A Matter of Personality

From borderline to narcissism

Borderline Personality Disorder in the Movies

Movie scriptwriters often are clueless about the mental disorders they wish their characters to portray. Putting the right family dynamics with the right disorder is even rarer. However, sometimes a movie can get things so right it is scary. Such was the case with two movies about borderline personality disorder, "Frances" and, especially, "Thirteen." Read More

You forgot 'Mommy

You forgot 'Mommy Dearest'!

Another series of good BPD portrayals is the grandmother in the HBO show 'The Sopranos'. Very realistic, as the behavior traits are more subtle and continue over many episodes.

Sounds like a good one

Also "Postcards from the Edge" for slightly less intense/serious depiction of mother-daughter dynamics (set in Hollywood similar to "Mommie Dearest").

bpd and other Cluster B pds in the movies

There is also "White Oleander" for a portrayal of a borderline pd mother and how this impacts her teen daughter.

A much older film portraying an extremely domineering, controlling, angry mother who is willing to harm herself in order to gain sympathy and attention, and "make" her daughter feel guilty enough to remain under her mother's control, acting as her mother's nurse/companion, is "Now, Voyager."

I've always felt that "Gone With The Wind's" Scarlett O'Hara demonstrated a combination of Cluster B disorders: she flirted outrageously and craved the attention of men (histrionic pd), she demonstrated rapid mood swings (she loved Ashley, she hated Ashley, she was easily triggered into sulks and rages), narcissistic pd (sense of entitlement and superiority, treated other people like objects with no feelings, stole her sister's fiancé just to marry him for his money, had little motherly feeling for her child) and even antisocial pd (she had no problems with lying, stealing, breaking rules, deceiving and using other people for her own personal gain (no conscience), had no remorse about hurting others (lack of affective empathy) and engaged in revenge behaviors.)

The film and literary characters Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina also show traits of borderline pd; both of them describe feelings of "emptiness", act out sexually, and end up impulsively committing suicide at the end of the story.

Have you seen Betty Blue?

As a diagnosed BPD'r, my heart 'crunched' during many of the scenes from this French film. Not alot of backstory. I most identified with the exhausting mood swings, rage and then numbness. (Although, my moments of rage were not triggered so suddenly. Let's say I have a longer fuse than poor Bettie.) Of course, no film is going to be 100% accurate, but this is a good one to understand the degree and magnitude of a BPD'rs emotions.

I have seen the movie

I have seen the movie thirteen but it never really occurred to me that the teens displayed borderline personality disorder, I guess because I didn't quite know what it was. After learning about BPD in my psychology class I now know what it is and after this article as pointed out the movie Thirteen I now understand BPD a lot better.


This was written as a memoir about depression. However, after seeing the movie I felt, without a doubt, she suffered from BPD! I related so much to the main character it was unreal. Definitely didn't relate to Glenn Close from Fatal Attraction. ::phew::

Prozac Nation - The movie

I am a male with the borderline diagnosis and still get confused when trying to explain the diagnosis despite being in therapy for 30 years. For the most part though, I know it when I see it and I can tell if others have it. I have met many, many fellow borderlines over the years and have seen every movie about borderlines I could get my hands on. Not only is Christina Ricci's character in Prozac nation, the most accurate movie portrayal of BPD, but it mirrors my version of BPD better than anyone I have ever met. It was very frightening watching the movie, because that was me on the screen. It's the only time I can say someone got the portrayal of what I suffer, exactly right. It's textbook BPD. I have seen "13" and I simply don't see myself in any of the characters the way I see myself in Ricci's. Perhaps BPD manifests itself differently in different people but Prozac Nation is the story of my particular brand of BPD.

Prozac Nation author described "atypical depression"

I read some reviews & discussions about the book (and film) "Prozac Nation", and the author mentioned that the story is semi-autobiographical and based on the author's own diagnosis of "atypical depression" as a teen and young adult. I looked it up at WebMed, and that particular form of mood disorder, a subcategory of major depression, seems to have more in common with borderline pd traits and behaviors than other types of depression.

There is the chance that there is comorbidity, as well. Its not uncommon for someone with borderline pd to also have depression, and vice-versa.

The web site "Beyond the Borderline Personality" has a good article about this book/film RE borderline pd:


So far, the film that best captures my own mother's version of borderline pd is "Mommy Dearest", which I believe shows a combination or comorbidity of borderline pd plus narcissistic pd.

Moive Inaccuracy

These movies that the author mentions like, A beautiful Mind, and Girl interrupted, are more times than not completely inaccurate. The reason for this is to make the movie more interesting more times than not. I'm reminded of how often movies get wrong the different types of amnesia. Confusing the symptoms that go with anterograde with retrograde. The same things true with mental disorders in movies. Many times the symptoms that go with a specific disorder just aren't interesting enough on their own. Producers, directors, and screen writers feel the need to spice them up a little bit.

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David M. Allen, M.D., is a Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Tennessee and author of the book How Dysfunctional Families Spur Mental Disorders.


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