Biology,  Borderline Personality Disorder,  Celebrities

Four reasons bipolar disorder is accepted and borderline personality disorder is not

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.


  • BPD in OKC

    This may be bad to say, but I was really hoping Britney Spears was borderline instead of bipolar. She sounds so much like borderline. I hoped she’d have it so we’d finally have a celebrity “face” for the disorder. I thought it would bring attention to the disorder and raise awareness.

  • Bon Dobbs

    Well, I suspect Britney IS borderline (although I’m not supposed to diagnose her according to the press lately). You may notice that the press says she has A form of bipolar disease which it can be argued could be either biploar II or borderline, since both are rapid cycling “mood” (emotional) disorders. I saw in a sidebar in People (at my daughter’s therapist of all places) that suggested BPD for Britney. Even if she does have it I suspect unless the K-Fed thing turns uglier, her people will try andprotect her from the diagnosis and the stigma. Sad really…

  • SystemsThinker

    Thanks so much for this post! In honor of BPD Awareness Month, I just wrote:

    Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness Month: Discussing, Understanding & Publicizing an Under-Recognized Epidemic

    In it, I talk about this very thing – how BPD is often misdiagnosed as Bipolar. I think one more reason is that the insurance companies are more willing to pay for Bipolar so some are purposely diagnosed as that for financial reasons.

    I really hope this month will be used to help raise awareness and put BPD on the table as a well known and understood condition. Thanks!

  • zephyr

    I do not think that lying and manipulation are part of this diagnosis. If they seem to be present, look either to another PD or to shame and anxiety as the cause, along with a long history of learning to never overtly state what you needed to be okay, or to express how rotten you felt, as the consequences always seemed to be much worse…

    Sometimes it seems as if people hate those that are dx BPD precisely because they haven’t quite gone off the deep end for good. It’s bewildering how many professionals seem to resent them for this too.

    They may curl up in a fetal position for hours, but then they will struggle out of bed and go on. They smile at us, while their inner world self-destructs. They might seem as alive as anyone, but -in the best of times- they feel dead inside; and as intelligent and gifted as many of them are, they never realize their full potential. But they would rather die than admit this to the outside world.

    Who would today be dx’d BPD? Vincent Van Gogh, Kafka, Proust, Nathanial West, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison…

    It’s ironic that they are so often seen as “emotional” when what they lack is a full nuanced range of emotions. Inner tension keeps anxiety coiled, emotionally stressful situations release it, and before they have a chance to think through what they feel, they are overwhelmed by fear and anger and despair. They get mired in their negativity. Studies have shown that those with BPD do not get angry more often than anyone else, but they have trouble leaving it behind when they do. And afterwards they drown in remorse, because these reactions are NOT felt to be syntonic. No one seems to pay much attention to this, but all other “personality disorders” are understood to be PD’s because they are syntonic with the personality. This is radically different in BPD.

    That right there should raise lots of doubts about what this dx is. Is it part of the affective disorder spectrum? Is a akin to partial seizures in frontal lobe epilepsy? Is it a developmental disorder akin to autism? This is all possible, and perhaps BPD is a dx given to many different people who do not share underlying causes. This should at least stop us from quickly claiming that they CHOSE to feel the way they do. As if they were hell bent on living in hell…

    When they do awkwardly, fearfully, try to communicate this pain, when they do reach out for help, they generally do so when their psyche is at it’s most shattered. They will quickly learn that their behavior is not acceptable to anyone. So they’ll go through DBT or through some other behavioral therapy, and sink into so much shame and guilt that lo and behold they will no longer qualify on the DSM for BPD; they will have learned to suffer in silence and to isolate (if they haven’t before – many of those with BPD will never consult a therapist in their lifetime and go through life pretty much invisible), learned to not bother anyone, but the dysthymia, the insomnia, and the dysphoria will still be there, eroding their lives, their aliveness. And as hard as they try, fear will still strike them out of the blue when they least expect it. As hard as they try, they will still plummet down into misery with the least negative emotion. Skinless creatures, they can not tune out human suffering, they can do nothing about the heightened sensitivity that they were born with. Only now no one will know. And so hopefully, thankfully, no one will ever call them “Borderline” again.

  • Bon Dobbs


    Thanks for the comment. Yes, I don’t think lying or manipulation are part of the diagnosis either. In my book, I report shame as the main cause of lying and manipulation – however, I think that manipulation in itself is a pretty poor way to describe any behavior. All behaviors have a purpose and any could be seen as manipulation, depending on your viewpoint.

    I believe that three main factors “cause” (or at least fuel) BPD: emotional dysregulation (which I think for the most part is biological, although the “triggers” may not be), impulsiveness (which could be considered biological as well) and shame (which is probably not biological, but a reaction to invalidation or a feeling of brokenness). I think that all the other symptoms arise from one or a combination of these three factors. Of course, that is only my personal opinion…

    It is troubling that professional resent people with BPD. My wife fears “going off the deep end for good” to the point of refusing to get some of the help she needs.

    I would agree that BPD, IMO, is part of the affective disorder spectrum, with impulse control issues added to the mix. It will be nice when they rename BPD to something else – and Emotional Regulation Disorder (ERD) is a pretty good choice IMO.


  • Lila

    As someone who was diagnosed with Bipolar I/co-morbid Panic Disorder about five years ago and I find it TOTALLY offensive that Bon Dobbs has made the statement that Bipolar Disorder has been accepted. I can tell you that as someone who lives with it everyday that it is NOT accepted. That statement beyond insulting. Going to pharmacy and picking up different medications (e.g. Lithium) and the way you’re looked at by the pharmasist is even hurtful. The way people (even within your own family) treat you differently after you tell them is heartbreaking. People talk. They see you, and they look and react to you like you are completely different person then you were before. People STILL think you’re ‘crazy’.

