04/08/18 Borderline (Bastard) Personality Disorder

So, you’ve survived your Hellish childhood. You’ve been abused either sexually or physically – sometimes both.

You may have experienced neglect, poverty, bereavement…

You may have found yourself on the periphery of your world – your family – your fellow students – often your friends – your work colleagues…

You may be fortunate enough to have negotiated these rocky waters unscathed. Alternatively, you may have developed any or all of a cluster of symptoms that serve to make your days … fucking challenging.

Your reward for all this?

A label – a destructive diagnosis laced with prejudice…

Borderline Personality Disorder.

Go on, try it on for size.

Yes, I know, it sounds pretty meaningless, doesn’t it?

Borderline of what?

Personality Disorder??

Where’s the acknowledgement of all the shit and trauma you’ve gone through?

Well, in the ‘60’s, doctor whoever wotsisname found there were patients who didn’t fit neatly under either psychosis.

or neurosis

deciding that there was a group of folk – my people – who hovered somewhere in between.

To my mind, the creator of this label went to the same school of wilful dingbats as those who sought to call elephants ‘pachyderms’.

For those of you who aren’t up to date with your Latin, ‘pachy’ means ‘thick’, ‘derm’ means ‘skin’.

If only they’d taken a couple of steps backwards, they’d have seen the elephant (in the room) in its full glory.

But no…instead we’re left with an umbrella term for a cluster of symptoms that carry with them seemingly endless judgement from many of the professionals, friends and family charged with our care.

‘Attention seeking’




In recent times, it would appear there has been a push to destigmatise the condition by the folk who come up with the names for mental maladies…

In the U.K., we’re now referred to as people with ‘Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder’

That’s better! That’s so much less judgemental, isn’t it?

Hey, wait a minute! ‘Emotionally unstable!?’ I thought it was the ‘Personality Disorder’ bit that was brimming with stigma?

So, imagine going through much of the shitstorm that was your early life, only to be given this bastard diagnosis that breeds prejudice.

A diagnosis that doesn’t go any way to acknowledge what happened to you.

Everyone I know who’s ‘attracted the label’ of borderline personality disorder has either suffered abuse, neglect and/ or a steady drip feed of exclusion in their early lives.


Take a step back. What are we dealing with here?

We are more than a cluster of symptoms. We are people who’ve experienced trauma while we were growing up – where we developed any number of emotional defence mechanisms to see us through. Defence mechanisms that served us well at the time of the trauma, but now…? Well, not so much.

Borderline Personality Disorder is a result of trauma.

I’d like to suggest it was a kind of post traumatic stress condition – but that doesn’t tell the full story.

Paradoxically, receiving that label, a diagnosis we’d hope would be the gateway to the effective treatment of this bastard condition, has instead led to more trauma, through the institutional prejudice inherent in a system that asks ‘What’s wrong with you?’ instead of ‘What happened to you?’

That way, the person with the label becomes the problem. Not what happened to them. Not the way they’re treated by society. Not the shortcomings in services…

It’s you.

You’re the problem.

Imagine that?

You’ve gone through all that shit. You’re faced with health and social care services who, at the drop of a hat, will declare you’re failing to engage with services.

The conclusion? The services aren’t shit. You are.

And then folk have the audacity to tell us not to fall foul of ‘Self Stigma’.

I mean, just because everyone else sees you as shit, doesn’t mean you should join in.

This needs to be addressed at every level, root, stem and branch. The whole systemic treatment of folk like me is flawed.

We could try ‘Post traumatic stress disorder’ ?

It’s not that simple though, is it?

We could whack the word ‘complex’ at the beginning…?

Closer…but no cigar.

‘Post’ suggests the trauma is a thing of the past.

Hopefully I’ve encouraged you to look further than that. Because of the way we’re still treated across society – at home, at school, in college, university…at work, or by the welfare system…

This is trauma – nothing less.

