Borderline personality disorder comes with many stigmas, and tons of myths. The amount of negative media surrounding this disorder makes me sick. However, in hopes of changing the beliefs about this condition, I have collected a list of common myths to break down.
Myth #1: “Only women have borderline personality disorder.”
Although many statistics show that the majority of people diagnosed with BPD are women, researchers are starting to see that many men end up misdiagnosed, seek treatment for another issue, or go untreated. Men with BPD commonly struggle with anger or addiction, whereas women show higher tendencies to perform self-harm or develop an eating disorder. The reality is, though, that approximately 5.8% of men and 6.2% of women struggle with borderline personality disorder.
Myth #2: “People with borderline personality disorder are manipulative, attention-seeking, and dangerous.”
When I first googled borderline personality disorder, I found lots of negative press. Friends stopped talking to me, my therapist at the time no longer wanted to help me, and even my family freaked out. BPD is a highly stigmatized condition. Although I can’t say that there are no “dangerous” people with BPD, I can say that I have yet to meet any.
Oftentimes, we are simply misunderstood. We fear abandonment, so we sometimes go to extreme measures to ensure people still love us. We often feel empty and lost, so we cling to others and seek their approval and find validation and fulfillment from them. As I gain awareness, I’m personally embarrassed by my behaviors daily. I am desperately trying to work towards more skillful behavior, but retraining my brain takes time. I spent 30 years becoming who I am, and I’ve only been aware of my personality disorder and trying to change my behaviors for just over 1 year.
Myth #3: “There’s no cure for borderline personality disorder.”
Although there’s no magic pill or one-size-fits-all “cure” for BPD, many people successfully manage their symptoms and reach a recovered state. Some even go into remission, meaning they no longer meet the requirements for a borderline diagnosis.
Managing BPD often requires a mixture of medication management and psychotherapy. People with borderline personality often benefit from antidepressants, anxiolytics, mood stabilizers, or a mixture of these categories of medications. Personally, my medication management has been most successful through a psychiatrist versus a primary care doctor.
Many people consider dialectical behavior therapy to be the “gold standard” of treating BPD, and this has personally been the case for me. However, not all people with borderline personality work well with the requirements of DBT. Other forms of therapy that work well for borderlines include: cognitive behavior therapy, schema focused therapy, transference focused therapy, and psychodynamic approaches. Finding a therapist who is a right fit and maintaining healthy therapeutic boundaries are also key for people with BPD.
Myth #4: “People with BPD can’t love or have lasting relationships.”
I don’t know how people think this! First and foremost, people with BPD love with their entire body, mind, and soul. In fact, sometimes we appear to love “too much.” The truth is, we just care about people… a lot.
While this strong love and some of our symptoms make for interesting times, we are capable of connecting with people in lasting and impactful ways. Some understanding is required from both parties, and symptom management is incredibly helpful in this process. People with BPD can maintain friends, romantic partners, and even have happy relationships with family if everyone pulls their weight.
Personally, I’m learning that in order to maintain lasting relationships, I must act skillfully and spend time analyzing my behaviors. I’m learning to be more understanding, respectful, and accepting of criticism. It’s not the only answer, but it’s helping.
Myth #5: “BPD isn’t a real psychological condition, they’re just toxic, selfish people who lack empathy and concern for others.”
The word “toxic” sends me into a tizzy. I think very few people choose to behave in a manner that harms others. Furthermore, people with BPD can be literally the most empathetic, loving, compassionate people in the world. People often misunderstand our intentions. Our fear of abandonment and other traits cause us to become codependent. Codependency makes us controlling and potentially manipulative. But, it’s not because we plan to harm… it’s often out of love and a desire to help.
Myth #6: “Isn’t that the same thing as bipolar?”
Myth #7: “Wait, you have multiple personalities?”
I don’t know why people seem to confuse borderline personality disorder with dissociative identity disorder, but they are extremely different.