    This is not to say that I don’t have deep empathy for people who suffer from BPD. A close friend of mine has recently been diagnosed with BPD and her suffering is gut wrenching to see. She refuses to get real help. And the “help” that she has gotten, has been useless. I agree that the name of BPD should be changed. I also don’t think, along with many experts in the field, that “Bipolar” fits the disease.

    I take serious issue that non-experts all over the internet and media in general, take celebrities and diagnose them. It’s just not right. Unless, you are that person’s Dr. and know their truths and symptoms, you have no right to pass judgement on anyone. I take serious issues with a couple of posts.

    “Who would today be dx’d BPD? Vincent Van Gogh, Kafka, Proust, Nathanial West, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison…”. Umm…How do you know?? I’m sorry, but you don’t.

    “This may be bad to say, but I was really hoping Britney Spears was borderline instead of bipolar.”. That’s not “bad” thing to say; it’s DISGUSTING.

    I see one of the foremost Psychiatrists in NYC and he agrees. Unless that person is your patient, you can speculate all you want to, but until they’re sitting face to face with you, one cannot without a shadow of a doubt diagnose them. It’s wrong.

    The fact is, people should be focusing their energy on removing the stigma of mental illness in different ways, instead of looking to celebrities to come save day. It wouldn’t even nessacarily be a good thing. Anyone who has a mental illness knows what a private decision it is to be able to be open about it.

    I apologize to anyone who I’ve offended if what I’ve written seems harsh, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s truth.

  • Zephyr

    ““Who would today be dx’d BPD? Vincent Van Gogh, Kafka, Proust, Nathanial West, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison…”. Umm…How do you know?? I’m sorry, but you don’t.”

    You’re right I don’t. I was citing opinions of professionals well regarded in the field.

  • stlouis7

    Thank you so much for this website. You’ve provided a lot of helpful information for those of us who don’t know much about BPD, but who want to know more about it. I am diagnosed with Bipolar 1, and I don’t have Borderline Personality Disorder myself, but I have a close friend who does. She has been physically and emotionally abused by her mother for most of her life, and has had some counseling, but she (my friend) is so numb at times (i.e., when she talks about the abuse, it’s always matter-of-fact; says ”it’s no big deal”).

    Other times her emotions are very inappropriate for the situation. You have to stay on neutral subjects, or she will get very charged-up with anger (not toward me, always toward someone who’s not present- coworker, boyfriend, sister, etc.). I have never understood this.

    I have also noticed that my friend blames a lot of her actions on her past- and she does not seem to want to let go of the pain. She says she does, but she won’t, or doesn’t know how. It breaks my heart to see that kind of pain, as I don’t know if she’s ever been truly happy. The other day she told me that she wished she ”could stop manipulating people, but [she didn’t] know how.” This was an uncharacteristic thing for her to say, and I just didn’t get it. She really doesn’t strike me as the manipulative type, but who knows what is inside another person’s mind besides that person?

    She is empathetic and asks me about my mood swings, but we just can’t seem to relate to each other well. Although it seems that our depressive states are very similar (one big difference, though- she does get the urge to self-injure, but says that she no longer does that).

    Bipolar Disorder and BPD are such different illnesses, with many different symptoms. I was looking to find out more info on BPD, and this website has been very helpful. I’m not looking to give her advice, because I know it’s up to her to work through her pain (though I’ll be there for support). I just wanted to learn more about BPD in general, since she rarely talks about it.

    Zephyr- I have heard that BPD is manifested in various ways, and people who have the disorder may experience a variety of symptoms, but your description was the best I have read in terms of what may really be going on inside the mind/heart of someone who has this painful condition, and why it’s difficult for them to get the treatment they need. I just wanted to thank you for your post.

  • Iketena

    Dear Zephyr,

    Thank you for your incredibly insightful and poignant observations. Do you have a publication available to the general public? I would most certainly purchase it.


    BPD guy

  • Flix


    I’ve been doing a whole bunch of research on nutritional psychiatry. I’d like to share it so as to save others the same trouble but I’m not sure how at this stage and I’m only just figuring out the forums.

    After a long life struggle I have recently sought out and been confirmed as having BPD. It is alarming to read all I have about this condition; some of it I relate to, some of it I don’t (for instance on the point of manipulation discussed earlier. Btw, stlouis7, your friend may not be so much manipulative as suggestible – it’s all over the literature and, in having low self-esteem, might leave her open to believing these things of herself).

    Anyway, I digress. While waiting to begin a course of Mentalisation therapy, I have undertaken other actions to make life ok. While I’m investigating a long list of supplements etc, I have only been actively taking Omega 3 fishoil (2g – though professionals in this are recommend 9g daily), Zinc, Magnesium, Vitamin B complex and sometimes Omega 6 Evening Primrose Oil/Starflower Oil. In addition to this, I have been meditating – this too is v important. Through these things I have experienced a remarkable shift – and very quickly (a week or so – but this may vary). I would say I am 80% better and would probably not qualify if I were to be tested today. More importantly I feel happier in myself, I’m less argumentative and less sensitive (less inclined to take the harshest view on things and readier to let things go too) and I’m sleeping much better. The bonus in the key supplement, Omeg 3, is my skin looks great and my knees don’t hurt!

    The other supplements I’m looking into are: Vitamin D, melatonin, Gingko, B6 (P-5-P) specifically, and Chromium Picolinate as well as a few Ayurvedic seratonin precursors. I am not actively recommending these as I have yet to try them myself; they are just on my list of considerations for further research.

