What You Don't Know When I Tell You I Have Borderline Personality Disorder

“I have borderline personality disorder (BPD).”

When I say this, most (not all) people fall into one of two categories.

Category A, (the easier to deal with), have never heard of BPD.

It is complicated to explain. (What even is a personality disorder?) Yet, I’d rather have a blank page and be able to form an idea in that person’s mind than them be in the second category.

Category B believes I am manipulative, promiscuous and attention-seeking.

There are nine symptoms of BPD (according to the DSM). You have to have five to be diagnosed. This means there are huge variations in what one person with BPD has compared to another person with BPD. Even within those nine symptoms, there are more variations. Here’s an example: Impulsive behavior can be spending too much money, driving too fast, gambling, drinking too much or promiscuity, amongst other things.

See what I’m getting at? Let’s say it’s an even spread of people that have each symptom. So five out of nine people who have BPD are impulsive. Well, then let’s say each of those people is only impulsive in one way of the ways I’ve mentioned above. So of the five people who have BPD and are impulsive, only one out of six of those are promiscuous. So of each person that has BPD, potentially only five out of 54, are promiscuous. That is around 9 percent.

Now, this is incredibly simplified and uses a lot of assumptions. However, it seems unfair to tar all people with BPD with the same, promiscuous, brush. I wonder what percentage of the general population are promiscuous? I do not know. I doubt there is an answer, as promiscuity is such a subjective thing, but it’s not zero.

For me, BPD manifests itself as insecurities in my friendships, fear of abandonment, vast mood swings, a bad temper, not having a strong sense of who I am, a constant feeling of loneliness, impulsive spending, self-harm and suicidal ideation. These symptoms can then bring on depression and anxiety for me.

I tick eight out of the nine symptoms at some points. However, it is perfectly possible for two people both to be correctly diagnosed with BPD, and only share a single symptom. One person with BPD may have never self-harmed in their life, while another may not have mood swings.

The point is, you don’t know. Just as much as two people may react to the flu differently, two people with BPD cannot be put neatly into one box.

Image via Thinkstock.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

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