BPD: Something We Do To Others?

I have noticed this trend for awhile. The trend of describing Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) as something we make others painfully experience and not as something we painfully make ourselves experience. I know that many of you not diagnosed with BPD will have experiences of others blaming you for the turmoil you cause in their lives but I’m specifically talking about the way mental health professionals and others who discuss BPD describe the disorder. Personality disorders in general appear to get this stigmatizing treatment of little emphasis on our personal suffering and great emphasis on the pain we cause others.

Full blast all day long. And i STRUGGLE being on meds when my emotions aren't turned up full throttle. I feel numb, aloof, unattached

I was searching through Psychology Today yesterday came across a collection of articles entitled, “Is There a Borderline in Your Life?: Managing the Needy Borderline Next Door.” Compare that to the sites stories on:

  • Robin Williams/Depression/Suicide: “RIP Robin Williams: Remembering the genius and understanding the dark side of comedy.”
  • Autism: “On the Spectrum: An increasing number of children are being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders. But what causes them? How should they be treated? And what do we still have to learn?”
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: “A Little Obsessive Compulsive: Excessive cleaning, extreme superstition, rechecking the door locks—these are a few OCD symptoms people suffer. In these pages, read about one teenager’s account of the disorder, an accurate depiction on film, and the thoughts of the obsessive compulsive.”
  • Shyness/Anxiety: “Get Confident!: How to beat shyness and social anxiety”

I don’t know about you but I’m feeling a little hated.

Looking at the BPD articles themselves we’re then faced with titles and information about, Kings and Queens of Chaos, How to Diagnose an Beat low self-esteemUnhealthy Relationship, The Perfect Storm in Borderlines, Colleag-emy #2: The Workplace Diva, The Roller Coaster Ride of Loving Someone with BPD (cute article though), The Benefits of Bad Relationships, and Big Time Liars: Top 7 Lies They Tell Themselves.

Many of these articles are not even written for people WITH BPD but for the people who need to “survive” them. The article, Kings and Queens of Chaos, opens with a little story of a woman who goes into a rage when her brother and his wife leave a wedding early to deal with the wife’s panic attack. That’s how readers first meet BPD in the article and I personally find that humiliating. The whole incident is just described as something her BPD makes her do because can’t do A. B. C. or D. Why is there no mention of the pain she must have been experiencing? Well, probably because her reaction is being seen as completely irrational therefore not worthy of analysis and deep understanding.

Now, some of these articles do briefly mention that people who experience BPD are in pain and provide quotes from individuals with the diagnosis but I still feel like it’s missing the compassion. People with BPD are still being told how we can fix ourselves for others instead of how others can help support us. The amount of articles I’ve seen articles that discuss how to support someone with depression and anxiety or what to say or not say and the amount is pretty overwhelming.

To wrap up I would like to call attention to the article “The Roller Coaster Ride of Loving Someone with BPD“. It is an extremely cute article that makes me want to cry.

It’s hard being in a relationship with someone who suffers from BPD. But it is nowhere near as hard as being the one with BPD. My girlfriend is not a burden, her BPD is. Our relationship is a molehill compared to the mountain of a struggle she has to go through to try to overcome her condition. – Paddy Vipond

Thank you Paddy, that is all I have ever wanted people to understand.



18 thoughts on “BPD: Something We Do To Others?

  1. I can appreciate your frustration. As a clinical therapist and a daughter of a father diagnosed with a Bipolar 1 disorder when I was very young, I feel it first hand from the receiving end of my father’s tumultuous behaviors and want to also be as compassionate as possible as I saw his suffering most of my life. It is a family problem. Not just an individual issue. You’re dealing with the blame mentality that we all fall into at one point or another. On the upside, we’re all talking about it. Good and bad, the only way to destigmatize something is to communicate. Thanks for bringing this important message to my attention.

  2. For me it’s been a matter of redefining BPD and it’s helped a bit. I still get called intense a lot but there’s a shift that happens once you accept your issues and try to be the best “crazy person” you can be. It’s a lot harder trying to stay in these little boxes that society insists on.

  3. I soooo agree and think about this a lot (probably because Im always reading about how awful we are). Do people with BPD cause other pain? Yes, but generally the amount of pain caused to the people around us is a fraction of what were feeling. It also really bothers me how so many peoples 1st solution to any problem in a relationship with someone with BPD is to leave them. A. like I said the pain a person with BPD is feeling is enormous and we dont get that option, we cant just walk away, and B. Hello, these are people with a tremendous fear of abandonment because of being abandoned, misunderstood, invalidated… How is the answer to walk away and make them feel even more alone, misunderstood, damages…
    Sorry for the rant. This just really gets under my skin.

