Dealing with the Stigma of a Borderline Personality Disorder Diagnosis

BPD diagnosis stigmaThose diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) are often viewed as “difficult” or even “untreatable.” Borderline Personality Disorder has been referred to as the “leprosy” of psychiatric diagnoses, and BPD treatment professionals were historically warned to “stay away from Borderlines.”

While those dealing with any diagnosis of mental illness may fall prey to social stigma, Dr. Perry Hoffman, president of the National Education Alliance for Borderline Personality Disorder (NEA BPD), terms the stigma associated with Borderline Personality Disorder a “surplus stigma.”

Said Hoffman in a 2007 article on the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) website:

Issues that promote stigma and, thus, further the BPD misunderstanding include: 1) theories on the development of the disorder, with a suspect position placed on parents similar to the erstwhile schizophrenogenic-mother concept; 2) frequent refusal by mental health professionals to treat BPD patients; 3) negative and sometimes pejorative web site information that projects hopelessness; and 4) clinical controversies as to whether the diagnosis is a legitimate one, a controversy that leads to the refusal of some insurance companies to accept BPD treatment for reimbursement consideration.

The BPD Stigma

If you have been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, then you have already satisfied five of the nine symptoms associated with the disorder. These painful symptoms include fear of abandonment, recurrent suicidal or self-injurious behavior, impulsivity, intense mood shifts, problems with anger, and patterns of unstable relationships.

You are already facing what probably feels like insurmountable challenges. The last thing you want is to feel like others will not understand what you are going through and will view you differently as a result of your Borderline Personality Disorder diagnosis.

As a result, this BPD stigma often encourages those with the diagnosis to keep their condition under wraps. This can rule out the possibility of developing support systems, which are so crucial in recovery. The BPD stigma can also keep those dealing with the symptoms from seeking treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder.

Overcoming the Stigma of BPD

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) recommends that, in order for you to help yourself with Borderline Personality Disorder, you should:

  • Talk to your doctor about BPD treatment options
  • Try to spend time with other people and confide in a trusted friend or family member
  • Tell others about events or situations that may trigger your symptoms
  • Identify and seek out comforting situations, places, and people

These suggestions require your braving the stigma of a BPD diagnosis and trusting others. If you can get there, you can take the next steps to learn all you can about the disorder and begin to research BPD treatment options. Finding the right Borderline Personality Disorder treatment center is key in achieving what studies now show is possible: recovery from the symptoms of BPD.

Call and visit several BPD treatment centers, and find the one at which you feel most at ease. Find a treatment center that will customize the treatment plan to you, showing that the center recognizes your individuality and that you are a person, not a diagnosis.

Remind yourself that your disorder is not a reflection of who you are as a human being, and that stigma — though painful to deal with — is simply the perception of the other person.

Hoffman, through her work at NEA BPD, is one of the professionals out there working to eradicate the BPD stigma and bring Borderline Personality Disorder “out of the darkness.”

“Over the past decade, various groups have formed to help move the BPD agenda forward and to bring hope to individuals with BPD and their family members,” Hoffman said.

Organizations such as NAMI, Project Borderline, TARA Association for Personality Disorder, and SashBear.org are all working to reduce the stigma of Borderline Personality Disorder diagnosis and educate the public on what it really means to have BPD.

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