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Stigma around Borderline Personality Disorder

People diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder are often made a victim of discrimination, due to the stigma surrounding the disorder. Here, Em, a person diagnosed with BPD, discusses the stigma and discrimination she has experienced since her diagnosis. Here at Stamp It Out, we aim to break down the stigma surrounding mental health, which is why we thought it was so important to share Em's story with you, to educate people on how much of an impact stigma can have on someone with mental health issues. Read on to find out more.

Note: Mentions of suicide Hi! My name is Em, my pronouns are she/her, and I am diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Nowadays, mental health problems such as depression and anxiety are increasingly being understood in society. However, for problems like BPD, a lot of stigma and stereotypes still exist.

I have experienced stigma and being treated differently due to my BPD diagnosis in many different settings. One area in which I used to experience stigma was in my friendships. When I opened up to my friends and shared that I have a BPD diagnosis, there were a mix of reactions. A few of my friends had never heard of the disorder before, one person had the same disorder and I felt validated by them, and the others had only heard of BPD through the media.

In the media, an individual with BPD is often portrayed in a negative light, seen as self- destructive or violent towards others. Unfortunately, my friends who had heard of BPD through the media (e.g. newspapers and films), started to treat me very differently and they were worried I would ‘attack and manipulate’ them.

This made me feel really isolated as I was not invited to social events and I was excluded from the group. When I decided I was ready to try to educate them on the disorder and debunk the myths and stereotypes, I messaged our group chat and linked to a few videos of people talking about their experiences. Afterwards, most of the group took the time to understand the disorder more and started to include me in social events again. This is why I believe good education and general awareness about the disorder is so important to tackle the stigma around BPD.

However, for problems like BPD, a lot of stigma and stereotypes still exist. Another area I’ve experienced stigma for my diagnosis is within the mental healthcare system. At the end of last year, I was sectioned after a suicide attempt and was admitted to a psychiatric ward. In the general hospital, there was little knowledge of the disorder and many of the staff would compare me or make assumptions about me based on previous patients with the same diagnosis, without getting to know me. I think it’s important to note that everyone with a BPD diagnosis presents differently and has their own set of symptoms and these can be similar or completely different to another person. The staff had their own preconceived ideas of how I would act and this made me feel like I wasn’t being treated with dignity.

In addition to this, some of the staff referred to me as a ‘revolving door patient’. This made me feel really invalidated. I felt like, if the professionals assumed I would keep ending up in hospital and that I can’t recover, then how was I supposed to believe I could learn how to manage my symptoms? This caused me to experience self-stigma. Although I had some negative experiences during my admission, there were staff members who had a good understanding of the disorder. In particular, the ward’s lead clinician supported me well and referred me to the personality disorder specialist services, which I am now working with and receiving the support I need.

Awareness of BPD from people in all social settings is really important so that individuals with the diagnosis can feel more validated, included and understood by family and friends, but also by healthcare staff.

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