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  • Writer's pictureLouise G

b words and other stories | bpd needs a rebrand.

Updated: Sep 22, 2023

If there was such a thing as PR for mental illness, I would have some beef with the firm in charge of the BPD account. Borderline Personality Disorder really doesn't get a fair go. This confuses me because of the prevalence [1-2% of the population], severity, suffering, and the overwhelming impact that it has on the individual, their supports, the community, and health care services. BPD needs an ENORMOUS stage, spotlight, megaphone, and a fearless director. People with BPD need their stories told and heard, because living with BPD can't be easy, and it definitely isn't helped if you're living with BPD in a society that you often feel rejected by.

What is Borderline Personality Disorder? Let's keep this brief as it's complex. Put simply, it is a mental illness characterised by frequent and intense thoughts and feelings that negatively affect how the person relates to others. This then results in the person having intense negative thoughts and feelings towards themselves. And then, this causes serious psychological pain, suffering and instability for the person. It can be caused by a number of factors which may include a genetic predisposition to mental illness, prior [or current] diagnosis of another mental illness [eg. depression, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorder, gender dysphoria] and problems with brain chemicals and development. More often than not however, it sadly merges from exposure to adverse or traumatic life events and/or experiencing unstable and invalidating relationships.

Part of the issue in my opinion, is that it is probably one of the worst sounding diagnoses. Borderline Personality Disorder. Ugggh. It doesn't make any sense, people are often confused by the name when they receive the diagnosis, and it feels as though it suggests the person has some kind of inadequate personality.

So perhaps it is also important to mention what BPD is NOT.

BPD is definitely not a crappy or inadequate personality. It is not a choice made by the individual. It is not BPAD [Bipolar Affective Disorder]. It is not unworthy of mental health treatment and support. It is not hopeless, it CAN and IS successfully treated. And most importantly, it is not scary to treat. The only thing that is scary is continued negative attitudes that others hold, and how much psychological distress BPD causes.

It is 2023 - in case you were unsure. BPD has existed probably since the beginning of time, first noted in 1938 but poorly understood, and then formally recognised until 1980. So, it's been around for a while. It's definitely older than me. So why then, is BPD still highly stigmatised? Well, there are a few reasons, but they all largely stem from lingering negative attitudes and fear, which comes from lack of understanding. This is what humans do when they something makes us feel uncomfortable or incompetent. We avoid, ignore, resist, and exclude.

So what needs to change?

Well I vote for a complete overhaul. A re-brand with shiny packaging and a new fancy campaign.

One that involves:

a) a new diagnosis name [complex PTSD and EUPD or emotionally unstable personality disorder have been floated more recently].

b) increased funding for research, new initiatives, programs, specialty services [especially in regional/remote areas], carer support, and education for ALL health professionals.

c) incentives to encourage mental health professionals to specialise in this area.

d) access to more education and resources [including to members of the community].

e) a diverse menu, so to speak, of treatment options available.

f) greater focus on trauma informed care, early intervention strategies and initiatives.

g) a pledge from health services to those who are recovering from BPD, that we will continue to do better.

The bottom line really is, as with all mental illnesses - take the time to see, get to know, listen to and understand the person and NOT confuse them with the diagnosis that they did not choose to have. You may be surprised by what you learn from separating the person from their illness.

And if you, or someone you know, needs help or more information after reading this, please consider the following resources:

Spectrum BPD

Australian BPD Foundation

Project Air

Lifeline 13 11 14

Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636

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