Borderline Personality Disorder

The Scarlet Label: Close Encounters with ‘Borderline Personality Disorder’

If so-called ‘borderline personality disorder’ symptoms are really responses to an unpredictable and perhaps unsafe environment then the real shame of it is that we are stigmatizing people that disclose the pain of our human world. We are judging people who have sensitive dispositions and absorb the world around them; people who are essentially struggling with basic life issues. And as a system – the mental health system – that sort of prides itself on exploring human behavior without judgment, this is a failure — not on our client’s part, but on the part of professionals and systems that are supposed to be caring for them.

The Scarlet Label: Close Encounters with ‘Borderline Personality Disorder’

Jacqueline Simon Gunn, Psy.D.and
Brent Potter, Ph.D.

October 22, 2014

To help my non-recovery oriented colleagues understand the stigma/resentment associated with ‘borderline personality disorder,’ I simply mention this: “Let’s say I call you and say, ‘Hey, I’ve got a referral for you. She’s been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder . . .’” I need to go no further; without fail, my colleague will smile or laugh. We both know that such a referral is a no-no, so much so that it doesn’t even have to be mentioned; it is a given.

Irvin Yalom, at a recent APA division conference, was asked if he continues to work with clients. He responded with something to the effect of, “Well I am not taking any borderline clients.” The audience exploded with laughter. From celebrity to average clinician, it is known that ‘borderline’ people are to be avoided. But wait, it’s not just professionals in the field. A simple Google search for ‘borderline personality disorder’ gets more than 248,000 hits. There are countless best-sellers on Amazon dealing specifically with the ‘disorder.’ The vast majority of the books out there, as a matter of fact, aren’t even for clinicians. Most of them are about how to live with (or otherwise be with) someone afflicted, or how to accept that you’re the one with the disease and how to get proper professional help.

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  • Caz

    People suffering from borderline personality disorder, through no fault of their own, have no sense of safety within themselves, so are on a constant search for any form of safety from external sources. Unfortunately, and ironically, the ‘safety’ they have experienced in the past has been found in crises.They therefore feel ‘comfortable’ and safe in the midst of a crisis, whether this is in a relationship setting or any other. So they rebound continually from one crisis to another, feeling ‘safe’ in the moment of this unfortunate familiarity, seemingly ignorant of the stress and strain they are putting not only on their own wellbeing and recovery, but also on others close to them.They become stuck in this spiral and it is the most difficult of all achievements to spin themselves right out of it, as anything outside of this spiral is extremely threatening and unsafe, to them.

    I have read Irvin Yalom’s book “The theory and practice of group psychotherapy ( the only treatment available in the UK for borderline personality disorder,)and he seemed to have quite a deep level of insight. I am very disappointed that he now takes this ridiculing and patronising attitude towards this group of very vulnerable and sensitive people, however, this is becoming increasingly the norm, even though the authorities claim new leaps of understanding around the needs of borderlines every year.It’s a real shame.

  • Ed

    I live in the Uk and the private secure hospital that I work for offeres DBT.I think also quite a few therapists offerer it also.

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