Wednesday, September 29

The Borderline Personality

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a personality disorder found in approximately 1.6 percent of American adults and can also be found in adolescents. BPD is a serious mental illness characterized by pervasive instability in moods, interpersonal relationships, self-image, and behavior [which] often disrupts family and work life, long-term planning, and the individual's sense of self-identity" (National Institute of Mental Health) and is most commonly found in young women.

Symptoms of BPD include:
• Frantic efforts to to avoid real or imagined abandonment.
• Pattern of difficult relationships caused by alternating between extremes of intense admiration and hatred of others.
• Unstable self-image or being unsure of own identity.
• Self-damaging impulsive behavior (i.e.: unprotected, promiscuous sex, substance abuse, binge eating, etc).
• Recurring suicidal thoughts, repeated suicide attempts, or self-injury through mutilation (i.e.: cutting, burning oneself, etc).
• Frequent emotional overreactions or intense mood swings that usually only last a few hours (sometimes 1-2 days).
• Long-term feelings of emptiness.
• Inappropriate, fierce anger or problems controlling anger.
• Temporary episodes of paranoia or a lost sense of reality.

Movie still from Girl, Interrupted.
Winona Ryder's character, Susanna Kaysen, in Girl, Interrupted (1999) suffered from BPD and was hospitalized after trying to kill herself. Ryder's character is a good example of someone who has BPD and exhibited many of the common characteristics: suicidal thoughts and attempts, difficulty with long-term planning, sexual promiscuity, a pattern of difficult relationships with people in her life, compulsive actions, and extreme ambivalence.

The term "Borderline" is used to describe the disorder because it
lies on the border of neuroses/character disorders and psychoses.
The cause of BPD is unknown but environmental and genetic factors may predispose people to the traits and symptoms of the disorder. For example, 40-70% percent of people with BPD have reported to have been sexually abused, usually by a non-caregiver, leading researchers to "believe that BPD results from a combination or individual vulnerability to environmental stress, neglect or abuse as young children, and a series of events that trigger the onset of the disorder as young adults" (National Institute of Mental Health). Having a first-degree relative with BPD also increases the chance of a person developing the disorder, and since first-degree relatives often share environments, this also reflects a possible environmental cause.

Princess Diana of Wales.
The late Princess Diana of Wales suffered from BPD. She had an eating disorder and was unable to sustain relationships. Diana's childhood was "darkened by divorce and neglect, leaving Diana with deep feelings of unworthiness [and] by the time of her marriage she was [...] not only a bulimic but also a pathological liar" (Smith). Throughout her marriage, Diana engaged in a series of  "tawdry romances, [...] self-mutilation, binge eating, and other erratic behaviors" (Smith) after suspecting that her husband was being unfaithful. The general public had no idea what Diana was truly like, only those close to her did.

BPD is classified a Axis II disorder while disorders such as Bipolar Disorder, a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks, is classified as an Axis I disorder. I do not agree with BPD being classified as a less severe disorder than Bipolar Disorder.

Both disorders have biological components and both effect individuals and the people around them severely, but many people consider BPD to be just a case of someone behaving badly. BPD is much more serious than a mere character flaw; it is a serious mental and emotional illness in which those suffering with it struggle to adapt to the severe emotional pain they feel inside. Although it is very difficult for many people, especially those who do not suffer from the disorder, to see how serious BPD truly is, it is not right for the disorder to be looked as a character flaw; it should be an Axis I disorder.

BPD is a very downplayed disorder and should be taken more seriously in the psychological and medical field. Considering that it effects 5.4 million Americans, is found in 20% of patients in psychiatric hospitals, and research has shown that 70% of people with BPD will make at least one suicide attempt in their lifetime; I'd say this disorder ought to be more broadly accepted for treatment by clinicians and other relevant professional fields.
Works Cited

BPD Central. "Statistics and Facts about BPD.", BPD Central, 2001. Web. 29 Sept. 2010.

Mangold, James. Girl, Interrupted. Perf. Winona Ryder, Angelina Jolie, Whoopi Goldberg. Sony Pictures, 1999.

National Institute of Mental Health. "Borderline Personality Disorder." NIMH. National Institute of Mental Health, 2010. Web. 29 Sept. 2010.

Salters-Pedneault, Kristalyn. "Genetic Causes of Borderline Personality Disorder.", 2008. Web. 29 Sept. 2010.

Smith, Sally Bedell. "Princess Di and Borderline Personality Disorder." Publisher's Weekly review of Diana in Search of Herself: Portrait of a Troubled Princess. Web. 29 Sept. 2010.

WebMD. "Mental Health: Borderline Personality Disorder - Symptoms.", 2009. Web. 29 Sept. 2010.


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