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9 Times Pete Davidson Spoke Up About Borderline Personality Disorder

Comedian Pete Davidson is known for a lot of things — his recurring role on late-night comedy show “Saturday Night Live,” his love for marijuana and his dating life (he’s been romantically linked to celebrities like Ariana Grande, Kate Beckinsale and Cazzie David).

But what we don’t always talk about is Davidson’s openness in discussing his mental health struggles — most notably, his struggles with borderline personality disorder (BPD).

Borderline personality disorder, sometimes called “emotional dysregulation disorder,” is a mental illness characterized by painful mood swings and unstable relationships. To get a BPD diagnosis, a patient typically meets five of the nine classic criteria of the disorder. Some of the hallmarks of BPD include frantic efforts to avoid abandonment, intense or uncontrollable anger and chronic emptiness or suicidal thinking.

Davidson first revealed he was diagnosed with BPD on Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast in 2017. Since then, he’s continued to speak up about what it’s like to live with BPD. We’ve rounded up some of these moments below.

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Here’s what Davidson has said about BPD and the symptoms he experiences:

1. On Fear of Abandonment…

Many folks with BPD struggle with ongoing fears of real or imagined abandonment. Making frantic efforts to avoid abandonment is one of the nine classic symptoms of BPD.

This is something Davidson spoke about on Maron’s “WTF” podcast. Davidson shared when he was 7 years old, his father, who was a New York City firefighter, was killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Davidson shared his therapist connected this loss with his continual struggle with fearing abandonment in adulthood.

My big thing is trust. One day [my dad] was here, and the next day he’s gone. I would have trouble sometimes when my mom would say, ‘I’m going out.’ When people say they’re leaving and coming back, I get a really big fear, like that they’re not gonna come back.

From Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast interview, Sept. 25, 2017

Fear of abandonment is a common experience for many people — even people who don’t live with BPD. If you are struggling with this mental health symptom, you’re not alone. We encourage you to check out the following pieces from our Mighty community.

2. On His Co-Occurring Depression

In addition to BPD, Davidson has been open about living with depression. In fact, many people with BPD live with co-occuring mood and anxiety disorders.

As some of you know, I was recently diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, a form of depression. … If you think you’re depressed, see a doctor and talk to them about medication and also be healthy. Eating right and exercise can make a huge difference. And finally, if you’re in the cast of a late-night comedy show, it might help if they, you know, do more of your sketches.

From SNL’s “Weekend Update,” Oct. 7, 2017

Though Davidson’s advice for depression is great (and funny!), it’s important to note BPD is not a form of depression as he said — it’s a personality disorder. The term “personality disorder” is a bit of an unfortunate term because it implies someone’s personhood is inherently disordered. But this isn’t actually what the term means. A personality disorder simply refers to a consistent, long-term pattern of behavior versus a mood disorder, like depression, which is an experience that is inconsistent with how someone normally feels or acts.

Stories about depression from The Mighty community:

3. On Dialectical Behavior Therapy…

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), created by BPD expert Marsha Linehan, Ph.D., is a type of therapy that focuses on teaching tangible skills so patients can manage their painful emotional experiences and increase satisfaction in their relationships. The skills target the areas of mindfulness, emotional regulation, distress tolerance and interpersonal relations. DBT is viewed as the gold-standard for BPD treatment.

Davidson said when he began treatment for his BPD, he was given a DBT skills handbook that helped him cope with his intense emotional experiences — even though it was sometimes difficult to put the skills into practice.

It’s so hard and like, lame, but once you actually do it and go through the [DBT skills] book and you’re like, ‘I’m gonna use this skill’ or like hold ice or take a cold shower or listen to your favorite song really loud — it sounds fucking lame and annoying, but when you do it, it actually kind of works.

From Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast interview, Sept. 25, 2017

Davidson wasn’t kidding when he mentioned holding ice — it’s a DBT distracting strategy for distress tolerance in difficult moments. For more on DBT, check out the following stories:

4. On “Borderline Rage…”

Uncontrollable anger, or what is sometimes called “borderline rage,” is a common experience for people with BPD — especially in males. April Foreman, Ph.D., who works with a (primarily male) veteran population, previously told The Mighty people with BPD can experience periods of anger so intense they can dissociate and not know what they did while enraged.

These “rage blackouts” are something Davidson has experience with — though at first he thought they were related to his marijuana usage.

I started having these mental breakdowns, where I would like freak out. Rage. And then not remember what happened after. … Later on I would remember it in pictures kind of, and like kind of remember it like in a fog. I wouldn’t know what happened until after I broke something or after I ‘came to.’ I was under the assumption that maybe it was the weed. I never really did any other drugs. [So I thought] I’m going to try to go to rehab for weed, maybe that’ll be helpful.

From Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast interview, Sept. 25, 2017

If you struggle with BPD rage, you’re not alone. The following stories from The Mighty community might be helpful on your recovery journey:

5. On BPD “Manipulation…”

One of the common misconceptions about people with BPD is they are “manipulative.” For example, someone with BPD might threaten suicide — even if they have no intention of carrying out suicide — because deep down they want to know their loved ones truly love them and want them to be alive.