    My list of nutritional supplements that I’ve been researching have come from doctor’s writings on nutritional psychiatry (not many talk about BPD specifically however so I look more at symptom lists), as well as writings of others with BPD and clinical trials. I came across a condition called Pyroluria which informs half the list of supplements. Look it up, it’s v interesting. It’s a condition which underlies many psychiatric disorders. I also looked at the relationship between PTSD (a condition which shares some ground with BPD) and hypoglycemia.

    I have spoken to my (GP) doctor about these supplements, and as you might expect, he suggests that supplements should only be taken where a confirmed deficiency exists. Yet many of these things are not easy to test for. Personally I would prefer to be my own guinea pig with moderate amounts of substances which the human body normally needs rather than delve into the pandora’s box of pharmaceutical drugs which seem to have relatively modest effects with BPD. Though I eat quite well, I suspect (and I’m making big leaps here – it’s a personal theory based on my readings!) early trauma changed my brain and biology (or perhaps it was inherent in my biology). Some of the damage done to parts of the brain relating to sensitivity, emotional lability and empathy can be addressed with meditation and other biological aspects can be addressed by the supplements (I suspect I don’t process some substances well and/or my needs are greater. This is why the supplements help).

    In case I haven’t made this clear, I am not a doctor, nor a scientist, but I am an intelligent person who has put a lot of time and energy and personal experience into looking at this. What works for me may not work for you, so do take care in thinking things through for yourself, I just hope to provide a starting point. The one thing I would strongly recommend and have scientific validation for for BPD is Omega 3. *Definitely* please at least try that. Most people in the west are deficient due to changing diets and it could potentially make a huge difference to people with BPD.

  • You Won't Like Me

    BP (BiPolar) [Axis I] vs BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) [Axis II]

    The “Axis” is a mathematical term which comes from statistics. Get over it because it is not going to change. Statistics is an analytical tool which can be applied to co-relate lots of data. If statistics (as a mathematical tool) is miss-used then you will be co-relating totally unrelated data & drawing nonsensical conclusions.. Example:

    Co-relate: BP genetic markers, relationship problems, burnt toast, tampon brand. You can do this but then implying anything about burning bread & tampons against molecular bonds in DNA is ridiculous. The 1st lesson from statistics as a branch of pure mathematics is “co-relation is NOT causality”.

    BP: The expression of polymorphisms in the alleles of the genes of chromosome pair #15. There IS something there at a DNA level. The issues may be internalized or externalized (the part we NONs will take issue with). Not all BPs externalize behaviors which would draw complaints.. BE depressed, just don’t be nasty.

    BPD: Nasty Perpetually Argumentative B I T C H E S. The best explanations I saw was in a psychiatric paper “Multimodal etiology for the development of ABP from untreated ADHD-PI” One path indicating a maladjusted coping strategy for executive functioning (differing responsibilities by attacking others) another mode being the development of narcissistic tendancies from overzealous unwarranted praise from a parent.

    These conditions are differentiated by psychologists arguing among themselves, I am not so sure that their classification system is completely consistent. I would suggest that BP & BPD are not mutually exclusive.

    Anyway, the premise of your post seemed to indicate a belief that BPs are “excused” & BPDs are not. There are a lot of therapists who have pushed this “understanding & forgiveness” to the limit.. Here it comes, I am a NON

    There are no “get out of jail free cards”, I personally reject the “it’s not my fault” BECAUSE I have read too many 1st person accounts by both BP & BPD people that indicate premeditation for the purpose of harming others.

    My ex-wife is/has BP, ADHD-PI, ODD, OCD, BPD.. But rather than the “alphabet soup” it is simpler to describe her in three words: “a narcissistic sociopath”. As this occurs in multiple domains (mathematical term, read home, work, church) & the externally noted symptoms have lasted 35 years, that diagnosis & description is accurate.

    I have to live by certain rules of acceptable social behavior. I do not accept that some other bunch do not, especially when that behavior is a source of harm to others.

    What am I saying, your premise is wrong (at least for me). I have no acceptance for mental health issues IF THE PERSON AFFECTED will not try to limit the negative fallout they inflict (often intentionally).

  • Bon Dobbs

    I have noticed that people with your opinion are typically speaking about their “ex-partner” or “soon to be ex-partner”. I often wonder if your opinion would be different if your child had such a disorder? Are there no “get out of jail free cards” for your children? It is not illegal to be mentally ill. It is also stigmatizing. I find it fascinating that some many of the people on one “side” or the other of this debate are so passionate about the behavior of people with mental illness and so quick to deem the other “side” wrong. At least you said (at least for me). My premise is that family members of those with mental illnesses can positively affect the outcomes IF (and this is a big if) the family members are willing to accept certain attitudes and learn certain skills that are effective in the relationship with a mentally ill person. For many this is an insurmountable if. I never (at least I try not to) say I’m right about all this or that others are wrong. Yet I think that a new way of thinking about mental illness is required to get to an effective place. Many (including you) disagree.

  • Bartholemew Heaven

    (Re-submitting b/c auto-fill gave my site administrator’s email instead of mine.)

    Another reason BPD has a worse stigma attached is because of a sad but unfortunate truth: many of those diagnosed with BPD have treated those close to them pretty horribly, and done so pretty consistently. And often in ways–for for supposed “reasons”–that don’t make a lot of sense.

    Whether you think it’s fair or not, it’s a plan fact that this kind of thing just adds to the stigma.

