Fight Stigma: Separating Fact From Fiction About Borderline Personality Disorder – By Karyn Hall, PhD
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Fight Stigma: Separating Fact From Fiction About Borderline Personality Disorder – By Karyn Hall, PhD

Fight Stigma: Separating Fact From Fiction About Borderline Personality Disorder – By Karyn Hall, PhD

Stigma can be devastating to individuals who are already struggling with intensely painful emotions. Often myths about BPD further perpetuate isolation and self-loathing. Here are a few of the most common myths surrounding BPD.

Myth: Individuals with BPD Are Dangerous.

Individuals with BPD are some of the most caring individuals, with intense emotions that arise quickly. They can anger quickly and be expressive with their anger. These intense emotions, including anger, typically pose a danger for the individual with BPD rather than for others. By far the majority of individuals with BPD are dangerous only to themselves. Their intense emotions may lead to self-harm and/or suicide attempts.

Myth: Only Women have BPD

For many years BPD was believed to be more prevalent in women than men. Recent studies show the prevalence of BPD equal among men and women. Symptoms may appear in different ways in men. In any diagnostic assessment, it is important to include the possibility of BPD for men as well as women.

Myth: Individuals with BPD Want to be in the Hospital and Avoid Responsibility

 Many individuals with BPD live with intense pain much of the time. The pain is internal, so others don’t see the agony. Of course those individuals search for treatment that can ease the pain they feel. What they want is effective treatment to have relief from their intense emotional pain. Repeated hospitalizations most likely reflect their efforts to find treatment that works. They may also need a safe place when they don’t trust themselves to control urges to hurt themselves. Sometimes they may find the hospital a safe place to go to escape a world they don’t know how to manage. It’s not about avoiding responsibility, it’s about not having skills to deal with their intense emotions.

Myth: People with BPD who self harm do it for attention.

Self-harm can be a way of easing the emotional pain that individuals with BPD feel. It can be a way of showing others the pain they are in, an attempt to solve problems (though not an effective one), and a way of asking for help. Many individuals with BPD feel shame about the self-harm they do and hide it from others. Not everyone who self-harms has BPD.

Myth: There is no treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder.

BPD was once considered difficult to treat and the prognosis was bleak. Fortunately, therapies have been developed that research has proven to be effective. The two specific treatments found to be effective, according to the American Psychiatric Association, are Dialectical Behavior Therapy and Mentalization-Based Therapy.

Myth: All persons diagnosed with BPD are victims of abuse.

Some individuals with BPD suffered abuse, but not all. Individuals who grow up in supportive families can be diagnosed with BPD.

Myth: Adolescents cannot be diagnosed with BPD.

Current scientific evidence indicates BPD can be reliably and validly diagnosed in adolescents. Mental health practitioners are encouraged to formally assess BPD when working with adolescents.

Karyn Hall, PhD

Founder and Director of Dialectical Behavior Therapy Center

Register now for Karyn Hall’s talk “Family Connections” about Understanding Borderline Personality Disorder

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