Few disorders and mental illnesses carry the same level of stigma as borderline personality disorder (BPD). Perhaps you’re thinking, “Well, it can’t be that stigmatized, can it?” But when even medical professionals sometimes perpetuate the stigma and allow it to affect their treatment of patients, we know there is a problem that needs to be addressed. We need to ensure society understands what BPD really means and how it affects those who live with it, and not believe misconceptions and falsehoods about the disorder.
From believing the disorder means you have “multiple personalities” to believing those with BPD are all manipulative, cold, calculating and aggressive, there exists multiple misconceptions that simply need to end if those living with BPD are to get the support they deserve.
That’s why we decided to ask those living with BPD in our mental health community to tell us misconceptions they are tired of hearing. We hope, if you too struggle with your emotions and feel the world treats you unfairly because of it, you find some comfort in knowing you aren’t alone. If you found your way here due to believing a misconception, we hope you find these answers enlightening.
Here’s what our community had to say:
Misconception #1: People with BPD are manipulative and can’t be trusted.
“People think I’m manipulative, can’t be trusted or don’t trust other people. I’ve literally had a psychiatrist tell me I was manipulating a situation (that I wasn’t) because ‘that’s what people with personality disorders do.’” — Rachael T.
“Manipulative. Ever since being open about my diagnosis, I’ve had people openly say that if I’m mad or upset, I’m just manipulating the situation. But what they don’t understand is, usually we have good reasons for feeling whatever emotion, just like any other person, but we feel with all our emotions. If we’re mad, it’s not mad — it’s irate. If we’re sad, it could be the end of all good things. Our emotions are just stronger than others, but it doesn’t mean we’re manipulating anyone.” — Aspen A.
“That we’re manipulative. That we can’t be trusted. That we don’t care about anyone but ourselves. Basically everything I’ve ever heard people say about this illness is horrible, unless of course it was someone who had the illness. Everyone who either doesn’t have it or doesn’t know someone who has it has a false idea of what it is.” — Alex M.
Misconception #2: People with BPD can’t love anyone but themselves.
“We can’t love wholehearted. We only love for our own benefits. Also, we are manipulative people who are all about ourselves. I give my all to everyone I love and care about but because of my BPD, it always gets misconstrued.” — Jessica R.
Misconception #3. People with BPD are unlovable.
“That I’m this unlovable, invisible monster. I have the ‘quiet’ type of BPD, and I am more of a monster to myself than anyone I could ever speak to. I care about people more than myself; it’s almost consuming my soul.” — Haley F.
Misconception #4: “Black and white” thinking means people with BPD can never think critically.
“That it’s always black and white thinking. There are definitely gray areas in my life. I’m so afraid of abandonment that I’ll often hold someone in a ‘gray purgatory’ for a long time, even if they’ve hurt me and deserve to be out of my life.” — Shawna H.
“People have had the misconception that the splitting symptom in borderline personality disorder is an inability to critically think about a topic and do well academically. For example, if I supposedly think in black-and-white terms, many people have assumed it means I have some sort of inability and lack of intelligence to figure out statistical analysis or write a compare and contrast paper because it requires complex, critical thinking and weighing out all factors to a problem. This is one reason I do not like it when people narrow down splitting into simply calling it black and white thinking, because it’s super misleading. Splitting has more to do with emotional and psychological conflicts in an interpersonal context, which results in extreme positive or negative thinking regarding the self and other people. Basically, they asked, ‘How are you doing so well in school? Don’t you think in black and white?’” — Kellyann N.
Misconception #5. People with BPD enjoy dissociation.
“That dissociation is an excuse and pleasant. In reality, I sometimes get upset because I know I’m in a conversation but for the life of me can’t listen or control what’s going on. It’s also frustrating because people think I don’t care when I can’t remember what they said during one of my episodes.” — Emily W.
Misconception #6. It’s the same thing as dissociative identity disorder (DID) or having “more than one personality.”
“People think it’s somehow a precursor to a ‘split personality.’ They think if I don’t take meds, I’ll become a ‘split personality psychopath,’ like from a movie or something.” — Autumn C.
“I’ve literally been asked by a supervisor, ‘Is this your depressed personality talking?’ Yes, my depressed personality is talking because it’s my only personality. I just view certain things differently depending on where in my depression I’m at in the moment.” — Jennifer K.
“Whenever I say I have borderline personality disorder, everyone instantly mistakes it for ‘multiple personality disorder’ and goes, ‘Oh, you don’t have that.’” — Damien A.
Misconception #7. People with BPD make awful parents…
“Women with BPD are bad mothers. Do I need to explain why I am tired of hearing this?” — Daphne S.
“The biggest misconception for me is that everyone thinks BPD moms are the worst. I read so many really bad things on the internet when I was pregnant that it drove me into a suicide attempt after my daughter was born. They think BPD moms traumatize their kids just by existing, or are manipulative and self-centered. But I am not… even the healthcare who visited me home were afraid I was a ‘typical BPD mom’ and were worried before they even knew me.” — Mandy L.
Misconception #8: … Or people with BPD are just awful people.
“That people with BPD are difficult or unpleasant. I think it’s actually the opposite; people with BPD are often quite likable and have loved ones who care deeply for them.” — Bethany H.
Misconception #9. People with BPD are just acting dramatic for attention.
“I’m tired of hearing I’m dramatic. I don’t have these feelings and moods because I like the attention. It’s actually the opposite. I don’t like people looking at me in a negative manner and if I could, I’d hide every feeling and emotion. I hate hearing I’m dramatic because I share my feelings and have intense emotions.” — Josie S.
“That we are purposely acting upset or dramatic for attention or pity. I’ve had someone say, ‘You can’t possibly be upset that often.’” — Anastasia A.
“I’m tired of people thinking I’m using it as an excuse to act, in their words, ‘crazy.’ I hate myself and my moods just as much as everyone else does. I wish more than anything I could be ‘normal’ sometimes. But this is me now and I’m coming to accept it.” — Becci P.
Misconception #10. People with BPD are just plain dangerous.
“That I need to be placed in a ‘mental institution’ because I’m considered a ‘danger.’ I’m honestly just like you: a little weird, but just like you.” — Joanna L.
“People constantly treat me like I’m about to fly apart. If I so much as get mildly annoyed, everyone around me tenses up, starts talking in soft, soothing tones, and making *very* slow movements. Treating me like that just makes me feel worse, because it shows me that all anyone sees when they look at me is some sort of angry gorilla. I am not a bomb!” — Robbi C.