    Having a diagnosed BPD in my family, I’m not so quick to call them “psycho” or spew out the kind of hate you saw in the comment above.

    But having been close to more than one BPD, and knowing others who have had the same experiences, it seems to be a pretty common phenomenon that the closer you are to someone with the diagnosis, the more likely you are to be treated in a pretty rotten way.

    Like it or not, this is a big reason for the stigma. I would gamble to say it’s probably the MAJOR reason.

    And when people start using their diagnosis as the “reason” they treat others badly, rightly or wrongly, it tends to just fan the flame (just imagine all of these statements making up a huge campaign of micro public relations incidents; it’s what they basically are).


    I have a number of points to make…

    my first one is to ‘you wont like me’ (your right i dont) I am 23 years old and have recently been diagnosed with BPD and let me tell you its not a bed of roses!! Its people like you who make people like myself ashamed that they have this illness… it begs the question… Do you really have any understanding of the mind or is it that your just a pissed off, bitter divorcee who would like to place blame on an illness rather than yourself? I would seriously welcome you to one day put yourself in my shoes and see how you cope…
    Before my diagnoses i didnt understand why i was so angry, sad, depressed, suicidal, self harmed… the list goes on… but actually for me knowing my condition is helping my recovery… and if society classes us as ‘crazy’ or ‘phycos’ THEN SO BE IT i prefer the term ‘weird and wonderful’ but time will tell if there is any hope for such ignorant people such as (im going to refer to him as BITTER OLD MAN) maybe there the crazy ones…

    greeting from london xx

  • roxy

    Interesting. So I’m undiagnosed, but BPD or some combination of the axis 2 cluster B personality disorders describe me to the letter.

    The stigma …. of course it’s because of the behavior. We’re not sympathetic people at all. Not to the degree of pedophiles or pure sociopaths, though in all three cases, there’s something very wrong with these people, and it’s mostly beyond their control.

    Interestingly, other people with cluster B PDs that I’ve interacted with repulsed and alienated me with same intensity that I have alienated others.

    Most BPDs do seem to mellow a bit with age, at least that’s what’s happening with me. I have gotten a bit of self awareness over the last few years. I’m learning how to limit my social interactions to those that have the least chance of resulting in a “moment”. To limit the damage to myself and everyone else around me.

  • Anna

    I agree with Flix,high strength vitamins(EmPowerPlus)I used to treat my depression have helped greatly with keeping me more stable & in reducing my emotional pain when I do have a crisis.I am not cured but I don’t have to use skills that don’t always help twice a day when I’m screaming my head off,can’t stop sobbing and the only thing that will calm me 90% of the time is cutting myself.Meds can be helpful,but there are also other options with less side effects.I think E-EPA(omega 3) is a good starting place.Inositol helps with panic attacks and anxiety and OCD including body focused repetitive behaviour such as trichotillomania.Some info can be found here:

  • Anna

    I also had a pretty good diet,took a regular multivitamin for years even got prescription nutritional drinks ProvideXtra because my depression made it difficult for me to eat,I didn’t get any better.My blood tests were good(what they could test),so I’ve drawn the conclusion that I have higher nutritional needs which could explain maybe why I was always hungry all the time before I became depressed and how I got worse over time even though my stress had been reduced…my body needed more nutrition in the right amounts which worked when I went on high doses of vitamins.Lithium is a mineral used to treat bi-polars and sometimes helps borderlines too,makes sense to look into nutrition IMO.

  • macindog

    Great article; great comments. I say “great comments” not so much because I agree w/ all of them, but more because they so thoroughly span the gamut of public opinion regarding bipolar disorder.

    I was dx 10 years ago as BP I, Mixed, which, btw, is its most common form, and I think it’s safe to say that the one dread I have harbored every step of the way is the thought that I might be BPD instead of ‘just’ bp. My reasons here are varied: BPD seems so hopeless and untreatable, whereas BP is most definitely not. And to the extent that we, as individuals, are responsible for the personalities we end up with, we in society can justifiably blame the BPD victim for his/her condition. (Don’t misinterpret my comment here. What I am saying is that in our culture people w/ BPD are held responsible for it and its consequences, and, at root, much of the stigma surrounding BPD hinges on that prejudice. The same is likely true of BP.)

    Another reason I dreaded a dx of BPD, was how utterly cast out that would make me. With a dx of BP, I am placed midst grand company, the best of the best, the Beethovens and Twains and Delps. That this is elitist thinking hasn’t escaped me. My dear wife is sick to death of me starting literally every conversation we have with, “Did you know that was bipolar?” She finds these patently offensive and doesn’t mind telling me so in the least. Yet, offensive and elitist though it may be, I can’t help thinking how grand it is to be mad, and what a drag to be BPD.

    Well, now I’ve done it; I’ve lost the train of my own thoughts, even though I am sure (almost sure) I had a point to make at the outset. Be that as it may, one thing’s for sure—the bipolar life is a tragic one, even though much is made of modern, successful treatment. But what can we say about a course of treatment that relies, at least in part, for success upon the patient forgetting who they once were.


  • hayley

    i have bpd
    and am in group therepy
    so i know many others with it,
    people saying that were basiclly horrible people makes me sick
    the internet is full of people bad mouthing us and putting us down
    if you ask me people with borderline are one of the most honest people we tell it how it is, if something pisses us off or makes us happy we let you know, mabey not always in the most constructive way but we get our point across, the people who judge us or bad mouth us or say that were “toxic” dont have a proper understanding about us, plus its not only people with borderline that lie or use manipulation its so called “sane” people that do that too, im 22 and have many healthy relationships and all my friends say that my honesty is my best quality, so to end this mini rant these people saying these horrible things need to take a good long look in the mirror before they start judging others.

