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.

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.

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.


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 **

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 **

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 mental health website.

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

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