Bringing awareness to BPD
May, 2014 will mark the 7th anniversary of Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness Month.
I, for one, am proud to do my part in raising awareness because I know what an uphill battle it was to get this far.
Although BPD has been used as a diagnosis since 1938, it wasn't named an official mental illness until 1980. But even then, most doctors thought of it as a garbage diagnosis. Because this belief was so widespread, there was very little research done on understanding and treating this disorder. More than ten years passed before an effective treatment, dialectical behavior therapy, was discovered. In 2006 BPD Awareness was named a priority by NIMH and NAMI. They started pushing for an official awareness month and after a long two year fight they finally succeeded. On April 1, 2008 congress finally realized the importance of raising awareness, so they designated May as Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness Month.
The term Borderline was coined before anyone really understood what BPD was. In 1938, Adolf Stern thought BPD was a form of Schizophrenia. He thought BPD patients were on the borderline between neurosis and psychosis. It wasn't until the 70's that doctors started to believe it was a mood disorder completely unrelated to Schitzophrenia. They then started calling it Borderline Affective Disorder until 1980 when it was changed to Borderline Personality Disorder. In 2009, people started to realize that the name didn't really fit the disorder so a few alternatives were named. Of those, Emotional Regulation Disorder, Emotional Dysregulation Disorder, and Emotional Intensity Disorder were the most popular. Although it's official name is still Borderline Personality Disorder, the ICD-10 lists it as Emotionally unstable personality disorder.
How widespread is BPD?
For such an unknown disorder, it sure does affect a lot of people. A recent study showed that 1 in 16 people are diagnosed with BPD. That's almost 6% of the population, more than twice as many as Bipolar or Schizophrenia. This study also showed that 35% of all psychiatric hospitalizations are due to Borderline Personality Disorder. Perhaps the worst statistic to come from the study was the rate of suicide. It found that 10% of BPD patients successfully commit suicide, making BPD one of the leading causes of suicidal death.
Misunderstandings and Myths of BPD
BPD has so many misunderstandings and myths attached to it, sometimes it's hard to know what's true. Part of this is because as more and more research is performed, our understanding of BPD changes. So things that may have seemed true in the past are no longer relevant.
In the past it was thought that BPD was caused largely by growing up in an abusive environment, but today it's understood that genetics also play a large role in developing BPD.
In the past it was thought that BPD was almost impossible to treat, but today we know that with therapy and medications, 75% of BPD patients will overcome their symptoms and go on to lead fairly normal lives.
In the past it was thought that BPD was a diagnosis used only when no other diagnosis could be found. But now we know that BPD causes very specific biological disturbances in the brain and follows a very specific set of symptoms.
In the past it was thought that BPD was a type of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. But today we know that BPD often co-occurs with other mental disorders.
BPD isn't all bad— Othercat
BPD isn't all bad
Yes, BPD is a miserable mental disorder. But it's not all miserable. There are certain traits that a lot of Borderlines have that actually improve the quality of our lives.
A lot of Borderlines have high intelligence.
A lot are able to learn different tasks more quickly and easily than others.
A lot of us possess amazing creative skills such as drawing, writing or painting.
Most of us are extremely sensitive to what others are feeling.
We have the ability to tell someone the correct way to handle difficult situations (although we don't possess the ability to correctly handle our own difficult situations.)
What could having more awareness mean for BPD?
I think that once BPD is finally given the attention it needs, our whole outlook of it will change. For one, more awareness will lead to more research. BPD is already decades behind other mental conditions when it comes to research. The amount we've learned from the recent increase in BPD studies has already shown that a lot of our beliefs about BPD were wrong.
If more doctors and therapists started looking at BPD as an actual diagnosis instead of a garbage diagnosis, the amount of Borderlines who successfully overcome their symptoms would increase. I think it would also make it easier to find a trained therapist.
Right now most insurance companies won't pay for BPD treatments. Maybe some awareness on how widespread BPD is would change their minds.
Just having more people educated about BPD would make a huge difference in the way society reacts to it.
How can you raise awareness of BPD?
- Join NAMI. That organization is doing everything it can to raise awareness for many mental illnesses. Through them, you can join NAMIWalks to help raise money and awareness. You can join StigmaBusters to help set the record straight about what BPD really is. Their website is plum full of awareness raising opportunities!
- Volunteer to help organize a charity event to help raise awareness of BPD. A good place to start is your local hospital.
- If you have BPD, share it. Start a blog and share how BPD affects you. Write articles about it. Write your local newspaper to inform them of BPD Awareness Month. Educate your friends and family.
- Show your support by wearing a BPD awareness ribbon, bracelet, or other accessory. Put a BPD bumper sticker on your car.
- Print out the free BPD awareness materials below and hang them at your library, hospital and doctors offices.
Free printable BPD Awareness Materials
Thanks for being aware!
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