  • hayley

    i have bpd
    and am in group therepy
    so i know many others with it,
    people saying that were basiclly horrible people makes me sick
    the internet is full of people bad mouthing us and putting us down
    if you ask me people with borderline are one of the most honest people we tell it how it

    is, if something pisses us off or makes us happy we let you know, mabey not always in the

    most constructive way but we get our point across, the people who judge us or bad mouth us

    or say that were “toxic” dont have a proper understanding about us, plus its not only

    people with borderline that lie or use manipulation its so called “sane” people that do

    that too, im 22 and have many healthy relationships and all my friends say that my honesty

    is my best quality, so to end this mini rant these people saying these horrible things need

    to take a good long look in the mirror before they start judging others.

  • matru

    BPDs honest? Isin’t pathalogical lying part of the disorder?
    Can a non BPD wife respond to my querie please.
    Did your husband seek treatment, and if yes how bad was he to begin with and how much improvement did you see?
    If you had a chance to start all over again, would you marry the man again?

  • Eva Wilson

    I just read this “warning” article and it made my stomach churn. The idea that people afflicted with BPD are simply rotton isn’t just held by scorned exes it’s also being perpetuated by some psychologists that “treat” spouses and family members of those with the disorder. This fellow seems to suggest that people, particularly women with BPD are consciously, maliciously malignant predators lying in wait to pounce on some poor, unsuspecting man fool enough to draw near.

    Is someone with amnesia an a-hole because they don’t remember your anniversary? Would anyone spank a diabetic child for not eating the cake you worked so hard to bake? Maybe we should publicly cane individuals that take up too much space on the couch, forget to turn their blinker off after completing a turn (though, I admit, that one really does drive me crazy) or wear bad hair pieces. Demonizing people for the (supposed yet unsupported) characteristics of a mental illness with which they SUFFER is beyond madness. It is criminally distasteful, woefully misguided and damaging.

  • bart

    Because of the nature of BPD, It is *so* easy to get hung up in blame and guilt. These are dead-ends which prevent us from dealing with BPD in an effective way.

    A more productive path, it seems to me, is to be able to identify the danger signs and establish boundaries.

    For most of us, I don’t think it is useful to try to “help” someone with BPD. Instead, let us share what we can share, and be firm about boundaries that keep abuse from happening.

  • Devil

    After reading these comments I feel hopeless like this pain I feel will always be. It’s sad to know I always be an unlikable person

  • bart

    I very much appreciate it when people with BPD/NPD make the effort to be aware and control their behavior. It certainly makes it much easier for those of us who love them. From what I can see, the effort pays off with calmer, more stable relationships.

  • Nasrin

    It hurts me when people I love think I can just stop acting like that. Every day I wake up saying to myself, “I will stay calm”, “I will not yell today”, “I will not piss anyone off today”. And when I fail, I’m so ashamed. I get mad at myself. WHY CAN’T I JUST DO ONE DAY NORMAL! It doesn’t seem like it should be hard to do. It just will not happen for me. I have gotten to the point where I don’t want to be around people so I will not piss them off.

  • bart

    Nasrin, could I clarify? It is not an easy thing for anyone involved in a situation like this. It is a major, ongoing, and often frustrating effort. But those who make the effort are heroes in my opinion. It does make a huge difference over time.

    For those of us on the outside, we have to learn a different set of skills. These are not easy to acquire either! For example, we have to learn to be supportive without getting over-involved, without taking things personally.

    Our thinking about the problem has gotten much better over the last few decades, so there are more tools, more models of people who are dealing with it. When I was involved in such a situation in the 70s, it was the Dark Ages. There was no one to talk to. No one understood it.

  • CROW

    I now think it might be best for all concerned that BPD’s be kept apart from normal people so that we don’t harm them. I don’t self harm, try to commit suicide, yell at people or cry. I have withdrawn so that I don’t hurt others. I do hate myself completely & I hate my life and I don’t know how to be different. I am glad Nasrin said what they did. I know people hate us/me (including health professionals). I don’t think changing the name will make any difference whatsoever. The new name will end up with the same stigma. It’sOK to get cancer, to have heart failure, lung failure, kidney and liver failure but not brain failure. Why is it OK for ALL other organs of the body to malfunction but NEVER the brain? Why are brain disorders deserving of judgement, punishment & hatred? Why, when normal people hate us, are they surprised when we want to take out lives? Maybe it would be more compassionate if we introduced a “Euthanasia” Bill in Parliament. More expedient and financially less of a burden on normal people. If we can’t pay taxes we don’t deserve to live. If we can’t stop hurting people then we don’t deserve to be a part of society. Given Darwin etc, we should face up to the fact that we are all just accidents of a Big Bang with no inherent value and so only the strongest should be permitted to live – in the interests of normal, strong society at large. I think it’s best if we just go and leave others in peace.

  • Samantha

    I just got diagnosed today with BPD after searching for a proper diagnosis for 14 years. After being put on Paxil (which I was on on and off since I was 15 or 16) this recent round sent me into a downward spiral which left me hospitalized in the Mental Health and Psych Unit.

    I knew something wasn’t right with me when regulating and controlling my emotions became such hard work.

    It seems that BPD brings up many conflicting arguments. It’s understandable for people who don’t suffer from it but have a friend or loved one who do, to try and research any available information but in the end they only experience what one with BPD dishes out so their understanding only goes so far because those with BPD barely have an understanding of their own. Some people just aren’t equipped to deal with therapy as it is too stressful but that doesn’t make them a bad person.

