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Re-Stigmatizing BPD

There’s been a little dust-up going on partly in response to my post Stigmas, Statistics, and Borderline, where I mentioned that the website BringChange2Mind, created by Glenn Close to help reduce the stigma of mental illness, leaves out personality disorders and focuses instead on depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and PTSD.

Some bloggers and readers who’ve encountered BringChange2Mind on Facebook have now been writing comments suggesting that BPD be included on the site. Though most are reasonable, I must say the aggrieved tone of some of them does not help dispel the stigma of BPD.

The stigma is an interesting topic for someone like me — a relative. A lot of my story has to be pretty dark, because having a mom with undiagnosed BPD is no picnic. Neither is having a child, sibling, or spouse with the disorder. In order to describe the disorder, we relatives have to reveal some bad things — reinforcing rather than dispelling the stigma.

On the other hand, my reading and research led me to an understanding of BPD as an illness, in which victim is no more responsible than a person with diabetes. I’ve also come to appreciate how deeply unhappy my mom was, which makes me less inclined to kick her around.

BPD is so stigmatized that people are still mostly unwilling to own up to it, which is bad for them and bad for society at large. (Dani Z, a brave young woman, has several YouTube videos about dealing with BPD.) Some therapists won’t even touch the diagnosis.

It’s a rock and a hard place. Though having a relative with, say, schizophrenia, can be tragic and wrenching, that relative is mostly wrestling with his or her own demons — who don’t usually come after you. But BPD is an emotional disorder, so it manifests itself in relationships. People with BPD may act like they hate you for no apparent (apparent to you, that is) reason. It’s hard to be empathetic with someone who rages and criticizes you all the time.

And very hard to talk about the relationship without promulgating the stereotype and re-stigmatizing the sufferer. What are your thoughts?

3 Comments

  1. Dani Z wrote:

    Great Post! Thank you for mentioning me. I see what you are saying about the aggravated tone of some of the comments possibly re-enforcing the stigma but I also understand why people are so frustrated. I guess it can be hard to talk about mental illness sometimes but I think we still just have to keep the conversation going if we ever going to get anywhere.

    Saturday, August 14, 2010 at 11:56 pm | Permalink
  2. Kathy wrote:

    That’s why your videos are so great. The stigma attached to depression and other mental illnesses has diminished (though not disappeared) as people have written and talked about the experience.

    Sunday, August 15, 2010 at 1:17 am | Permalink
  3. Teresa wrote:

    I made a blog about understanding BPD cause like you I am sick of it why are ppl afraid of us

    Monday, August 16, 2010 at 6:28 am | Permalink

One Trackback/Pingback

  1. Kathy Ewing › Stigma Redux on Wednesday, June 8, 2011 at 9:15 am

    […] ending also connects to my previous posts about stigmatizing mental illness. The bad guy is explicitly identified as a paranoid […]

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