May is Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness Month

Yup, it’s May, and, therefore, thanks to House Resolution #1005, passed 4/1/08, it’s also Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness Month. [If you’re into politics, or are just plain curious, the House passed the Resolution by a vote of 414-0–for real–and, just for kicks, you can read the Resolution here (it’s not bad, I wouldn’t torture you that way–it’s kind of uplifting)].

And so we come to the “Resolved” part, and this is what the House has to say, “Resolved, That the House of Representatives supports the goals and ideals of Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness Month.”

And here’s where I felt like I got left out in the cold–because I couldn’t find “the goals and ideals of BPD (forgive me–I have a sore elbow from typing) Awareness Month.”

And really, there are bigger people than I taking charge of this, so you might just want to head yourself over to the heavily-initialed NEABPD, otherwise known as the National Education Alliance Borderline Personality Disorder, who clearly are where it’s at. They even have an Awareness Poster you can download. Can you beat that?

I really can’t–not a poster, for sure, and I’m pretty positive I’d come up on the losing end of a House Resolution, too, so the best I can offer is some thoughts for BPD Awareness Month that I think it’s worth–well it’s worth people being aware of, when they may not have been.

For example, unlike ‘depression,’ which came into use (mainly replacing ‘melancholia’) in the late 1800s, or ‘schizophrenia,’ mostly in use since 1908, it was not until 1938 that the term ‘borderline’ was coined. It was done so by one New York psychoanalyst (one Adolf Stern, if you’re into details), and he used the term–and no one likes this, but it’s just the facts–because people believed the illness existed on the “border” between neurosis and psychosis.

Although BPD is hardly related to the vast majority of psychotic disorders, apparently it just had staying power, as here we are, over a decade later–still on the border.

Sometimes what is written about those with BPD in the popular press is astonishing. Time magazine, perhaps, not the single most erudite magazine to grace this planet, but certainly a reliable, steady source of news, published the following harsh piece  on June 8, 2009,  innocuously titled “The Mystery  of Borderline Personality Disorder.”

Borderlines are the patients psychologists fear most. As many as 75% hurt themselves, and approximately 10% commit suicide — an extraordinarily high suicide rate (by comparison, the suicide rate for mood disorders is about 6%). Borderline patients seem to have no internal governor; they are capable of deep love and profound rage almost simultaneously. They are powerfully connected to the people close to them and terrified by the possibility of losing them — yet attack those people so unexpectedly that they often ensure the very abandonment they fear. When they want to hold, they claw instead. . . .Many therapists have no clue how to treat borderlines.

Well. Just go ahead and say what you think about borderlines–don’t hold back, there.

But their point about therapists not being able to manage patients with BPD is interesting, and perhaps we should leave with a response , as long as it’s awareness month.

Let me introduce Dr. George Eman Valliant, an American psychiatrist, professor at Harvard Medical School, and Director of Research for the Department of Psychiatry, Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He has dedicated his life to researching mental illnesses, among them personality disorders.

Dr. Valliant had something to say about all those doctors who struggled with patients, and, finding them ‘impossible,’ called them borderlines, and all those clinicians who, as Scientific American Mind writes, in their superlative January 4, 2012, article, “Diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder Is Often Flawed,” “presum[ed] that patients who do not respond well to treatment or who are resistant to therapists’ suggestions are frequently ‘borderlines.'”

Enter the Valliant. In 1992 Sir Valliant wrote: “I believe that almost always the diagnosis ‘borderline’ is a reflection more of the therapists’ affected rather than their intellectual response to their personality – disordered patients.”

You tell ’em, George, especially during Awareness month. And, special for Awareness month, I share with you–and leave you with–the title of Dr. Valliant’s article in which he shared this belief:

The Beginning of Wisdom is Never Calling a Patient Borderline.”

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