    Mental illnesses are still pretty taboo and not many people openly admit when they are suffering.

    As far as some people thinking sufferers are using their BPD as an excuse to their behaviour, how else would you rather they explain their actions? I don’t see it as “I did this because I have BPD” more like “Due to my issues with BPD, I cannot deal with everyday issues properly.” Wording makes a big difference. I try to inform those close to me, those who I am most comfortable around and who I guess I would say I let the “real me” out often, know when I’m having an off day. It’s very difficult to be social. Sometimes someone may something that triggers a past event not knowing about it and that could set you off on an emotional roller coaster.

    Zephyr, you summed up BPD very well. I think people should however, keep in mind that these are meant to be opinions and shouldn’t take things too harshly. Except for that one older man speaking ill of his ex-spouse or whatever that situation was.

    We have to keep in mind that not everyone can understand BPD or come close to an understanding. We shouldn’t really fault them, as I mentioned already, mental illnesses are still very taboo. If you have a mental illness, there are still many people who think those with one are “crazy”.

    People with a mental illness should not be ashamed of it, that won’t help in getting any better. I think once one has a better understanding and control over it perhaps we should become advocates. There are many out there who need help, they need a voice. People seem to cope better when they realize there is someone out there who is similar to them, it gives one comfort and some piece of mind, not to mention the strength to make an honest effort in order to overcome obstacles.

  • Danielle Dance Field

    People who say “My BPD ex …” are rarely talking about someone who actually has BPD. What they have done is joined forums where they have been encouraged to believe their partner had BPD because they were abusive and manipulative. This is the main reason now that, after 6 years of BPD awareness raising we are no closer to getting rid of the stigma and unlikely to get any closer to it anytime soon.

    So many people who are part of the “awareness raising” movement are actively enlisting people into partaking in this diagnostic behaviour. A terrible myth that is propogated by these people is that those who suffer from BPD refuse to accect that they have a problem or are in anyway willing to accept treatment. This fallacy is ridiculous when you actually analyse the criteria for BPD.

    BPD means that you experience intense emotional pain and so many people with the condition have had to fight for their right to treatment for years before they finally gained an accurate diagnosis or treatment. The idea that some bitter co-dependent can make an accurate diagnosis of BPD based on their tempestuous relationship with an aggressive person they should have had the sense to leave would be laughable if it wasn’t a) so destructive to the purposes of destigmatising BPD and b) so encouraged by unethical fools who have gained a position whereby they can encourage such beliefs.

    These people who actively encourage people to make a diagnosis of BPD based on abusive behaviour include Shari Schreiber, Randi Kreger, Tara Palmatier (Shrink 4 Men) and to a lesser extent PDAN. So many people take the accounts of these people at face value when they say “I’ve been a victim of borderline abusve” but what they don’t ask is “was your abuser actually diagnosed with BPD.” I ask them that and the answer is NO. They are not talking about BPd at all. And in the instances when they are talking about BPD the person you are acutally speaking to exhibitis characteristics of narcissistic behaviour.

    It is no secret that people with BPD are frequently raised by abusive and nariccisistic parents. It is also no secret that they get into relationships in later life with people who exhibit the same abusive characteristics that their parents exhibited. And yet when these abusive people claim that their BPD partner or child abused them no-one actually considers that it may be the abuser themselves who is giving a distorted account of their relationship with the person who has a diagnosis of BPD.

    Having met so many people who have been diagnosed with BPD and who are not in anyway consistent with these monstrous accounts I have come to the conclusion that they are not factual and should be taken with a pound of salt. We are not going to rid BPD of stigma until we start exposing these charlatans and the idiots who buy into their seductive presentations. Co-dependents need to focus on their codependency and leave the business of diagnosis to the professionals. Abusive parents and partners should not be supported in their intentional smear campaigns against the people with BPD who they have abused.

    Blaise Aguirre MD works exclusively with BPD patients at the Maclean institute where he is president and has never found any evidence to support the view of the BPD monster. This video is a great antidote to all the “Non” hysteria. Nons are none people who define their existence solely in their hatred of vulnerable people. Shame on you all.

  • bart

    In the comments to this post, I think one can see the answer to the original question, “Why is bipolar accepted and BPD not?”. In contrast to bipolar, BPD is a condition which calls forth strong emotional reactions from everyone involved.

    Those who have been closely involved with someone with BPD know how confusing, painful and wonderful it can be. The experience is full of contradictions. The closer the relationship, the more intense the roller coaster ride.

    In order to survive, one needs to develop strong boundaries and a rock solid sense of reality. A motto might be: self-protection, understanding, and acceptance.

    I’ve found concepts from AA-type groups to be helpful. For example the 4 C’s: “You Didn’t Cause It, You Can’t Control It, You Can’t Cure It. BUT, You DON’T Have to Contribute To It.”

  • Lisa

    You can’t trust the judgment of a non-BPD ex about BPD as a condition and about the people, generally, who have it.

    You can trust their assessment that they have issues with their ex.

    The statistics are there. People who get into relationships with BPDs are frequently, but not universally, non-neurotypical themselves. Even neurotypical people have distorted perceptions of their exes. When you add in someone who is diagnosable but not diagnosed, or who has some strong but subclinical traits, who has a deep emotional investment in being “the sane one,” you get a situation that is ripe for that person projecting all their own issues and problems onto their ex.

    I think a lot of the stigma of BPD comes from non-neurotypical exes ranting about their “psycho ex girlfriend” to everyone who will listen. Generally, looking at these persons (usually men) closely one will find, if not outright narcissism, a generously greater than average helping of narcissistic traits.

