The Top 5 Myths About BPD (Guest post by Becky Oberg of HealthyPlace)



My name is Becky Oberg, and I have Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). I write for the HealthyPlace mental health website. I am open about my diagnosis, which has led to some presumptions about my health, my character, and basically my life.  So here are the top five myths about BPD that I have encountered.


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1. People with BPD are liars.

While lying can be a trait of BPD, it is not one of the criteria for the disorder. In other words, not all people with BPD lie.

I spent 13 months in the state hospital system in Indiana.  When I was at Richmond State, in a unit with little experience with BPD, my behavior was viewed through the lens of the conduct of Sarah, a previous patient with BPD.  Thus, when I said I was suicidal, the staff assumed I was making it up.  When a back injury made it difficult for me to walk, they assumed I was making it up.  They would also lock the bathroom during and after med pass so I couldn't throw up my meds.  You get the picture.  At Larue Carter, in a unit that specialized in BPD, my behavior was viewed in light of my past behavior.  I was always taken seriously.  When I said I was suicidal, they took preventative measures.  I also received medical treatment for my back injury--without the assumption I was trying to get high on pain medication or trying to get attention.  I made more progress at Larue than Richmond, partly because I was always taken seriously.





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2.  People with BPD are manipulative. 

Some people with BPD are manipulative.  Some, but by no means all.

When I was at Larue, I saw very few incidents of manipulation--and keep in mind these were people with BPD who'd been court-ordered to receive treatment.  I wish every mental health professional in the world understood that not all of us are manipulative, because it's a common assumption.  When I was in the Army, I was accused of faking a suicidal crisis to "manipulate the Army into sending you home".  Another time, a mental health professional became frustrated at my hesitation to sign myself in and said "Well, we can do this the hard way" and stormed off.  While we can come across as manipulative, especially when someone threatens to abandon us, we're usually trying to cope with overwhelming emotions we have no clue how to deal with.  Nine times out of ten, the last thing we want to do is hurt someone we care about.


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3.  People with BPD are promiscuous.

While many people with BPD have trouble with impulse control, such as reckless sex, many of us don't.  So it's wrong to assume we're sexually promiscuous.

Out of all the people with severe cases of BPD that I've known, only one was sexually promiscuous--and that was only when he refused to take his medication and stay in therapy.  Most other people with BPD that I've known have shied away from intimacy.






** Trigger Warning: Self-harm discussion in #4 **

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4.  People with BPD self-injure to gain attention. 

This one hits close to home for me because I am a self-injurer.  That said, I never do it for attention.  I usually
self-harm in secret and I keep the results hidden.  So do most self-injurers I know.  Usually the last thing we want is for someone to see the injuries or the scars and ask questions.  Self-injury is a way to give a voice to unspeakable pain and, in many cases, a cry for help, not a manipulative plea for attention.  If you look up mass media coverage of self-injury, you'll see titles like "Secret Shame" and "Secret Cutting".  Why would this be the case if it were for attention?
** End Trigger Warning: Self-harm discussed in #4 **



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5.  There is no treatment for BPD.

I remember one mental health professional telling my parents "She'll drift in and out of institutions her whole adult life until they get tired of treating her."  I was determined to avoid that fate.

There is treatment for BPD:
dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) and schema therapy.  Which one works best depends on the patient.  DBT didn't work for me, but schema therapy did.  I went from being in hospitals an average of every other month to living in a supervised apartment and running my own freelance writing business.  Is that a "hopeless" case?

Treatment does exist for BPD.  Medication combined with psychotherapy can and does work.  People with BPD are not hopeless cases.



What are some myths you've encountered and tried to disprove?


Becky Oberg is a freelance health reporter. She has been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. Becky writes the “More Than Borderline Blog” on the HealthyPlace.com mental health website.


Thank you for reading Becky's Guest Post.
More soon.

9 comments:

  1. There are other forms of treatment for BPD as well, but they're less in use - and many people with BPD respond quite well to consistent treatment and support without a specified treatment program. :)


    I think the biggest BPD myth that I run into that's not listed here is that people with BPD have anger issues and are dangerous & abusive. I can't even begin to explain how much this one upsets me.

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing your experience, Chrysalis. ♥

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  2. I encounter the anger and abusive myth so much, probably the most. Thank you for this post! It makes it easier to explain what BPD is and isn't to others.
    I am considered sexually promiscuous, but its from the sexual assault when I was in college. After that, I felt like that was all I was worth, and then grew to like the attention, but its not directly from the BPD. And I am afraid of intimacy, although emotional, but I separate sex and love, which would more likely be the BPD reaction to the trauma.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed this guest post, and thank you for your willingness to share so openly about your personal experience. ♥

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  3. Thank you for posting this Debbie, it's always a pleasure and a great help to read you.
    Most people who have no knowledge and even some of them who have (like some doctors) still have this misconception about BPD and it makes it harder for people (like me) suffering from this.
    We are battling 24/7 something that is closest to Hell than anyone can imagine, but no-one seems to see it nor care nor even believe it, and we are called manipulative, liars, or freaks...it is really painful and hard to turn to anyone because even if friends, lovers, family are doing their best, i often feel like "there is a limit and they expect us not to feel this way for too long"...as if it was that easy.
    Right now i'm writing you from home, i'm all alone, and i'm in one of those days where i tell myself: what's the use...i don't want to feel this pain anymore, but i can't stop it...it's like hearing voices (i don't) and those voices wouldn't give you a break.
    Well, not sure i'm making any sense, but thank you for your help.
    xxx

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    1. Thank you Cat. I'm glad you like my blog and am happy that you enjoyed this guest post by Becky. :) Please remember that although you may FEEL alone, you are part of a larger community of humanity and a tight-knit family of "BPDfriends" all over the world. You matter, and I am so happy that you took the time to read this and comment. Thank you! ♥

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  4. I've definitely been encountered the "people with BPD are manipulative" myth. So much of my past actions were viewed through this lens or the assumption that I just wanted to create drama, attract attention, or get out of things I just didn't care for. I got this when I came out as bisexual under Don't Ask Don't Tell.

    The other one I often got was the myth that "people like me" were never serious about things, were flaky, and didn't persevere. Rather, it wasn't that I didn't care... I care so much. It's just that I seriously had crises occur or I went into episodes of extreme splitting. If people understood this, perhaps they could validate concerns and help us remember the shades of grey in life and the bigger picture.

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    1. Oh, I can totally relate, Aeshe. I'm actually going to be making a video on my experience with originally being thought to have BPD years ago vs. now and the changes in perceptions over the years.

      Thank you so much for also bringing up the issue of those of us with BPD being perceived as "not caring" when we show flaky behaviors. It is so much deeper than that. ♥

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  5. Thank you for this post, Becky. I think the most daunting "myth" for me when I received my diagnosis of BPD around 15 years ago was that there was no cure. I put myth in quotes because back then, there were fewer options. DBT and schema therapy from what I understand were not in existence yet. When I read this (in "I Hate You, Don't Leave Me" some 80's or 90's edition, I felt little option but to do my best to ignore the diagnosis and all the symptoms that went along with it and deny that I had a problem at all. My parents were more than happy to go along with me in my denial, but I think running away did me more harm than good. All of my BPD ran rampant in my teens and early twenties. I am grateful for DBT now as it is helping me tremendously and I am happy to say that I agree, this can now be proclaimed a myth.
    -Phoenix

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