While I recover from shoulder surgery, I have asked several guest bloggers to take a spin on this PT blog. This post is by cyberspace BPD advocate N.L. LeBlanc.
When people think of May, certain things usually jump to mind, like flowers, warm temperatures and the upcoming summer months. Today, I would like to make you aware of another May event: Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness Month.
Borderline what, you ask? That's usually the reaction I get when I tell people about the disorder. That's understandable. That was my reaction, too, when I first heard about BPD two years ago. I was going through a long writer's block (I'm a novelist) in April 2008 when a pair of customers at the bookstore where I worked asked me if we had any books on BPD.
At the time, I'd never heard about the disorder. But since I'm interested in abnormal psychology (I'm studying to become a psychiatrist), I looked it up online. While I read the Wikipedia article, I was suddenly blessed with an almost fully-formed novel idea involving a protagonist who suffers from BPD. Two years later, the first draft of my novel is nearly complete.
My research and studies on BPD also led me to sites with real-life tales about how the disorder can devastate people's lives. I read stories about stigma, despair, hopelessness, and the long road to recovery. Those diagnosed as borderline personalities are constantly stigmatized, often turned away by therapists, and avoided by people in their surroundings. I became I became infuriated about the lack of awareness for this serious and debilitating condition and became involved in trying to raise worldwide awareness for BPD.
In late April, I created the global Facebook page for BPD Awareness Month. So far, it has received much more attention than I initially anticipated: our page has more than 1,000 fans. We have created brochures which have been sent to members and passed out in several regions around the world. We even have an online shop with many BPD awareness-related products, and with all profits going to BPD awareness and research organizations.
Family members also suffer in silence. They are isolated and experience guilt, depression, and helplessness. In a survey, 75% of family members on the online support group Welcome to Oz were seeing therapists of their own to handle these intense relationships.
Take a stand. Help end the stigma. You can help us in our efforts to raise awareness just by educating yourself.
What is BPD?
BPD is a serious mental illness, just as serious as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, ADHD or PTSD. It affects 5.9 of the general population. One out of every 10 people with BPD commits suicide. It accounts for around 20% of all psychiatric hospitalizations and 11% of outpatients.
Borderline personality disorder is an Axis II psychiatric illness (the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition, Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR) categorizes Axis II disorders as stable and durable disturbances in psychological function categorized by the following:
Intense abandonment fears - The person will go to great, often irrational lengths to avoid being abandoned by friends and loved ones. This includes real and perceived abandonment. People with BPD are typically insecure and hypersensitive to signs of rejection and abandonment, which means they sometimes see it where it really is not.
Emotional dysregulation - In other words, rapid-cycling mood swings. While bipolar disorder, for example, features alternating periods of depression and mania, each lasting several days or even weeks, mood swings in BPD are much more frequent and abrupt. A person with BPD can be angry, depressed, joyful, and bored in one afternoon.
Self-destructive impulsivity - This includes such behaviours as compulsive spending, casual sex, substance abuse, gambling addiction, and shoplifting.
A pattern of black-and-white thinking - They perceive themselves, others and the world around them as either "all good" or "all bad". Their perception of another person, for example, will vary from complete idealization ("She can do no wrong.") to complete devaluation ("She is a cruel, evil person."). This tends to compromise the stability of the BP's relationships with other people. This is termed "splitting."
Self-injury - Though this is not reported in all cases, around 75% of people with BPD who seek mental health treatment self-injure in some way.
Suicidal behaviour - This includes suicidal ideation (thinking about or considering suicide) and suicide attempts. Suicidal behaviour in BPD can also arise when the person feels threatened with abandonment.
Identity disturbances - People with BPD typically cannot see very far into the future (e,g,. have trouble setting long-term goals for themselves) because they have a handle on their authentic self.
Inappropriate and uncontrollable anger- This is extremely damaging to relationships. People with crave close relationships, then unwittingly sabotage them.
Dissociation- (a feeling of detachment from one's body and actions) or paranoid ideation as a reaction to stress - This usually happens in more severe cases of the disorder.
Chronic feelings of emptiness-This is associated with identity problems.
People struggling with BPD already have enough on their plate without having to deal with the stigma and lack of understanding associated to their disorder. We can change that! You've already helped to make a difference by reading this article.
Let's all do our part during May to help raise awareness for borderline personality disorder, so it can finally be recognized as the serious mental health issue it is.