Disclaimer: Still not a professional, just another old man yelling at clouds.
I’ve seen this question raised in articles and discussed on Reddit, but is BPD just our new way of putting women down for ‘misbehaving’?
It is said that 70% of Borderline Personality Disorder diagnosis are given to women though there is little information as to why this is. Some say that a male who is presenting with the exact same symptoms is often diagnosed with the more socially acceptable PTSD while others think that women are just more dispositioned to develop Borderline traits… you know, just because.
While I don’t disagree that Borderline Personality Disorder is a very real and complex psychological condition, the attitudes that often surround it are filled with judgement. Though I do not like to give them any attention, the r/BPDlovedones page can quickly demonstrate some of the loudest opinions about people like me. Most trained psychologists and psychiatrists treat Borderlines with compassion but not always. The r/BPD page is filled with angst from those who share my diagnosis, I’ve read countless heartbreaking tales of how even those in the mental health profession perceive and interact with us. Sometimes the diagnosis that gets slapped on us isn’t done so with compassion but with scorn for another misbehaving woman.
One of my favourite podcasts is ‘Sawbones’ in which Sydnee and Justin McElroy discuss misguided medicine from human history. An early episode focused on hysteria and how this bucket diagnosis was used to tell women that their behaviour was improper. Sound familiar?
I thought the point of a diagnosis was to identify an issue in order to support the patient. It has become apparent to me that this is not always the case. It certainly wasn’t with hysteria and it doesn’t seem that it always is with BPD.
Hysteria condemned women who exhibited behaviour which is deemed nervous, erratic or irrational. Ever heard the phrase “all you need is a good fuck”?. Well that’s essentially what people thought about all those hysterical women; the ‘cure’ was an orgasm which would be induced through a pelvic massage by a doctor. Yes, people aren’t trying to masturbate or exorcise us out of ‘troublesome’ behaviour anymore but we are still being persecuted for ‘bad behaviour’ with sweeping generalisations.
To quote Sydnee McElroy, hysteria “was basically a man’s way of saying ‘this woman isn’t doing what I want her to do, so I’m going to call her sick’”. I feel that this is how many people use Borderline Personality Disorder; the word ‘borderline’ has become weaponized much like hysteria once was. Scorned men who want to find some way to claim that their ex was crazy will proclaim that she was an undiagnosed Borderline. Googling BPD will lead you to articles and angry YouTubers stating that you can spot us from a mile away. This ‘Borderlines are everywhere and they are coming for you’ attitude encourages people to make armchair diagnosis. When every disapproved of woman is christened as a Borderline and slammed by basement dwelling Redditors it’s no wonder that we have such a bad reputation.
Our diagnosis is being hijacked as a way of putting down women, even those who have not been diagnosed. The witch hunt for hysterical women is continuing, just under another name.
Yes, BPD is real and impacting myself and thousands of other women. But when you take our identity as Borderlines and twist it into something nefarious this severely impacts our recovery. It makes it very difficult for people to understand what we’re going through, much less empathize with us. When we so desperately crave compassion and connection from people the worst thing you can do is to tell others we’re not worthy of it because we will inevitably ruin your life. We’re human beings and those of us who are seeking treatment are genuinely trying to improve ourselves. Don’t be a dick about it.