    Everyone is at least a little bit narcissistic. It’s a spectrum, not a light switch. A certain amount of selfishness is healthy since it helps us stay out of situations where we’d need rescuing by someone else.

    Disgruntled exes of BPDs tend to be low empathy. Most of them are male, and will frequently chalk up their attitude to “just being a guy” or “being a real man.” Except that MOST guys have empathy in a certain range in the middle of the guy bell curve, and bitter exes of nons are frequently the guys out on the low end of the empathy bell curve—whether to a diagnosable level or not.

    A disgruntled ex’s ex may well have issues, but generally she has enough issues to deal with by herself without conflating his issues on top of hers.

    Bitter exes generally aren’t so much intentionally lying as they are just…displaying their own issues.

  • Lisa

    I’m not trying to blanket characterize all nons who have a relationship with a BPD-sufferer that didn’t work out. I’m not trying to invalidate those nons’ feelings about the relationship and its aftermath. I’m not trying to judge the average-guy or average-gal non who ended a relationship that wasn’t working, or said goodbye to a partner who ended the non-working relationship.

    I’m observing that nons that rant a whole lot to a whole lot of strangers about their exes’ BPD are behaving vividly, clearly suffering, and their vivid behavior and suffering MAY, in their own case, indicate some contributing issues of their very own.

    That they possibly have their own issues doesn’t make them bad, or to blame. It just makes their observations more susceptible to cognitive distortion than the average person with broken relationship baggage.

    Their opinions on BPD and persons suffering from it should be taken with a very large grain of salt.

  • bart

    Thanks for your second post, Lisa. In any close BPD relationship that explodes, there is plenty of pain for everyone involved. It is important to rachet down the blame and guilt.

    Outsiders too have their shortcomings. From my perspective, they tend to be gullible and superficial – too prone to categorize and take sides. Repeatedly I’ve seen outsiders come in with very strong opinions, eager to set things straight. And then, as soon as they experienced the situation, they would run away as fast as they could.

    BPD relationships are very disturbing, so we are all eager to put things into boxes and think that we can control them. I think the first step in really understanding BPD is to realize how complicated it is, and consequently to have sympathy for anybody involved.

    There are all sorts of people who get involved with people with BPD: family members, friends, lovers, therapists. As a rule of thumb, the closer the relationship, the more vulnerable one is to pain and trauma. The bloggers mentioned above who rage against their ex-spouses are probably suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Because of the nature of BPD, it is easy to perceive BPD behavior as betrayal (intimacy followed by rage/withdrawal, for example).

    Most of the partner “nons” that I’ve known have been nice people without strong defenses. For BPD, they are mostly males. But if you check out the blogs devoted to BPD’s close relative, Narcissistic Personality DIsorder (NPD), you’ll find that the wounded partners tend to be women.

  • J.Tutankhamun

    For- Lila 

    Who commented, on February 4, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    Your comment is completely bias, personal, and your “disgust” is unwarranted. Hopefully, your mindset has been more open over the last 5 years. If not, try researching the stigma associated with BPD compared to BD. Till you do, you can read this… and the many others, upon your own Google search.

    PS- I find it amusing that someone feels the need to point out, “one of the ‘foremost’ Psychiatrists in NYC”. And that he “agrees” with you. I wonder if he often agrees with you, to build trust. Or keep a paycheck. I mean, a “foremost” psychiatrist, in NYC no less; must cost a pretty penny! 😉

    Table 3

    Clinician biases that may favor a bipolar disorder diagnosis, rather than BPD

    My Dx? Both. ♡

  • Seth

    Daniel Dance Field & Lisa,

    As interesting as your comments were, I strongly disagree with several of your arguments. Just like several others here, I am eagerly awaiting the public to actively recognize Borderline Personality Disorder and support its treatment. However, as I read your comments, I found myself getting a little upset. Let me tell you my story.

    My parents got divorced when I was in High School after a 20 year marriage. My dad felt it was necessary to tell me why: he said he couldn’t stand living with my mom’s emotional unpredictability any longer. He gave me a book that changed my life: Christine A. Lawson’s Understanding the Borderline Mother. I read it in three days. This book describes the characteristics of my mother, without even knowing her. It also accurately describes the mental state of myself and my siblings, along with our relationship with Mom. In Lawson’s language, my mom is the Hermit, my older sister is the All-Bad Child, I am the All-Good Child, and my brother is the Lost Child. My dad is the Huntsman, or at least he was when he got married.

    My mom was not diagnosed with BPD. She still isn’t. As an adult, I told my mom about this. It really was not pretty. She refused to see a therapist about it, nor would she take into account that myself, my dad, and my older sister, all knew that she had it. She refuses to accept that she has a disorder. As the All-Bad child, who saw the Witch come out of my mom daily, my sister gets very upset when people say my mom is not Borderline.

    Part of being a Borderline Hermit is they don’t want to be treated. “Although she dreads being seen by others, the last thing she wants to see is herself. Very few Hermit mothers can tolerate being seen by a therapist” (Lawson, 86). It can be reasoned that a good portion of the Borderline community is comprised of Hermits (although that proportion could be significantly high, since Hermits are less likely to see a therapist). Therefore, many Borderlines are not being diagnosed and treated.

    It is bold to claim that ALL or even MOST nons are lying or have personal problems when they say their relation has BPD without diagnosis. In fact, it is rather brash to say that. These nons are the people closest to the undiagnosed BPD. Of all the people who could tell if someone is Borderline, the educated non is probably the best one to ask (after a reliable therapist).

