disorder, being unable to keep down food.
Throughout most of his life, Cobain battled chronic bronchitis and intense physical pain due to an undiagnosed chronic stomach condition. This last condition was especially debilitating to him emotionally, and he spent years trying to find its cause. However, none of the doctors he consulted were able to pinpoint the specific cause, guessing that it was either a result of Cobain’s childhood scoliosis or related to the stresses of performing.
His relationship with Courtney Love was volatile. He also had volatile relationships with others in his band and with managers and ex-girlfriends.
Love arranged an intervention concerning Cobain’s drug use that took place on March 25. The ten people involved included musician friends, record company executives, and one of Cobain’s closest friends, Dylan Carlson. But Bassist Krist Novoselic tipped him off as he considered the idea to be “stupid”. However, by the end of the day, Cobain had agreed to undergo a detox program. Krist Novoselic drove him to the airport to catch his flight, but Cobain was far from wanting to go, in a fit of panic, Cobain drew violence and the two fought at the airport, eventually Cobain freed himself and ran through the airport lobby screaming “fuck you”, this would be the last time Krist would see Kurt alive.
Shame and Unstable Self Image
His lyrics probably do the best for this…
I wish I was like you
Find my nest of salt
Everything is my fault
I’ll take all the blame
Aqua seafoam shame
Choking on the ashes of her enemy
I’m not like them
But I can pretend
The sun is gone
But I have a light
The day is done
But I’m having funI think I’m dumb
Or maybe just happy
Radio Friendly Unit Shifter:
What is wrong with me?
What is what I need
What do I think I think?
This had nothing to do with what you think
If you ever think at all
Bi-polar opposites attract
All of a sudden my water broke
I love you for what I am not
Did not want what I have got
Blanket acne’d with cigarette burns
Speak at once while taking turns
And of course, there are probably twenty more examples in his various lyrics. The only other musician that I can think of off the top of my head who consistently used the words “shame” and “I’ll take the blame” is Ian Curtis (Joy Division’s lead singer who also committed suicide).
I think these go without saying, considering his eventual actual suicide. But we know of at least one other:
Following a tour stop at Terminal Eins in Munich, Germany, on March 1, 1994, Cobain was diagnosed with bronchitis and severe laryngitis. He flew to Rome the next day for medical treatment, and was joined there by his wife on March 3. The next morning, Love awoke to find that Cobain had overdosed on a combination of champagne and Rohypnol (Love had a prescription for Rohypnol filled after arriving in Rome). Cobain was immediately rushed to the hospital, and spent the rest of the day unconscious. After five days in the hospital, Cobain was released and returned to Seattle. Love later stated that the incident was Cobain’s first suicide attempt.