Thoughts on BPD

I’ve been doing a lot of work around BPD treatment(not only for myself but also because many of the women I work with have BPD as well) I’ve been having a lot of feels about the social and sexist connections to BPD diagnosis

Today I was researching online for tools for individuals who have BPD to better manage their feelings and relationships, and instead found nothing except online articles about how to “deal with your BPD wife/girlfriend/ex, etc”. 

While BPD is also diagnosed in men, it is overwhelmingly diagnosed more in women and is linked to childhood trauma and abuse. Despite this, it almost seems like victim blaming and gas lighting to label individuals as “difficult” or get mad at a trauma survivor for developing dysfunctional coping skills as a result of traumatic childhoods and situations that were in no way their fault.

Sometimes I get really discouraged about the things I find regarding BPD because it is mostly from the perspective of someone who needs to “deal” with the behaviors of someone with BPD rather than the from the perspective of someone who actually is diagnosed and living with it and its challenges. While it is good for folks to get support to help their loved ones, many of these articles are more about the negative experiences people have had with people who have BPD and it ends up feeling super ableist to treat a human being like a problem that needs to be “fixed” or left. People with BPD can be challenging, but I have found that there is less of a conversation surrounding BPD in terms of giving people the tools they need to take personal responsibility for their actions, improve their lives, and manage impulses and emotional regulation, and more of a conversation around the “horrible” things they can do to the people in their lives.

In my own personal experience, all I really wanted was to not feel abandoned by loved ones, because I felt that way often as a child, but I developed coping skills to push people away because I felt like I “deserved” to be left and to be alone. Sometimes the behaviors I used to push others away were not healthy–for me or anyone else. Some people(and exclusively the men I chose to be in relationships with), could only label me as “crazy” because it was easier than looking at the heart of the problem—that I was a person who had been abandoned and abused and had incredibly low self esteem, image and worth. While I have done a ton of work in understanding my behaviors, making better choices, taking responsibility for my past mistakes, making amends and recovering from it. The more I uncover about my childhood experiences and wounds, the more sense it makes that I ended up with BPD, and that I am not inherently “flawed” and “messed up” as I had been told many times, but a survivor of trauma who did what they had to do to live, and is still working on creating a functional life for themselves.

As mentioned before, BPD is also diagnosed in men, but is often misdiagnosed at first, and things like PTSD are often diagnosed first  when men come to treatment, whereas women who exhibit similar traits are often diagnosed with BPD. Furthermore, I have found some research detailing the misogynistic implications in labeling women as “borderline” when they exhibit behavior that is considered more taboo for women to express (i.e. strong emotions, sexual promiscuity, anger/rage…all considered BPD characteristics)

“While, statistically speaking, women are about twice as likely as men to meet the criteria for PTSD, the symptoms of BPD are often looked at as stereotypically feminine behavior. For example, while men are viewed as non-emotional and prone to anger, these traits in women may seem abnormal (based on the societal construct of how each gender is supposed to act) — and women are diagnosed accordingly. Speaking to this disparity, some studies have found that doctors are more likely to diagnose women with BPD, even if a male patient is exhibiting the exact same symptoms. The male patient would, instead, be more likely to be diagnosed with PTSD, or treated for alcohol or substance abuse.”

Sometimes I think this is why BPD is still one of the most stigmatized mental illnesses—it highlights the sexism in how we view female psychology and experiences.

here are a few more resources for this topic:

The History of Hysteria: Sexism in Diagnosis

Power, Selfhood, and Identity: A Feminist Critique of Borderline Personality Disorder