How can I explain Borderline Personality Disorder to other people?
When people think of mental health disorders, they often rely on images ingrained in their memory by the media. If you don’t have knowledge of certain topics, you might automatically take the information presented in movies as true. So, how can you explain borderline personality disorder, a lot of people might refer to ‘Fatal Attraction’ or ‘Girl, Interrupted’. You might have even been tempted to watch them as soon as you received the diagnosis.
Unfortunately, as popular as they are, both of those movies aren’t good representations of BPD. The media tends to showcase BPD sufferers as crazy, forgetting that the disorder is a lot more complex than self-harm or lack of impulse control.
While mental health is more and more talked about, personality disorders still don’t receive sufficient attention and the unrealistic portrayals in media only add to the stigma. This makes a conversation with loved ones a lot more difficult.
While you want people closest to you to understand what you’re going through, you’re aware that erasing the stereotypes from their minds will be challenging.
The truth is, people who never experienced BPD, will never understand it fully but you can help them learn about some of its aspects. It might be impossible to describe the turmoil BPD can cause and listing all the symptoms might only make your loved one worried. For example, telling your family rejection makes you engage in risky sexual behaviours might not be a good idea unless you’re in their care and struggle to keep yourself safe. Instead, focus on how you feel first.
According to Marsha Linehan who created therapy for BPD, “People with BPD are like people with third-degree burns over 90% of their bodies. Lacking emotional skin, they feel agony at the slightest touch or movement.” You can describe the emotional intensity and the way it pushes you to act out of character.
If you struggle to explain it in your own words, there are a lot of personal accounts of dealing with BPD online and lists of points to make when talking about BPD to someone else. You can refer to the articles below for inspiration:
“What I wish people knew about borderline personality disorder”
“Five things people get wrong about BPD”
Remember to pick up the right time and place and prepare what you’re going to say beforehand. Try to think of how they can support you too – knowing your loved one is having mental difficulties can be difficult to cope with but people want to help.