    I realize that many of these nons are faking, uneducated, and projecting their own problems. I agree that a non should be completely sure his ex has BPD before announcing it to anyone. But you can’t say that nons can’t diagnose BPD. I’ve researched a lot of psychological/personality disorders. I’ve talked to therapists, as has my dad and sister. Even though she has not been officially diagnosed, I know my mom has a Borderline Personality Disorder.

  • Amirali Abdullah

    I’m married to a woman with a diagnosis of BPD who is sweet, affectionate, considerate and kind. To the extent that she has mild outbursts of irritability every few months, or maybe the occasional really mean comment in a blue moon doesn’t lead me to the social stigma against BPD sufferers. I’d note that BPD diagnosis is often linked with a past of abuse – in her case, a narcissistic exhusband who’d threaten violence, isolate her from family and friends, and screamed at her that she was crazy for years using the “BPD” label as a crutch for all forms of gaslighting, domination, and undercutting her at every step so that she couldn’t trust herself or escape.

    This is the main problem I have with stigmatizing disorders or labels – there’s often very complex family dynamics at play, and I can’t help but suspect that at least a few of the martyr spouses who demonize their ex as being a BPD psychopath have their own agendas and problems which are involved.

  • Liz

    It’s a shame that this article has such a pejorative angle. I do not ‘behave badly’ but have BPD. The factor of uncontrollable, distressing, emotions that often impact sufferers more that the outside world is ignored here. Perhaps do some more research?

  • Matt

    I have to disagree with the idea that bipolar people are accepted so to speak. I think in the depressive phase, that is where there is compassion. I deal with manic episodes and manic behavior and antics are often seen as just being a narcissist or jerk etc. It seems like that state of mind takes the responsibility of anyone else and their role in any situation.

    My manias last for months and a couple times over a year and until I am at the end stage psychosis part of it, people generally assume my behavior is by choice. I tend to get so caught up in the high, I deny I am like that but the consensus that bipolar overall is seen in such a light is delusional all itself. I mean, we are dangerous, cruel, violent, psychotic and unpredictable according to the media. And if we are so glorified, how come every time a school shooting happens, the first things the propaganda talking heads on all those interviews mention include a reference to “mental illness, like psychotic bipolar disorder or schizophrenia”.

    What is also important to note is the spectrum aspect. There are bipolar cases where the person is sadistic and cruel as there are with borderline types too. Not all of them but to assert that someone who could be traumatized is lying and seeking out and victimizing people is as unfair as being stigmatized. Start being the diagnosis du jour for mass murders all over the country and complain about stigma because you are walking emotional time bombs. None of us asked to be any way.

    Even then, how the heck can you cry “STIGMA!” when you all love to place all narcissistic or sociopathic people as EVIL. They never asked to be that way. I was abused for years by a borderline mother and she hated me because I had what her mom had and her mom loved me the best. I know now that her shifting of personas based on emotion were just how she was. I was able to go into robot mode most often and my brother, who is like her, used to go back and forth.

    Also, if anyone is going to whine about the internet trend angry ex husbands diagnosing their miserable exes with BPD themselves, they need to take the same stance on the same behavior on a larger scale with women and people enable that because there are exponentially more of them where women are on a crusade over anger with their exes.

    I got over my issues with my mother when I cut off contact with her. She died and i didn’t go to her funeral because Mommie Dearest Jr aka my brother took over her role. I was relieved and also saddened that we never really clicked. My adopted dad (stepdad) who was a sociopath that shot himself and I was more worried about getting sued for the funeral costs because he wasn’t my father anyhow. I am a dual citizen to Germany from my real father and managed to get the Reinheitsgebot to grant me that with my original birth certificate and estranged status and I got out of it due to a loophole.

    I cut out my entire family and with bipolar I disorder, mental health professionals think that is the worst but I went from being a meal ticket for an SSI check that went into my mother’s oversized gut and manic all the time to almost finishing grad school and being a paralegal. If they are toxic, get rid of them. One ex boyfriend from 20 something I had was an unmedicated bipolar II guy with a coke problem and he cycled 3-4 weeks and it was miserable down and miserable up so I don’t see why he never treated it but he beat me one day and I reverted to my teenage tactics to top my mom and brother’s crap, stopped medication and abused whatever stimulants I could until I was the nightmare because they had to sleep. He was scared of me then but I raged for days until he left. I find that behavior reprehensible now but a mild bipolar and 2 borderline against me in the past as well as the sociopath stepdad didn’t hold a candle to me during a manic episode.

    Plus, bipolar exes are demonized like borderline exes and I have quite a few exes up there with the Dalai Lama in their own minds telling soap operas about my evil, cheating, cruel, bisexual, two-faced lying behind like crazy and some exes I have were between manias. I think we all need to own up and take responsibility at times, including when we could be part of the deal. Part of bipolar stigma is that borderline behavior is what people think bipolar disorder is.

  • Tracy

    I’m glad I got rid of my borderline friend. If I ever speak to her again I would like to say mental illness or no mental illness, your behaviour is disgusting, having a mental illness is not an adequate excuse to behave badly .

  • Kim

    I’m not sure if this is intended as a celebrity coming out and announcing he has BDP, but here is a quote from Jimmy Carr, British Comedian – “If your entire self-esteem is resting on whether people laugh at your joke, then you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. On the other hand, you are showing signs of the borderline personality disorder that characterises all the best comedians, so perhaps you should consider telling jokes for a living.”

  • Randi

    Nice article. Axis 11 has been removed from the DSM as you suggested. Also Brandon Marshall the football player has come out to be a celebrity with BPD. I personally am glad that it brought attention to the fact that some people with BPD are men who do not self harm and who are not suicidal

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