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Please Stop Describing People With Borderline Personality Disorder as 'Manipulative'

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“You’re so manipulative.”

I hear that word all the time: manipulative. I see it splattered across the posts in borderline personality disorder (BPD) social media groups, and people paint it all over BPD-related articles that make it to mainstream websites. It’s like people completely ignore the actual name of our diagnosis and use the word “manipulative” as a common synonym.

Here’s the deal, though: People with BPD are usually not intentionally malicious in their intentions.

Most people with BPD battle extreme emotional intensity. When we cry and say we feel attacked, we genuinely mean it. When we bring up thoughts of suicide, we’re not fishing for attention. The world often feels overwhelming to us and we don’t know how to help you feel it from our perspective.

What’s more, people with BPD often fear abandonment so much that they go to great lengths to cling to anyone they can. When we’re alone, we can feel completely unstable, empty and incomplete. Yet, at the same time, we often lack the assertive communication skills we so desperately need to express ourselves in a healthier, more rational way. We often speak without thinking out of fear, then realize the harm we caused once the panic dies down for a moment as the storm inside of us ebbs and flows.

Finally, many of us with BPD battle an uncontrollable inner anger that often fuels the fire to our emotional responses. This blaze often starts inwardly, yet can quickly engulf us until it appears at externalized aggression toward the people we love most. We learned to use our fiery feelings as a protective measure early in life, and because it served us well enough, we keep it around in hopes of avoiding any more heartache or carnage in our already painful lives.

While you may not always understand the motives behind someone with BPD’s actions, that doesn’t make them manipulative or insincere. Most of the time, someone with BPD simply doesn’t know how to live their life any other way. I know that doesn’t give anyone a pass to act like a terrible human being. However, I firmly believe calling someone with BPD “manipulative” is like saying a child who misbehaves is similarly “attention-seeking” or “inherently bad.”

Stop using the word “manipulative” to describe every single action of someone who battles BPD. It’s not only completely inaccurate, but honestly downright cruel.

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Originally published: February 3, 2020
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