    • I told many partners, “How come you get to walk away from this when I can’t?” Every person that doesn’t help just increases the pain and provides evidence that we’re nothing. Now, every person has the right to leave a relationship if they do not want to be in it, regardless of the reason, and I would argue that if the relationship ends because they don’t want to help you out/understand then that’s not the relationship for you. But, in the moment none of that matters.

      Thank you for your comment. All of this bothers me a lot as well!

  4. I really think that whatever the disorder, it cam’t logically be the patient causing anything on himself or others-if so, it aint a disorder. Sometimes, your pain is so much that whatever behaviour is your best option and you know it may not be pleasant even to your own self in the aftermath, but you are helpless and hopeless. It is really so had to explain, hence screams like ‘leave me alone’, when you’ll really want for someone who truly cares ti be with you… I am so sad that in addition to all the internal turmoil, we have to brave all these whatever

    • A friend of mine asked recently if I thought my experience was my fault. I told her that it makes NO SENSE for me to purposely want to feel as horrible as I can feel. She is often blamed by others for her experience. I told her that she would never asked to hear voices or feel the intense paranoia that someone was after her. Who would actually want that? Plus, you can’t just create those experiences.

      I have always tried to tell others how painful it is for me to see the damage I cause but like you mentioned I feel helpless and hopeless to stop it. Sometimes it feels like I’ve been kicked out of my own brain and someone else is in control.

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment!

  5. Wow, I am really angry now that I have read this. I never put these things together. Blame is what i think my middle, maybe even my first name should be. You are right that most books do focus on blaming the person with MI. gerrr. I am looking forward to reading YOUR book when it comes out! 😉 what a spin it will have!

  6. You make an excellent point here, and I never realized this “extra” stigma even existed. Talking about it, as you are doing, is a huge step toward us all acknowledging what’s going on, and (hopefully) addressing it.

  7. UNFORTUNATELY, much of the stigma about BPD comes from the early psychological opinions that nothing can be done about it. OH PLEASE!

    Reminds me of my reaction to many of the comments I hear from and about non-ADD coaches who have “fired” (their actual term) certain clients because they say that certain people I have coached successfully are “uncoachable:”

    “If the shoe doesn’t fit, don’t blame the FOOT!™” Update your skills.

    While I do believe you can’t do much with anyone in active addiction until they get that monkey off their back, I have never met ANYBODY who sincerely wants to manage his or her life more successfully who can’t be helped.

    The “problem” with “Borderline’s” is that they take a lot of extra time (relative to most of the other Executive Functioning Disorders) – and so many “helping” professionals (or the person with BPD) give up too soon.

    IMPORTANT POINT: “helped” not “fixed” – we all need to work with and around whatever’s going on with us – it doesn’t go away just because we work on it anymore than a person with a physical disability (blindness, for only one example) doesn’t suddenly wake up being able to see.

    While not TOTALLY up-to-date (obviously) an older book I find useful is “Becoming a Constant Object in Psychotherapy with the Borderline Patient” by Charles P. Cohen and Vance R. Sherwood – both Ph.D.’s.

    Great article here, btw and – as always – you are providing an important and MUCH needed service with your blog. Hat’s OFF to you!! (and thanks for the great links – so much to know, so little time!)

    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMore dot com)
    – ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder –
    “It takes a village to educate a world!”

    • I remember watching a slideshow presentation put on by a psychiatrist who was saying that patients are now more knowledgeable about their conditions then their doctors. Patients are researching their condition, the treatments, the advances whereas their doctors are not! Updating skills is much needed professional development!

      I agree that some people, and it seems to be BPD, need extra help or more time. Majority, if not all, of the treatment I have received (although never specifically for BPD) were time sensitive. Sometimes I aged out of the program, I ran out of sessions or my social worker would just tell me she had spent to much time with me. And those were FREE options! I can’t imagine paying! I’ve noticed that a lot of my friends who have various diagnoses are chronically in therapy or needing therapy. How is that effective? Are we sacrificing quality care in an over worked system? Probably.

      I’ll look into that book, thank you for the suggestion!

      Keep up all the work you are doing! Your piece on black and white thinking I’m hoping to work into my presentations to explain to people how I think.

      • Yes, it’s so sad — and maddening! There was – and still is, somewhat, because of confirmation bias – a theory that you never reveal to the BPD patient what you are treating them for or they will fight it. A bit black and white, yes? – not to mention insulting.

        Super about your presentations. To whom do you present? xx, mgh

      • I have heard of doctors not telling patients their diagnosis because they believe it will “hinder the process”. You’re right, it is insulting! Having that kept from me would make me fight them.

        Tonight (and the next two nights) I’m co-presenting on youth, mental health and homelessness at a Toronto University. It’s a course that students can take. We present alongside an amazing organization called The Dream Team. They are consumer/survivors and advocate for supportive housing.

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