Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a condition commonly misunderstood by the general population and sometimes even health professionals. A diagnosis can carry a lot of stigma, particularly because of the way BPD can impact the lives of people around the individual.
What is BPD?
According to the DSM-5, BPD is characterised by pervasive instability of social relationships, self-image, and emotions; marked impulsivity beginning in early adulthood and present in at least five of the following contexts:
- Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment, reflecting intolerance to be alone
- Unstable and intense relationships marked by abrupt and extreme shifts between idealization and devaluation
- Identity disturbance, seen in an unstable self-image or sense of self
- Impulsivity that is potentially self-damaging in at least two of the following areas – spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating
- Recurrent suicidal gestures or threats, or self-mutilation
- Marked mood reactivity
- Chronic feelings of emptiness
- Frequent displays of inappropriate or intense anger
- Stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms
Myth: Only women have BPD
Anyone can have BPD but research suggests the condition is more prevalent in women. Presentation of the disorder may differ between the genders though; women are more likely to experience mood swings and feelings of emptiness while men are more likely to act impulsively.
Myth: BPD isn’t treatable
BPD is a complex condition but there are evidence-based treatments available. Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) are deemed the most effective therapeutic interventions to improve symptoms and individuals can also benefit from medications like antidepressants or mood stabilisers. Treatment takes time and commitment but can increase quality of life and relationships.
Myth: People with BPD are manipulative
For behaviour to be considered manipulative, it tends to be conscious and pre-planned. Individuals with BPD may seem to act manipulatively but they’re actually responding impulsively to strong emotions and likely intense fears about being abandoned. This can be disruptive or draining for those around the person but with patience, support, and treatment, they can learn to regulate their emotions and communicate differently.
Myth: People with BPD are attention-seeking; their suicide threats aren’t serious
Suicide threats should always be taken seriously no matter who expresses them. There’s a dangerous perception that people with BPD make threats to manipulate others or get a reaction. However, up to 10% of people diagnosed with BPD successfully suicide and more attempt suicide or self-harm.
Myth: People with BPD are dangerous and not capable of love
The symptoms and issues associated with BPD can make relationships more challenging but people with BPD can love and be loved. As mentioned, with treatment and support, individuals can learn to manage their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours, which can impact romantic relationships positively in turn.
If you or someone you love is struggling with BPD, talk to one of our skilled clinicians or organise a referral to our DBT group by calling (08) 8232 2424.
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