ABC News Article ft. Dr. LeslieBeth Wish on Casey Anthony: Borderline Personality Disorder?

As someone who is diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, who is doing her best to honestly share her experience and help break down negative and inaccurate stigmas about the illness (and mental illness in general), I was alarmed, disappointed, and concerned when, after watching a video by another young mental health advocate and BPD-diagnosed woman, Dani Z, where Dani referred to a recent online article published by ABC News.

Dr. LeslieBethWish  Photo Credit

In the article, a psychologist and licensed social worker in Sarasota, Florida by the name of Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, who has never met with or formally diagnosed Casey Anthony (who was charged and acquitted with killing her infant daughter), proposed the possibility that she may suffer from borderline personality disorder and/or psychopathology, claiming that:

 “[t]he main thing these issues have in common is a total lack of empathy, according to LeslieBeth Wish…’They can turn a person into a non-person,’ Wish said. ‘Borderline personalities have more emotional regulation problem and often use lying to get away from something and not ever feeling like they’re responsible.’ Wish explains that for people who suffer from these problems, separate lies can quickly become entire narratives that the teller can even come to believe as true. ‘A lie begets a lie and it’s easy to get trapped in telling lies to protect other lies,’ Wish said. ‘Does she believe her lies? She might, but more than likely she believes that she’s good enough to make you believe her lies.'”

I have a number of problems with Dr. Wish’s comments. To begin with, I haven’t met a BPD diagnosed individual, including myself, who doesn’t have an incredible amount of empathy.  I cry when I see someone else cry, because I feel so connected to their experiences and pain.  Unlike Dr. Wish, I will not generalize all people with Borderline Personality Disorder as being empathetic, and I feel that her way of presenting us in a generalized way as having “a total lack of empathy” is not only inaccurate, but irresponsible and unprofessional, especially for someone of her education level and title. If I had the opportunity to speak with her directly, I would encourage her to rethink her word choices and request that ABC news update the article.

Dr. Wish’s comment that Borderline Personality Disorder “can turn a person into a non-person” is also disturbing and misleading to readers who are not familiar with the disorder. A statement like this creates fear and perpetuates the stigma that people with BPD are dangerous and completely disconnected from reality.

Nowhere in the DSM – the standard Diagnostical Statistical Manual, published by the American Psychiatric Association and used by psychiatric professionals, are Dr. Wish’s statement corroborated.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, (NIMH) in order to be diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, an individual must meet at least five of the following criteria:

  • Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment
  • A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by extremes between idealization and devaluation (also known as “splitting“)
  • Identity disturbance: Markedly or persistently unstable self-image or sense of self
  • Impulsive behavior in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating)
  • Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-harming behavior
  • Emotional instability in reaction to day-to-day events (e.g., intense episodic sadness, irritability, or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days)
  • Chronic feelings of emptiness
  • Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights)
  • Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms

Notice that there is no mention in the DSM of a lack of empathy, pathological lying, or a person becoming a non-person.  ABC, please fact-check information given to you about specifically illnesses, even if the source is a doctor, because clearly, they, too, can and do provide inaccurate information that can adversely affect others.

While I am clearly upset about this article, I do understand that Borderline Personality Disorder is still misunderstood by many, including many of those within the psychiatric profession. Strides have been made by professionals in the field, such as Dr. Marsha Linehan, who created and developed Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), a program designed to specifically help those with BPD and other who have difficulty regulating their emotions. I attend DBT groups twice weekly and my doctor and I have noticed a significant improvement in my quality of life and overall well-being.

I hope this post helped you in some way.
More soon.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.