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Borderline Personality Disorder in the News

In the news (and movies): Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) doesn’t get a lot of “press” or screen time.

We have all seen movies and news stories about people with bipolar disorder. (Girl Interrupted, Mad Love, Borderline Personality Disorder Newsand the unforgettable Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf, drug addiction) (Chris Farley, Philip Seymore Hoffman, and Anna Nicole Smith), and major depression (Robin Williams, Owen Wilson, and Princess Diana).  Many of these movies or real-life examples also show how mental disorders are intertwined.

Depression comes with alcoholism, bipolar disorder comes with drug addiction, bipolar disorder comes with a lot of issues – but not much attention gets paid to Borderline Personality Disorder.

Borderline Personality Disorder has a few issues:

  1. It is a personality disorder and not a psychiatric disorder that can be treated with medication
  2. It is hard to diagnose and can often be confused with other disorders
  3. Borderline patients may misrepresent their behavior to medical professionals
  4. Borderline patients are often “difficult” to be around
  5. Borderline personality disorder is not well known – make it not well known… and, for this reason, there is no reason to write a news story or make a movie about it.

“Good news”;

I put that in parentheses because the diagnosis is not great – but it is good that BPD is getting a bit of attention.  Two notable examples – one not so great and one which may or may not be great.

Not So Great;

The trial of Jodi Arias.  In 2008, Travis Alexander was brutally murdered.  He was stabbed over 20 times, shot, and photographed after his death.  The alleged perpetrator: his girlfriend, Jodi Arias.

The case has been pending for many years – one of the reasons may be the development of a clear understanding of why Arias acted the way that she did after the murder.  Reportedly, Arias was witnessed immediately after Alexander’s memorial (including explicit text messages sent for “flirting”), and she has been pegged as a possible borderline patient.  This is in addition to Alexander’s former friends that reported her stalking behavior, and her statements that the boyfriend was a pedophile and a domestic abuser.

Arias’ own friends and a court psychologist have reported erratic behavior, similar to that of BPD.  No verdict has been issued as of yet, and we may never know, but it does bring BPD into the news (not in a nice way but into the light, however).

In fact, some mental health professionals have expressed the belief that BPD patients may be more dangerous – both emotionally and physically – than most other mental disorders, some likening it to a form of sociopathy.

Possibly good news;

Borderline Personality Disorder in the NewsOn the movie front, Kristen Wiig (of Bridesmaids –and the new, all-female Ghostbusters) has starred in a”dramedy”. Dramedy is  a combination of a comedy and drama that is centered around a woman with BPD.   In Welcome to Me, the character, portrayed by Wiig, wins the lottery and uses part of the money to start a talk show.

Along the way, she skips out on treatment, quits taking her meds and ends up living in a casino.  No word on reviews for the show, but it has some big names including Joan Cusack and Tim Robbins. It is produced in part by Will Farrell, and even though it premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, theater showings have not been announced.

If you know a BPD patient – imagine what he or she might do after winning the lottery.  BPD is hard to diagnose, hard to predict and even tougher to be around.

Whether the movie is any good, whether the trial comes to a just end…

Melissa Lind

Borderline Personality Disorder has gotten some attention!

Borderline Personality Disorder or Traumatic Stress Disorder

Borderline Personality Disorder – What if it is a traumatic stress disorder?

When most people think of Borderline Personality Disorder – they think of bad behavior.  It is someone that is very difficult to deal with, someone that you have to be on guard against, Borderline Disordersomeone who will try their best to manipulate you.
But, while that may be the outcome, just like most psychiatric disorders, it isn’t exactly their fault.

One of the problems with BPD is that since it is a “personality disorder“, there is often no recognized medical treatment.

We simply expect that the patient should self-monitor and control their behavior.  Therapy may help this, but how many of us (psychiatric patients, in general) really want to go to therapy.

Many of us have already spent hundreds of hours with a therapist – who may or may not help.  In addition, the best therapists are likely people who can “see through the bullshit” and refuse to be manipulated.  This obviously goes against the nature of someone with Borderline Personality Disorder.

In fact, the stigma is so bad that some therapists won’t even work with Borderline patients.

Co Morbid DisordersOne theory may help.  Some therapists have developed an automatic assumption that a Borderline patient is also a trauma victim.  While this co-morbid condition may not always be true, it can help some therapists feel more comfortable treating the patient.

Due to many soldiers returning from impossible battlefields in the Middle East, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is fairly well recognized.  Remember; I am not saying that it is easily treatable, but to some extent, the stigma is less.

When therapists look at Borderline patients as truly a PTSD patient, they may be more willing to treat the disorder. And they will attempt to get to the underlying causes of abandonment, impulsive and destructive issues, loss of control and poor self-image.

While PTSD is well defined by the professional psychiatric community, a longer-term disorder currently known as complex traumatic disorder is not.  Most examples of CTSD still involve soldiers, or they may involve women who had difficult pregnancies or who were violently sexually abused, repeatedly.

However, what if you don’t fit any of those recognized categories?

There are more ways to treat traumatic stress disorders such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or a newer one, Dialectical Behavior TherapyDBT focuses on four major areas:

•    Regulation of emotionsPost-Traumatic Stress Disorder
•    Tolerance for distress
•    Interpersonal effectiveness
•    Mindfulness

Unlike CBT, there is no “processing” component – making it work well as an initial treatment, starting before the patient has developed coping skills.  It builds up the feeling of emotional safety so that coping skills may develop.

Differentiating between “plain” Borderline patients – and those whose behavior is brought on by traumatic experience may help to eliminate some of the stigma still associated with BPD.  It may also offer actual, more effective treatment than CBT or other approaches.

Melissa Lind