6 Common Myths About Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a mental illness that is commonly misunderstood by the general population and even some healthcare professionals. It's also a disorder that has the potential to negatively impact the lives of others. Because of these two issues, there are many myths about BPD that exist. If you or someone you know has BPD, it's important to understand the truth about the illness in order to begin recovery. Below are some of the most common myths about BPD.

Myth 1: Borderline Personality Disorder Is Not Treatable

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This is completely false; BPD is treatable. If you think you have BPD, don't let this myth scare you away from therapy or make you feel helpless.

Having a diagnosis does not mean that you will forever experience the symptoms of BPD. Hard work and effective treatment, such as psychotherapy, can greatly reduce the severity of BPD symptoms and may help you live a normal life.

Even without treatment, the symptoms of the disorder will ebb and flow over time; some people with BPD are able to function at a higher level than others, so recovery is different for each person.

Myth 2: All People With BPD Are Victims of Childhood Abuse

Too often, well-meaning people who do not understand BPD believe it is caused by abuse experienced while the affected person was a child. This can change the way people interact with you or talk to you if you have BPD, which can be frustrating if you did not experience abuse. It can feel like your own experience isn't understood or is different. While some people who have BPD were abused, it is not true of all BPD patients and should be viewed with a more open mind. 

There is no known cause of BPD at this time. However, the cause is generally seen as a combination of biological and environmental factors, rather than linked to any one cause.

Myth 3: Children and Adolescents Cannot Be Diagnosed With BPD

Children and adolescents can be diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. However, due to the generally accepted belief that personality is still forming throughout adolescence, diagnosing kids or teens with BPD has been controversial.

The Diagnostic Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition (DSM-V) lays out clear standards for a diagnosis for BPD. Caution must be used when giving any diagnosis, and this can be especially true for BPD as the symptoms can often mimic typical adolescent behavior. A professional therapist with experience with BPD can help distinguish the difference. Early diagnosis can be helpful in ensuring that an individual gets the intervention needed to begin recovery.

Myth 4: BPD Is a Variation of Bipolar Disorder

BPD and bipolar disorder are completely different disorders. Although the symptoms of bipolar and BPD may appear somewhat similar, they are two very distinct illnesses.

Because even healthcare providers lack knowledge about BPD, people with BPD are often misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder, adding to the confusion. It is also important to note that medications used to treat bipolar disorder often do not work on BPD patients, so a therapist with a background in BPD is essential to get an appropriate diagnosis and treatment plan.

Myth 5: BPD Is Only Found in Women

While the previous school of thought was that women are more commonly diagnosed with BPD than men, more recent research has shown that the rates are comparable.

But how someone shows signs of BPD can differ. While women tend to exhibit symptoms like mood swings and feelings of emptiness, men tend towards behavioral impulsivity.

Myth 6: If You Know One Person With BPD, You Know Them All

Every person is unique, and having BPD doesn't change that.

According to the DSM-V, the standard for mental healthcare, certain criteria must be met for BPD to be diagnosed. The criterium includes impairment in personality functioning and in interpersonal relationships. The way these impairments show themselves is different in every individual.

In addition, not all individuals experience specific symptoms in the same way. One person's difficulty with relationships may be different than yours. Each person experiences BPD in very different ways.

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