BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) acronym on wooden background

3 Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) Myths Debunked 

The Nystrom & Associates provider consulted for this article on borderline personality disorder (BPD) myths is Shenna Manteuffel, LMFT, DBT Therapist. 

Despite growing mental health awareness, borderline personality disorder (BPD) is still one of the most misunderstood mental health conditions. Even among mental health professionals, stereotypes and wrong assumptions abound. So, what is BPD? 

Shenna Manteuffel, LMFT and DBT Therapist, describes it like this: 

BPD is a mental illness known for pervasive unstable moods. It’s characterized by difficulties regulating emotion and can often disrupt family and work life, long-term planning, and even a person’s sense of identity. 

And sadly, many people living with BPD are often subject to painful stereotypes and misunderstandings, even from professional therapists. In fact, Shenna says that many therapists refuse to work with patients experiencing BPD. 

In this post, we’ll separate BPD fact from fiction and debunk three of the most common BPD myths. 

Before we begin, we want to note that everyone is different, and generalizations can be harmful. No one should ever be reduced to their diagnosis and each person is an individual with their own unique struggles and life experiences.  

Related: 5 Mental Health Myths Debunked   

BPD Myth 1: People with BPD are Manipulative and Attention-Seeking

TV and movies often portray characters with BPD as manipulating their loved ones and constantly trying to find ways to consume their loved ones’ attention. These characters may be prone to outbursts or emotional blackmail to ensure their loved one or partner never leaves them. This is a devastating stereotype. 

One key thing to remember about people with BPD is that they may experience emotions very intensely. This includes sadness, jealousy, anxiety, and fear of abandonment. While these intense emotions and fear of abandonment can appear manipulative, they likely stem from a place of deep-seated emotional distress. 

Once again, it’s important to note that everyone is different. There are people with BPD who do manipulate people, and there are people without BPD who manipulate people. The important thing to remember is that being manipulative and attention-seeking are NOT inherent traits to having BPD.  

Related: Eating Disorders: 4 Common Myths 

BPD Myth 2: BPD only Affects Women 

Although it’s hard to know exactly the rates of men vs women who live with BPD, we can be sure it doesn’t just affect women. 

This false belief that BPD only affects women can become a self-fulfilling prophesy. Clinicians who operate under this assumption are less likely to diagnose men with BPD, therefore perpetuating the idea that women are the only ones who experience BPD. Men and women also may express symptoms differently, which can lead to misdiagnosis.  

It’s so important for us to put away gender biases and see that BPD affects all genders. Recognizing this can be the first step to getting effected treatment. 

Related: Coping With Suicidal Thoughts 

BPD Myth 3: It’s Untreatable 

Perhaps the most painful assumption is the myth that BPD is untreatable. This couldn’t be further from the truth. BPD is highly treatable with various forms of therapy, the most effective of which is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). Shenna explains: 

DBT is the most effective treatment for people living with BPD. It focuses on learning skills in mindfulness, emotion regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness. 

Learning these skills can be truly life-changing for patients with many different types of mental health conditions, but it was originally designed as a treatment for people with BPD. DBT has become a game-changer for many people, and, to this day, many people with BPD credit their efforts in DBT to their happy, successful lives.  

Related: What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)? 

Shenna’s Patient 

“Some of my very favorite clients experience BPD,” Shenna says. She recalls one patient with BPD who struggled with regulating emotions and controlling impulses.  

Before DBT, she was suicidal and was self-harming daily. She had several suicide attempts and hospitalizations. She also couldn’t maintain relationships or hold down a job for more than a couple of weeks. 

That all changed thanks to the work she put into her DBT treatment.  

“By the time she completed DBT, she hadn’t attempted suicide or self-harm in several months. She repaired relationships with family members, formed healthy friendships, and succeeded in college while working towards her dream career. She never imagined this was possible, but she was doing it!” 

Shenna believes these types of transformations are the best part of her job. 

A Word from Nystrom & Associates 

BPD is not something you have to live with alone. Nystrom offers a nationally recognized DBT program, along with therapists and psychiatrists who specialize in BPD. Contact us at 1-844-NYSTROM or request an appointment online. We’ll help you find the treatment that’s right for you. 

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