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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 – True Story

A true Borderline Personality Disorder story

BPD – The likeable guy who suddenly isn’t

I once knew a man who I met through a friend.  When I met him, she was already planning on marrying him so I could not say much of anything.  He was an utterly likeable guy who was fun, fun-loving and an all-around joy to be near, but there was something I couldn’t understand.

My friend, due to her previous life experiences involving traumatic loss, was extremely opposed to anyone she loved being in the police service.  Her fiancé had been a marine and had later gone into the military police.  He had retired from the military and was working in his family business as the Vice President but had also grown his hair out, dressed in very casual clothing and loved race-cars.  He swore “blind” that he would never enter the military or law enforcement again.

This fun-loving person with long hair, wearing tank tops and racing cars was the guy I met.  He was also mechanically inept – couldn’t put a shelf on a wall or even put a barbeque grill together with instructions.  After they had got married, my husband and another friend spent many hours doing “fix-it” work around their house – taking things such as grass spreaders and playground sets apart to put them back together correctly.

Borderline Personality Disorder - Swirly MindHe was also very generous – spending money all the time for all and anyone around.  He would take 15 people to see a rock concert or a hockey game, bought the boys new video game systems and video games every weekend, bought garden supplies, supplies to put in a backyard kiln after my friend had said she thought she might want to make a pot, had a pool installed, bought a go-cart and mini-bike for the boys, $3000 vacuum cleaner… He traded her car in for a new, better, bigger car at least once a year, sometimes after only a few months. They were not in financial distress, but he was never concerned with how much money he spent.

I could never reconcile the goofball man with long hair and a beard who used to be a marine and an MP.

Fast forward a few years.  One day, my friend called me, totally hysterical because she came home to find him with a military style haircut, wearing a police uniform with guns and all – preparing to go to a part-time job that he had gotten with a police department in a small town nearby, having done all this in secret.  He swore it was only part-time because they needed the extra income (which they didn’t).

For several months, she expressed her extreme displeasure, fear, hatred.  Each time I would drive to their house, I would think, “What are the police doing here?”

Then I would remember that it was his patrol car.

Fast forward a few more months.  He is now working full-time as a cop – even though he promised it would only be part time.  She hates it.  He is also starting to exhibit bizarre behavior, restrictive rules for the kids, can’t keep from calling her every 10 minutes – even while he is at work, even while she is grocery shopping or picking up kids from school.

Tensions rise, arguments ensue, culminating in an episode involving him threatening to shoot himself in front of the 10 year old who runs from the house in his underwear to hide at the neighbors.

BPD - Borderline Personality DisorderHe eventually calms down and suggests that they need marital counseling – that she needs “help.”  Of course, he says it is “her” that needs help, and he is only going for her problems.

They go to the counseling where the therapist disagrees with his idea that the core issue is her problem.  They are both referred to a psychiatrist.  The psychiatrist diagnoses him with Borderline Personality Disorder – giving him medication and recommends extended therapy.  The psychiatrist gives her a prescription for situational anxiety disorder – as she is having intermittent panic attacks due to his behavior.  He recommends that my friend go to therapy to deal with her emotions surrounding the family issues and for their son to go to therapy to deal with the fact that his father flips out.

She decides to stay – based on his agreement to take medications and go to therapy.  Which he does not.  He does not believe the therapist or the physician were correct.
He then tells her that she needs to go to all of his police and wives functions – and makes plans to join the State Police Controlled Substances Crime division – sponsored by the governor.  Another episode involving a mental breakdown and a couple of loaded firearms occurs.

She puts her kid in the car – and leaves a beautiful home with a pool and all the money she could want, in order to escape.  He calls and calls and appears not to understand what happened, blaming the whole situation on her paranoia.  She never goes back and now lives as a single mom in a low-rent housing unit without financial assistance from him.  Apparently this is much better than dealing with him.

This man, my goofball friend – turned into a raving nutcase and likely it was not the first time (or the last time) he had done so.  He went back to his former wife to marry her for the third time.

Years later, we still get “restricted number” phone calls from him – for no apparent reason other than to check up on her.

Until this experience, I always thought that Borderline Personality Disorder was a fairly benign thing – they were secret manipulators but relatively innocuous – along the same lines as Narcissistic Personality Disorder, which is irritating but not dangerous.  Now I know that is not true, Borderline Personality Disorder, also known as Emotionally UnstablePersonality Disorder is a real and valid psychiatric disorder that should be treated.

It is characterized by:

•    Occupational – Economic issues such as a sudden shift in career field cue to sudden changes in values, self-opinion
•    Antagonism
•    Separation anxiety and abandonment issues
•    Suicidal behavior
•    Multiple separations or divorces
•    Unstable, intense close relationships are vacillating with extreme anger
•    Harmful impulsiveness – including spending, reckless driving, thrill-seeking
•    Physical Violence
•    Chronic feelings of boredom which may contribute to impulsive activities
•    Irresponsibility

The National Institute of Mental Health says that Borderline Personality disorder is likely to last for many years and may be subject to relapse of symptoms which remiss but those core symptoms such as highly changeable moods and impulsive behavior will likely continue.

Melissa Lind