I am often asked why Borderline Personality Disorder is not as recognized and as accepted as bipolar disorder . I think there are four main reasons:
No celebrity has come out and announced that they have the disorder. While several celebrities have said they have bipolar disorder (just search on the Internet and you’ll see), no celebrity has announced they have BPD. Why? Probably because of the stigma (see below). There are certainly candidates for the disorder, but no poster child yet.
Many people believe that BPD is just a case of the person behaving badly. Non-BPs are definitely guilty of this in spades. The behaviors associated with the disorder – including drug abuse, lying and manipulation – lead many people, including family members and therapists, to believe that the disorder begins and ends with behavior. While behavioral therapies seem to be the most effective in treating the disorder, emotional dysregulation and cognitive disortions play a big role and shouldn’t be ignored. A person with BPD is not just someone behaving badly. They are trying to adapt to the large amount of emotional pain that they feel. Sometimes these adpatations will take the form of dangerous and distructive behavior, but that behavior is not about anyone other than themselves – in other words the behavior is not about you (the Non-BP).
Bipolar is an Axis I disorder and BPD is an Axis II disorder. This really must change. Historically, BPD has been considered a “personality” disorder. People see it as a character flaw (even some of the sufferers). It is not a character flaw – it is a serious emotional and mental illness that should be treated as such. There are biological components to BPD just as there are biological components to bipolar disorder. It’s time to get rid of the Axis II classification of BPD and treat it like bipolar disorder.
There is a huge stigma surrounding BPD. If you do a search on the Internet and read Non-BP stories, most are in the vein of “I’m glad I got rid of my borderline wife.” There are several Non-BP books that are also in this vein. There is little worse in the mind of the public than someone having BPD. It’s time to remove the stigma. I hope that deeming May as BPD awareness month will help to increase awareness and remove the stigma.