May is Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness Month

Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness Month

Awareness of this condition is much needed.  What disorder is more misunderstood and maligned than this? Many myths and misconceptions exist that further serve to stigmatize those with this diagnosis (or even those who are mistakenly given this diagnosis).

I understand Borderline Personality Disorder( BPD) as a complex trauma disorder.  I see attachment gone awry as well as emotional,  physical, and/or sexual abuse as causative factors.  I have written previously about how childhood trauma impacts the development of basic skills like self-soothing and emotion management.  I believe many of the behaviors associated with BPD, such as self-injury, can be understood as stemming from these deficits.  Simply put, people with BPD are doing the best they can given what little they have received in childhood.  I have worked with many clients who have actually talked about using self-injury as a way to take care of themselves; a way to manage unbearable emotions or even a means to  prevent attempting suicide.

I am well aware that not everyone share my perspective, and that even some mental health professionals and therapists have negative reactions to BPD.

Why is this disorder so misunderstood? Is it just another example of how our society maintains such deep denial regarding the long- term and serious impact of childhood abuse and neglect? Is it a form of victim blaming?

What are your reactions to BPD?

Have you ever received this diagnosis? If so, how did you feel?

What reactions and misconceptions are you aware of from others?

For more information and ideas on raising awareness of BPD, check out the National Education Alliance for Borderline Personality Disorder.

Kathleen Young, Psy.D.

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22 Responses to May is Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness Month

  1. I feel the greatest impediment to genuine therapeutic understanding and acceptance of people diagnosed with BPD is our continuing denial of the cruelty visited upon children by their parents. Therapists are not immune to societal norms regarding the “sanctity” of the home and role of parents. We see it reflected in the courts across our land every day, where custody of young children is granted half time to each parent, no matter how deserving each may be, all under the guise of unifying a family. Part of the recovery process in treating trauma is a period of “blaming” which often eventually will yield to grief and sometimes forgiveness. As a society we are so afraid of blaming parents that we seem unable to place responsibility where it belongs to begin our own movement put of denial.

  2. kyoungpsyd says:

    One misconception I am aware of is that some believe that BPD is untreatable. This is not my experience at all. What is important is to find a therapist skilled in working with you and knowledgeable regarding complex post traumatic stress.

  3. Yolanda says:

    I received my diagnosis in 1999 & at the time I didn’t really feel anything about it because for the next 3 years my doctors focused on my Bipolar diagnosis. When I took the time to learn about it on my own I felt a bit relieved, but depressed as well. A mood disorder is just your moods. A personality disorder is who you ARE & BPD says I’m faulty.
    The misconceptions from others are the worst. They assume things like you’re “single white female” or that you’re just a drama queen or that you’re making up your pain & the suicidal talk and attempts are just attention grabbing.
    It bothers me that despite the havoc this illness has wreaked on my education/finances & career, I’m still not considered disabled (again, despite 5 hospitalizations & 3 suicide attempts). I am forced to keep entering the workforce knowing ahead of time that I will likely fail because I can’t seem to get stable enough to find a specialist in BPD to help me (both due to the lack of insurance and of practioners who don’t look down on those with this illness). Further, I hate that we’re portrayed as violent, selfish, manipulative, horrible mothers etc. It hurts more that a lot of these behaviors were present very early on (I wrote of wanting to attempt suicide at age 10) & my parents not only didn’t notice/care, but still don’t take responsibility for their part in it all. I hate feeling alone… wanting people around but being so afraid to show them the weaker/negative parts of myself (anger, depression, etc) for fear they’ll run like the wind. I feel like this illness has cost me everything- job, house, daughter, car, happiness.

    • kyoungpsyd says:


      Welcome to my blog! I really hear how the misconceptions about BPD have affected you! Feeling alone with this is also an extra burden. I am glad you are reaching out here and hope you will continue to do so!

  4. Judy says:

    A consulting psychiatrist (whom I loved) at my old workplace used to do in-service trainings with us. One of these trainings was on BPD. What I found refreshing and fascinating was the social context he provided. He talked about how diagnoses and illnesses are very much socially constructed and reflect attitudes, biases, and ideas about behavior. And that BPD had been constructed by male psychiatrists treating “hysterical” female patients in the 19th (?? I don’t have the notes and can’t remember) Century. He said it is still overwhelmingly diagnosed in women and gay men — and is an extremely stigmatized diagnosis. I found that fascinating. Just thought I’d add that dimension to the conversation…

    • kyoungpsyd says:

      That is such a good point, Judy!

      I also think it is interesting that women are far more likely to be diagnosed BPD than men, even when they present with similar issues and symptoms.

  5. Tears says:

    I totally agree with Yolanda. BPD tells me (and everyone else) I am faulty; something is wrong with me. I prefer PTSD; it tells me something bad happened to me.

    • kyoungpsyd says:

      Welcome Tears!

      I really understand your point, that the diagnosis BPD can feel really stigmatizing. I think it is a shame that it does carry that connotation. Like I have written, I definitely see it as a kind of complex ptsd, meaning caused by bad things having happened to you!