While this might sound manipulative, the word “manipulation” describes malicious and skillful intention, whereas in most cases, a person with BPD might say or do painful things simply because they do not yet have the skills to self-regulate their emotional experiences. In the above example, the person with BPD might threaten suicide not because they want to hurt the other person, but because they cannot believe they are loved without getting external (and often repeated) validation.

Here’s what Davidson said about BPD “manipulation”:

I think the manipulation thing I definitely had, where I would try to make someone feel a certain type of way. And then if they felt that way I would feel good, and then if they didn’t feel that way, I would think something’s wrong and that they’re mad at me. So with words, I would try to sway people into saying the exact thing I needed to hear. I’m like, ‘You hate me, don’t you?’” It’s always like, whatever question I ask, I’m expecting the opposite answer. … That could be pretty fucking frustrating for the other person.

From Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast interview, Sept. 25, 2017

For more about BPD and “manipulation” check out the following stories:

6. On Being in a Relationship With BPD…

In May 2018, Davidson began dating “thank u, next” singer Ariana Grande. At the time, Grande had recently ended her two-year long relationship with the now-deceased rapper Mac Miller — it was a relationship she had once called “toxic.”

Unfortunately, social media users were quick to say Grande had left one toxic relationship for another because Davidson has BPD. The commenters implied all people with BPD make relationships toxic. Davidson took to his Instagram story to respond:

normally i wouldn’t comment on something like this cause like fuck you. i been hearing a lot of ‘people with bpd can’t be in relationships’ talk. i just wanna let you know that’s not true. just because someone has a mental illness does not mean they can’t be happy and in a relationship. it also doesn’t mean that person makes the relationship toxic. Everybody is different and there are a lot of treatments for mental illnesses and I have done/am doing all of them.

From Pete Davidson’s Instagram story, May 24, 2018

While it’s true one of the hallmarks of BPD is interpersonal difficulties, Davidson was right in saying this doesn’t mean someone with BPD is automatically toxic and can’t be in a healthy romantic relationship.

“People with borderline personality disorder can recover and can have good, beautiful, stable relationships. I’ve seen it over and over,” Dr. Foreman told The Mighty when asked if people with BPD were “doomed” to have bad relationships. “[But] you cannot have better relationships until you change something, and you will have to do very hard work to change that.”

If you live with BPD, it’s important to find treatment that works for you, especially if it means improving the relationships in your life. For more on relationships and BPD, check out the following stories from our community:

7. On Experiencing Suicidal Thoughts…

In December 2018, Davidson shared on his Instagram story he was struggling to continue living and didn’t know how much longer he could last. If you struggle with suicidal thoughts, his words might feel triggering, so feel free to skip over this quote if you need to.

i really don’t want to be on this earth anymore. i’m doing my best to stay here for you but i actually don’t know how much longer i can last. all i’ve ever tried to do was help people. just remember i told you so <3

From Pete Davidson’s Instagram Story, Dec. 15, 2018

Suicidality is one of the core symptoms of BPD. If you struggle with suicidal thoughts, you’re not alone and there is help available. If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741. For more content about suicidal ideation from our BPD community, check out the following:

8. On Being Bullied for Having BPD…

BPD is one of the most stigmatized mental illnesses out there, and because of that, Davidson has been the recipient of a lot of hate from bullies on the internet.

I’ve been getting online bullied and in public by people for 9 months. I’ve spoken about BPD and being suicidal publicly only in the hopes that it will help bring awareness and help kids like myself who don’t want to be on this earth. I just want you guys to know. No matter how hard the internet or anyone tries to make me kill myself. I won’t. I’m upset I even have to say this.

From a now-deleted Instagram post, Dec. 3, 2018

If you’ve ever been shamed for your struggles with BPD, you’re not alone. We have a community that cares and wants to support you. To connect with other BPD warriors, post a Thought or Question on The Mighty with the hashtag #BorderlinePersonalityDisorder.

9. On BPD Recovery…

Contrary to what you might read on hurtful internet blogs, BPD is treatable and you can recover from it. When asked if she believed people with BPD could recover, Dr. Foreman told The Mighty, “Absolutely, yes. And with effective treatment, it’s very likely. I have definitely had patients recover — more than a few. And they no longer would meet the criteria.”

Davidson echoed this belief in 2017, sharing he hoped to be fully recovered someday:

Some people grow out of it… So that’s what I’m going to therapy with the hope of.

From Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast interview, Sept. 25, 2017

If you’re struggling with BPD and feel like you will never recover, we want you to know there’s hope. With appropriate treatment and some hard work, BPD recovery is possible. For some recovery encouragement, check out the following stories from our BPD community:

It takes a lot of courage to open up about struggling with your mental health — especially if you’re opening up about living with a highly stigmatized mental illness. Thank you Pete Davidson, for bravely speaking up about your experiences with borderline personality disorder. You are the advocate the BPD community needs!

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If you live with BPD (or love someone who lives with it) and want to find people who understand your struggles, look no further than The Mighty’s BPD community. To give and get support 24/7 from people who really “get it” post a Thought or Question with the hashtag #BorderlinePersonalityDisorder. For more relatable content about BPD, check out the following stories:

Screenshot via SNL YouTube channel