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Dr. Phil, Your Podcast on Borderline Personality Disorder Is Actually Dangerous

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Allow me to give you a sampling of quotes from two recent episodes of the “Phil in the Blanks” podcast on borderline personality disorder (BPD), “Recognizing Borderline Personality Disorder: Toxic Personalities in the Real World” and “Dos and Don’t for Someone Living With Borderline Personality Disorder,” complete with its own hashtag: #ToxicPersonalities.

“They will suck you dry, they are a bottomless pit.”

“This is above your pay grade.”

“Boom, it’s like a bomb lit off.”

“They will wear you absolutely out.”

“They’re going to overreact and everything is going to be overdramatic.”

The “esteemed” “doctor” admits he is not an expert in BPD, yet finds it acceptable to rant for two hours on the topic. Hyperreactive, dramatic, volatile — these terms were used repeatedly as descriptors for people with BPD by our friend Dr. Phil.

His wild assumptions on the behaviors and traits of people with BPD can be so obscene I almost found myself laughing while I listened, but then I remembered he has an audience of millions that would believe every word he said.

The most common example he used to describe one of the common symptoms of BPD, which is fear of abandonment, is one where a friend has to cancel plans with the “borderline personality,” who reacts in a way that completely assumes they are being completely abandoned. It is a very extreme illustration of a scenario that is sure to scare people off.

As a person living with BPD (diagnosed 10 years ago), let me bring an actual human reaction to your podcast, Dr. Phil. While yes, you mentioned it is important to treat “these people” with compassion, there was very little advice as to how someone with the disorder should try and navigate it. Almost the entirety of your two episodes focused on how to deal with us as if we were puppies you were trying to train.

Where is the humility? For two hours, I listened to you fearmonger your listeners into paranoia about their loved ones, that they may actually have this godforsaken disorder. Near the end of your second episode, you actually advised the audience to list out 10 people they have core relationships with and analyze them in a way that would make it possible for you to guess if your loved ones have BPD. You say you don’t advise them “to play diagnostician,” despite instructing them to do that very thing.

This whole series on personality disorders, which I will not bring myself to listen to any more of, is quite frankly dangerous. You may think you are helping people have a better understanding of very serious mental health conditions, when what’s actually going on is a clueless celebrity demonstrating a lack of compassion he claims to espouse.

You make jokes about our emotional instability, identity diffusion, and fears of abandonment. I don’t think those are funny traits. I felt nauseous after hearing the tone of your voice as you kid about us with your quirky comments about deadly symptoms.

Although you do cite some experts, like Marsha Linehan, I can’t take you seriously. When you make assertions that people with BPD change their linguistic accents as a symptom of the disorder, it is difficult to accept much of your ramblings as evidence-based fact.

If for some reason you happen to read this piece, Dr. Phil, let me tell you about myself. As mentioned, I have been diagnosed with BPD for 10 years and have lived with it for my whole life. I am caring, a good friend, capable of love, a “productive” member of society with a full-time job, have the ability of foresight… I could go on. This is all to say that, simply put, you are wrong.

Do these symptoms exist? Yes.

Do they exist in the way you described in every person with the disorder? No.

Did you ever make that clear in your podcasts? Nope.

The broad allegations you make about people with borderline personality disorder are alarming and risky. Maybe you are well-intentioned with your analysis, but I am more inclined to believe these podcasts are just attention-grabbing for your audience. You made a hashtag for God’s sake.

If you are ever wanting to cover BPD or any personality disorder again, may I suggest to actually have a guest who has experienced the symptoms firsthand? If you truly want people to have an understanding of these lives lived, perhaps go to the actual experts. “These people” deserve better.

Lead image via Spotify

Originally published: December 20, 2021
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