I’ve spoken about my battle with Borderline Personality Disorder before, but I have never really discussed what the diagnosis ACTUALLY means.
Borderline Personality Disorder, also known as BPD, is a debilitating mental illness that affects approximately 2 per cent of the population.
It is diagnosed primarily in women, however there is a growing belief that it is being vastly under-reported in males.
BPD has 9 characteristic features, five of which must be met for a diagnosis, resulting in hundreds of different combinations of features. The characteristics are;
- An intense fear of abandonment, even going to extreme measures to avoid real or imagined separation or rejection
- A pattern of unstable intense relationships, such as idealizing someone one moment and then suddenly believing the person doesn’t care enough or is cruel
- Rapid changes in self-identity and self-image that include shifting goals and values, and seeing yourself as bad or as if you don’t exist at all
- Periods of stress-related paranoia and loss of contact with reality, lasting from a few minutes to a few hours
- Impulsive and risky behavior, such as gambling, reckless driving, unsafe sex, spending sprees, binge eating or drug abuse, or sabotaging success by suddenly quitting a good job or ending a positive relationship
- Suicidal threats or behavior or self-injury, often in response to fear of separation or rejection
- Wide mood swings lasting from a few hours to a few days, which can include intense happiness, irritability, shame or anxiety
- Ongoing feelings of emptiness
- Inappropriate, intense anger, such as frequently losing your temper, being sarcastic or bitter, or having physical fights
Around 10 per cent of those diagnosed with this condition die at their own hand, and many more attempt suicide.
Of all mental disorders, BPD has among the worst reputations amongst care providers. Patients are often seen as challenging, and some professionals actually refuse to deal with patients with the diagnosis.
The media is no help to this reputation, with many TV shows painting BPD patients as being “crazy” and “dangerous.”
The news outlets reporting on shootings where the shooter has known mental health issues further add fuel to the discussion, however according to a report produced by Ontario branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association mental health patients have an approximate one in four chance of being the victim of violence.
While it is true that mental health issues can be violent, with hundreds of different combinations of the disorder, violent borderlines are actually in the minority.
The truth is that stigma in our society is real, and mental health education, while improving, is still significantly lacking.