  6. kathy says:

    After years of crying & having overwhelming emotional outbursts that affected me horribly, I finally decided to admit myself to a psych hosp this past January where I stayed for 9 days. I was diagnosed w/ rapid cycling Bipolar d/o, which added to my diagnosis of PTSD and I had already been seeing a therapist for thiat.They described to me that I had an emotional break-in old terms that would be a nervous breakdown. When I followed up with my therapist, she then told me that I also have BPD as exhibited by the extreme emotions, extreme worrying about others, etc. At my request she changed my therapy sessions from boundaries. She started treating me with Dialectical Behavior Therapy skills. I am only a couple of chapters along so far and I am now studying the mindfulness sections. This therapy does seem to fit me better. I just don’t understand all this and I hope to continue to heal.

    • kyoungpsyd says:


      Welcome to my blog and thanks for commenting! It is great that you sought extra help for yourself and have begun a new kind of work that feels helpful: DBT skills.

      I hope you will continue to read and chime in!

  7. Leanna says:

    I was diagnosed with BPD 6 years ago, I am now 20 years old, and all I wish is that people would try to understand it a little more, maybe even do a little research on it before they start judging. When I was 15 my dad kicked me out of my house, he told me I had to move in with my mom or he would put me up for adoption because he couldn’t handle me. He didn’t know anything about the disorder nor did he try to understand, he didn’t realize what he was doing was actually making it worse. Just lately have I started learning more about it, and it makes me feel a little better knowing I’m not the only person and Iv’e stopped looking at it as something being wrong with me, things happened in my past and there isn’t anything I can do about those things now. Realizing this has made me feel a little better, I don’t feel like such an outcast. I still struggle and sometimes it gets hard. Currently I have opened up more to my husband about it and he has started learning about it and he tries his hardest to just be there for me. I just hope people will one day realize that they shouldn’t start judging people because they have an illness, I don’t see people judging people because they have cancer, BPD is an illness just like any other serious illness, we never ever once woke up one morning and say I’m going to be this way, just like people don’t wake up and say ” I think I want to have cancer or aids” I just hope one day people will stop looking down on me just because I suffer from BPD

  8. Leanna-

    I am glad you found my Blog and this post. I hope it furthers your sense of not being alone!

    I am really sorry you experienced such misunderstanding and further traumatization related to dealing with BPD! Please know that there are folks out there who get it and can be of help, including trauma-informed therapists!

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  12. Brilliantly put. This is a complex PTSD and the sooner our fellow professionals wake up to that fact the sooner we will be able to develop effective services instead of merely maintaining difficulty.

    Let’s see it for what it is instead of clinging on to dubious, illusory categories that serve only to stigmatise people and prevent proper therapeutic relationships.



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  16. Amber says:

    Misdiagnosis of BPD is an area of professional interest for me after my own misdiagnosis 12 years ago. I was suffering “simple” PTSD and bipolar. I self harmed during a severe episode of depression at 17, and then when I had PND and PTSD from traumatic birth at 22, I had thoughts of self harm and suicide. This earned me the label of “BPD” despite meeting none of the 8 criteria. I got a psychiatrist who is a genuine sufferer of NPD who applied psychological torture, messed with my medications, encouraged nursing staff to be violent towards me during hospitalisations, covered up the fact that I was sexually assaulted by another patient during a hospitalisation. Because I couldn’t escape the abuse, and the length of time it was over (several years), it was complex.

    I think it’s important to differentiate between PSTD from complex trauma and complex PTSD. I never developed the emotion dysregulation, the personality changes, or the other symptoms of complex PTSD – I only developed the symptoms of “simple” PTSD. And the research studies I’ve looked into seem to point towards about a quarter of sufferers of complex trauma “only” developing “simple” PTSD.

    I find it really sad though, as soon as some (uneducated) psychiatrists hear “complex trauma”, they jump to the conclusion of complex PTSD and then insist complex PTSD and BPD are exactly the same condition. Yes they have overlapping symptoms but so does for example schizophrenia and bipolar and no one would insist they are the same despite overlapping symptoms. And complex trauma simply does not always equal complex PTSD.

    They then try to push treatments for BPD which aren’t necessarily relevant for someone with PTSD. For example DBT. DBT is a great therapy for many things, but for PTSD (especially PTSD with dissociation), if the person has no anger problems, no impulsive behaviour, no emotion dysregulation, not relationship problems, etc, there is little it can off to a person who already practices mindfulness and has good interpersonal skills etc.

    I work in mental health, and I’m tired of the backwards views of the (mostly male) psychiatrists show towards women who have experience any form of trauma. It doesn’t matter if my patients have bipolar, PSTD, complex PTSD, MDD or any number of conditions, if they have a trauma history, these so called “professionals” just label them as having BPD, treat them as if they are attention seeking, and either push DBT or don’t give them any help at all, not even medications. And it costs lives. It cost the life of a dear friend of mine 4 years ago. After a 2 decade battle with bipolar, some idiot decided she “only had BPD”, wrote her off as an attention seeker, she copped horrible abuse for trying to get help (and I’m talking things like physical abuse from hospital staff etc), and she killed herself as a result. BPD is a serious disorder, and no one should be treated badly for it, but it’s even worse for those misdiagnosed with it because then they get abused and don’t get any treatment for their actual condition.

    • k says:

      I definitely agree with some points until the end. No being misdiagnosed isn’t worse then actually have BPD. Maybe the same but you can’t say it’s worse. BPD is hell. Then the abuse endured trying to get treatment is hell. A misdiagnosed individual only gets one of those not the two combined.

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