As people with borderline personality disorder, or who are in recovery from BPD, or who consider ourselves emotionally sensitive, you can probably relate to my disdain whenever we, as human beings, are referred to as “borderlines.” There is an insensitivity about it that bothers me. To refer to someone in this way can be highly depersonalizing and stigmatizing. After all, we don’t refer to people who have cancer as “cancers.” This would be considered highly inappropriate and unkind. In the mental health world referring to someone who has schizophrenia as the “schizo,” would also be inappropriate and unkind.
A person who suffers from borderline personality disorder is just that – a person who has borderline personality disorder. Part of my work on the web in terms of advocacy for social change in the mental health world, as a consumer of services who has successfully overcome a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder and who no longer meets the criteria, is to call out sometimes well-meaning, sometimes not so well-meaning writers of articles in which we are referred to in dehumanizing ways. Sometimes articles are written by loved ones of those who suffer from BPD, such as lovers or former lovers, spouses, friends, siblings, parents, etc. Other times articles are written by professionals in the field, such as clinicians, therapists, social workers, psychiatrists, for example.
Unfortunately I have seen, even recently, a significant number of professionals perpetuating dehumanizing stigma by using certain labels such as “borderlines,” or “non-bpds” to describe those who have the condition versus those who do not. Again in the example of cancer, could you imagine reading an article in which sufferers of cancer are referred to as “cancers,” and their loved ones are referred to as “non-cancers”?
I know a lot of people aren’t bothered by this. I have even had a mental health professional explain to me that these terms are used in the context of certain publications in order to easily differentiate who is being spoken about. This doesn’t make it feel any more acceptable to me, personally. Perhaps it’s my heightened sensitivity and my awareness of the discrimination and unfair treatment that many patients, once having received the diagnosis of borderline personality disorder, experience and a system that still does not fully embrace the concept that not all people with BPD are manipulative or dangerous. The system also hasn’t fully embraced that we have the ability to recover, and truly build lives worth living, as has been so much of the work and intention of Dr. Marshall Linehan, who created DBT to help us get to this place.
So what are your thoughts on the use of terms such as “borderlines,” and “non-BPDs”? Does it bother you? If so, why? If not, why?
I look forward to your thoughts on this topic.
Thank you for reading.