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What's So Bad About Being Borderline?

Despite the stigma of the diagnosis, many patients possess admirable qualities.

Key points

  • The stigma of borderline personality disorder may be among the most damaging of all mental illnesses.
  • Many people with BPD are creative, talented, ambitious, and daring.
  • Family and friends of those with the disorder can learn to admire some of these features.

The month of May has been designated Mental Health Month with a primary theme of “Tools 2 Thrive.” May is also Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness Month, emphasizing facts about BPD. This month is a time for greater awareness of and sensitivity to mental illness in general and to borderline personality disorder in particular. The label of borderline personality can be a distressing one for patients who have been branded with the diagnosis and for those around them. Some mental health professionals cower from the demands of treatment, perceiving such patients as the most difficult to engage or impossible to treat. Those who suffer from the disorder contend with fears of abandonment, volatile relationships, mood changes, anger outbursts, impulsivity, unstable sense of identity. The stigma attached to this specific diagnosis is one of the most damaging of all mental illnesses. However, it is helpful to recognize the gifted talents that often accompany the borderline syndrome.

Many individuals with BPD are energetic, ambitious, and daring. Their curiosity about many things is exciting. They may have multiple interests and talents and when focused can be very creative. They exhibit the strength and resilience to pursue a challenge where others will give up. Although such persistence may reflect stubbornness and may even be ultimately self-defeating, it also can empower self-confidence. The tendency to embrace discrete black-or-white positions may also stimulate deeper thinking.

Those diagnosed with BPD are often extremely empathetic. They truly “feel your pain.” They are sensitive to nuances in the environment. They are perceptive, intuitive, and insightful. They may develop deep, emotional connections quickly, sometimes to their detriment. Although a relationship may be tumultuous, they may remain a lasting, loyal friend when others have turned away. Borderline hypervigilance may appear to others as paranoia, but it can also be protective, helping the individual avoid repeating unhealthy situations.

The chameleon aspect of BPD allows for easy adaptability to many situations. People and conditions can be observed from multiple angles. Borderline individuals may easily fit into a new social group and may readily adjust to many diverse environments. They more easily mimic and adopt for themselves admired characteristics of others. They also can quickly sense and reflect behaviors others anticipate.

Many patients who have been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder work hard in therapy to change some of their encumbering behaviors. But many of these individuals can also accept and embrace some of their positive attributes. Family and friends can learn to admire some of these features. Borderline vitality, sparkle, and sensitivity are attractive to others. Persons struggling with the frustrating characteristics of BPD can also accept that they are worthwhile human beings who can be intelligent, charming, caring, and fun.