6 Borderline Personality Disorder Myths Debunked

By Hattie Gladwell,
updated on Feb 18, 2020

6 Borderline Personality Disorder Myths Debunked

Most of us, at some point in our lives, will have felt a little lost, or numb. Unsure of who we are. But for those with BPD (sometimes referred to as emotionally unstable personality disorder), this sense of instability persists throughout their life – in their relationships, their behaviour, their thinking, and even their own identity. Here we delve into the truth about BPD or EUPD, and those experiencing it

We all know the battle we’re fighting against the stigma around mental illnesses. Gradually, understanding is growing that they are just that – illnesses. We don’t control or choose to have them, and while it’s scary to reach out and accept help, it’s something that can help us to manage them in the long-run.

But then we have personality disorders. Illnesses, just like the rest, and yet for those diagnosed, the very nature of the name means that misinterpretations are easily made, and it can feel like a person’s character is under attack. The stigma for these is still all too real, and one such condition you may have heard of, but don’t truly understand, is borderline personality disorder (BPD).

Also known more recently as emotionally unstable personality disorder, BPD often emerges during adolescence, and continues into adulthood. This means it can be incredibly difficult to recognise, given it’s a typically emotionally tricky time for teenagers anyway, with lots of hormonal changes affecting them.

It's essential we break down the misconceptions and uncover the truth about BPD

Additionally, due to the similarities between other conditions – such as depression and bipolar disorder – borderline personality disorder can be difficult to diagnose quickly, and just as difficult to treat.

But the good news is borderline personality disorder is treatable, people can learn to live with it, and have a good quality of life.

What are the symptoms of BPD?

The main things to be aware of with personality disorders are that they tend to affect us through our behaviour, and connections to ourselves and others. You might be diagnosed with a personality disorder if you have difficulties with how you think or feel about yourself and other people, and are having significant problems in your life as a result.

While it’s difficult to pinpoint a particular cause for triggering BPD, it’s believed traumatic life incidents could play a part, as with many mental illnesses. But if you think you may have it, the best thing to do is speak to your GP first, describing your symptoms and how you feel, in order to move forward with getting help and clarity.

With so much stigma around the condition, which might prevent people from speaking out and reaching help, it’s essential we break down the misconceptions and uncover the truth about BPD. And so, here’s the truth behind six common myths about borderline personality disorder:

BPD does not make you a toxic person

holding hands

There is a lot of stigma around BPD, despite it being 2019, folks. If you find YouTube videos, or articles involving a person with the condition, you’ll often see a lot of people calling them ‘toxic’, or telling people to ‘stay away from them’ in the comments. But people with BPD are not toxic; they are struggling. The issue with BPD is that, unlike other conditions, there is no medication to treat it. And so, it’s all about coping mechanisms, meaning it may take a sufferer a while to learn to manage it on a daily basis. Going through a bad patch with BPD means this person is having a difficult time, and they need love and support to get through it – not fear, confusion, and judgement.

BPD is not as easy to treat as some other conditions

Some people are under the impression that all mental conditions can be helped with medication, but BPD is actually not one of them. While some people do take medication for it, experts are divided over whether this is actually helpful – and no medication is currently licensed to treat the condition. It’s not even recommended by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence. Certain symptoms within the disorder may benefit from medication to manage, but not the disorder itself. Instead, therapies are usually suggested. So, the similarity to other mental illnesses here is that what works for one person won’t necessarily work for someone else – after diagnosis, it can be a period of time trialling out various methods to manage it.

BPD is different to bipolar disorder

There is a lot of confusion between BPD and bipolar disorder – and often this is because bipolar disorder is abbreviated to BPD as well. But, bipolar is a mood disorder categorised by periods of mania and depression that can last for weeks at a time, while BPD is a personality disorder.

BPD does not make you a bad friend or partner – struggling with relationships is part of the condition

People with BPD often feel worried about people abandoning them - and would do anything to stop that happening

People with BPD tend to have quite intense friendships, due to one of the symptoms of the condition: having intense, but unstable, relationships with others. Because of this, a lot of people with BPD find maintaining relationships extremely difficult. Often they can be affected by a strong fear of abandonment, and having very intense emotions. So, a person with BPD may get upset and obsess over things that a person without the condition wouldn’t be as bothered by. But this doesn’t make them a bad friend or partner, and it’s important that people understand the condition in order to better support and help their friends through this element of their condition.

BPD affects multiple areas of a sufferer’s life

BPD is categorised by four parts: emotional instability; disturbed patterns of thinking or perception; impulsive behaviour; and, as mentioned, intense but unstable relationships. It’s more than just having outbursts of intense emotions – though that is a large part. People with BPD often feel worried about people abandoning them – and would do anything to stop that happening. They don’t have a strong sense of who they are, and their personalities can change significantly depending on who they’re with. People with BPD feel lost and empty a lot of the time, and act impulsively, doing things that could harm them – such as binge-eating, using drugs, driving dangerously, or the over-consumption of alcohol. They can find it impossible to control their anger, and may have episodes of paranoia and dissociation.

People with BPD are still people – so don’t categorise them by their disorder

Though in all honesty, the disorder does have the potential to consume a person, it is possible to learn to cope with it with the right help, and to find ways to handle situations – such as controlling their anger and emotions before they get too out of hand. But remember that BPD is an illness, and it needs treatment. So please don’t give up on someone just because they have the disorder. Be understanding, offer support, and don’t be too quick to misjudge them when they’re struggling. People with BPD can make the most loyal friends.

By Hattie Gladwell

Hattie Gladwell is a freelance mental health journalist. She is a passionate advocate for mental health and mental illness and dedicates her social media to raising awareness of both.

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