If you were facing a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder (BPD) how would you feel?
Would you feel okay with the diagnosis or would you challenge it?
In this article, I discuss 5 major fears associated with the diagnosis of BPD.
Borderline personality disorder is associated with major shifts in emotion, thought processes, desires, and relationships. It’s not simply a “derogatory” label often applied to emotional people.
It is a diagnosis that describes a set of symptoms that fluctuate over time and may be difficult to treat. But this isn’t how people diagnosed with the disorder see things.
In fact, when I see individuals diagnosed with BPD (or seeking a diagnosis), I find myself wondering why the term itself brings immediate shame, guilt, fear, and resistance. It wasn’t until I began to diagnose it myself that I realized stigma was behind the fear many of my clients experienced.
The following are 5 examples of why receiving a diagnosis of BPD may feel like a life sentence:
- Self-concept: Being diagnosed with BPD will result in a change of self-concept or self-esteem. It is very easy to view oneself in two extremes: one view may include the idea that the sufferer is “sick” and therefore should not be held responsible for their behaviors and attitudes toward others while the other extreme would be that the individual does not have BPD at all and should not pursue treatment. I have had both experiences with clients and these kind of clients are often difficult to treat because there is very little to no accountability or acceptance.
- Healthcare discrimination: I have heard many clients, readers, and advocates complain about the challenges their mental health diagnosis creates when seeking medical attention. Some people fear that a “severe” and complicated mental health diagnosis such as BPD can create stigma among medical professionals who are providing medication management and general healthcare services. My experience with clients has been that most general practitioners do not have access to mental health records unless the patient provides consent for that information to be shared between the mental health therapist and medical doctor.
- Employment concerns: Some individuals also fear that supervisors or superiors can find out information by speaking with family members, friends, co-workers, or even medical and mental health professionals. Because of HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996), no one is able to retrieve such information without consent (written) by the patient or client. A lot of people worry about their EAP (Employee Assistance Program) benefits that offer therapy services. I cannot deny the fact that some employees have been “burned” by their employer by sharing their BPD diagnosis with supervisors or even colleagues. Some even believe their supervisor gained access to their records.
- Social ranking: Although families can be very competitive, friends and colleagues can also be competitive. It can be a challenge for individuals with BPD to accept the diagnosis because of how they view themselves in comparison to others. A former client once said to me “why would I accept this diagnosis if a lot of my friends and colleagues experience similar symptoms but only have depression or anxiety?”
- Symptom similarity to movies: Sadly, a lot of popular movies portray illnesses such as borderline personality disorder, multiple personality disorder, depression with psychotic features, autism spectrum disorders, etc. There are some movies who portray, with a high level of accuracy, the symptoms of BPD such as Thirteen, Mommy Dearest, and Young Adult. However, there are other movies that simply exaggerate symptoms and perpetuate unhealthy views of BPD. As a result, a lot of people try to avoid and deny the diagnosis of BPD because of incorrect or exaggerated portrays of symptoms in cinema.
Receiving a diagnosis of BPD can be difficult but it doesn’t have to feel like a life sentence. The best way to cope with the stress associated with the disorder is by accepting it first. Once you accept that this is something you could have, it will be easier to move into your future with the right treatment.