Walk a Mile


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8 Responses to 04/08/18 Borderline (Bastard) Personality Disorder

  1. Annamaria hawkins says:

    Thank you!! That is exactly how I feel. I hate my diagnosis and the way I’m treated because of it. The mental health staff can be the worst. I have long wanted to shout from the tree tops exactly what you have just said but have felt too beaten down by the stigma that comes with this hideous diagnosis

  2. Mabel Mowatt says:

    Oh the love of putting people in boxes and if they don’t fit, it isn’t the box that needs changed it is their fault for not conforming.
    Don’t you think these labels are to ‘make it easier ‘ to point in a certain direction, to make the services feel they have a handle on what is going on.
    I can’t begin to imagine how bad it feels to go through so much, only to get a label that makes everything even worse!
    We all need to learn more about the journey and the damage done to people on the way.
    Listen more, understand more. Too naive of me?

  3. whitevanw0man says:

    Good article Chris, it sums up what happened to me a few years ago, at the hands of my CMHT, resulting in more emotional trauma and additional mental and physical symptoms, on top of the original problems which led to my various PD diagnoses.
    I am lucky enough to now have 3 PD diagnoses – Borderline, Anxious Avoidant and EU, so I never quite know which PD is prevalent on a certain day (!) and it creates all kinds of problems with DWP who want to know exactly what my current diagnosis is, and which of them is the “right” one.
    I have noticed recently that there is now a move by MH professionals to avoid using the PD terminology, presumably in an anti-stigma drive, and simply to refer to the symptoms.
    Of course, this then means that DWP assume that the problems can and will be resolved by First Step counselling for depression and anxiety, the irony being that the diagnosis of PD means that First Step is inaccessible to us because the counsellors aren’t qualified to cope with us, even if we just need some counselling to help get us through temporary tough times, and we must therefore be put on a 2 year waiting list for specialist therapeutic talking interventions, which aren’t actually what the NICE guidelines recommend and which are a postcode lottery as to what you might get.
    All my life I’ve believed that my problems were the result of PTSD from childhood experiences involving my father, but it’s never ever been diagnosed or even discussed as a possibility by medical professionals.
    Instead I was encouraged to believe that my Borderline diagnosis was the result of my relationship with my mother, and that she was emotionally neglectful. Maybe she was but it was because she was emotionally and mentally broken by my father’s gaslighting. My mum is now dead but my father continues to emotionally abuse – although I have finally, in my 40s, stood up to him and refused to have any contact with him. Of course, this has made me a pariah to the rest of my family.
    I’ve never had an opportunity to discuss the impact this has had on me with a suitably psychologically qualified health care professional and probably never will and so my father has won, he has got away with it, knowing that there’s only me left now as a witness and I am thoroughly discredited due to my MH diagnoses.
    A PTSD or even CPTSD diagnosis instead of the PD label is like the elephant in the room – we all know it’s there, we can all see it clearly, but none of the MH professionals are admitting to seeing it, in case at some point in the future, someone accuses them of not doing enough to remove the elephant, and that instead of trying to beat the elephant out of the room using sticks, they should have given it the choice of leaving or staying, but encouraging it to leave using reward based (leaves or whatever elephants like to eat) methods.
    Keep on walking xxx

  4. DR Naturegirl says:

    It’s an excuse of a label so people can wash their hands. Fundamentally unhelpful. Stigmatizing doesn’t even cover it. I’ve worked in the mental health arena. There’s good and bad. When services are stretched (always) there’s a hierarchy of who benefits. If you’re easy to deal with and don’t have too many issues. Bingo! If you’re difficult and not coping well, join the queue. In my experience BPD is fairly well down the pecking order. The system fails people and we need a new way of creating dialogue, understanding, empathy and help.

  5. Interesting article – primarily because I still have a lot of difficulty understanding why and how one can distinguish between BPD and NPD; and secondly because (sorry) among PDs BPD is treated far more kindly than is NPD in the various NT media.

    So, a question: how would *you* differentiate between your condition and NPD?

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