With Issues Like These


Apparently, an NFL football player by the name of Brandon Marshall has Borderline Personality Disorder. He’s decided to out himself as a Borderline. He’s doing to get awareness of the disorder out there. The weird thing is that I’m not sure if it was a good idea. Most people with the disorder are not so open about it because society does not look fondly upon people with the disorder.

If you think that I am exaggerating, then I suggest that you check out shows like ER, where they repeatedly call people with the disorders “drama queens”, or Law & Order (any of the franchises, but especially SVU), which portrays them as vicious, murdering fiends. Hell, you can look at the CNN story about the news of Marshall’s disorder and find the following comments:

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If a patient with the disorder talks about it openly, this is not a very uncommon response for them to receive.  This is a very dangerous disorder, and not because the person with it might be violent towards others.  It is a dangerous disorder because the suicide rate for it is as 10%.  This is close to the rate found in patients diagnosed with depression and the same as the rate for schizophrenia.  It is considered an above average rate for a segment of the population.

Now, I don’t know if people are saying that it is just an excuse for his past domestic violence accusations or if they are thinking that every person with the disorder is physically violent towards other people. I am hoping that they are just judging him, but I am fairly certain that they aren’t. While some people with this disorder are physically violent towards other people, it is not a hallmark of the disorder. His abusive behavior might be more easily blamed on whatever triggered the disorder, but not the actual disorder.

This disorder is one where a person has very intense expressions of emotions. A person might be angry one minute and depressed the next. People with the disorder often have a history of impulsive behaviors, self-injury, and substance abuse. They have a hard time find a cohesive sense of self, and might change long-term goals or jobs often. Their interpersonal relationships are also very unstable, which may be due to an increased sensitivity to rejection, abandonment, or perceived abandonment and disappointments. Separation from a business trip or vacation might trigger a person with BPD to feel abandoned or paranoid. People with the disorder are known for going on binges with regards to food or spending or take part in risky and promiscuous sexual relationships.

Borderline personality disorder is often accompanied by problems like bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, and other personality disorders. Medications for the disorder don’t exist, and most medicines used on people with the disorder are used to treat specific symptoms. Most of the time borderline personality disorder itself is best treated with therapy, and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) was developed specifically to treat the disorder. It is also one that has looked most promising in studies.

The disorder’s cause is generally unknown, but it is believed that a person’s genetic makeup and the environment that they grow up in play significant factors in whether or not a person ends up suffering from the disorder. Between 40 and 71 percent of the patients with BPD have reported being sexually abused, usually by a non-caregiver. Researchers believe that BPD results from a person’s vulnerability to environmental stress, neglect, or abuse as young children. The disorder is triggered in young adults. People with the disorder are more likely to be the victims of violence, including rape and other crimes. Scientists have begun doing research into the brain mechanisms that might be behind the impulsivity, mood instability, anger, agression, and negative emotion. Studies have suggested that people predisposed to impulsive aggression have impaired regulation of the neural circuits that modulate emotion. The inability to regulate might be more pronounced under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or even stress.

This is not an uncommon disorder, with 2 percent of the adult population being affected by it. It is found mainly in women. Many significant public figures are believed to have possibly been (or, for the living, might be) borderline , including Elizabeth Wurtzel, Winona Ryder, O.J. Simpson, Heather Mills, Christina Ricci, Courtney Love, Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, Britney Spears, Angelina Jolie, Lindsay Lohan, Marilyn Monroe, Princess Diana, and Adolf Hitler. It accounts for 20% of psychiatric hospitalizations, and many people with the disorder attempt suicide at one time or another. (As I’ve mentioned earlier, it also has a high rate of completed suicides.)

Borderline personality disorder was the diagnosis of Susanna Kaysen, the writer of the memoir Girl, Interrupted and who was portrayed by Winona Ryder in the movie based on the memoir. This is one of the few well-known people who people can say definitely has the disorder, as it was her diagnosis while she was in the hospital. It is not a new disorder, since we know Kaysen was diagnosed with it in the 1960’s.  It is not a disorder that ever completely goes away, which makes it a bit like addiction or cancer. It can go into something like remission, but it always is a part of the person’s life. There is no cure, but therapy can help a person to learn how to not make decisions that can be self-destructive or that could endanger the person’s life. The prognosis of the disorder depends on the severity of the person’s condition and their willingness to accept help.  Some therapists do believe that the age of a person with the disorder can impact its severity, with younger people being more impulsive.  People who are under the age of eighteen are not generally diagnosed with the disorder and the DSM-IV suggests that a person be over eighteen before receiving the diagnosis, since the criteria can be related to childhood mental health conditions or just due to the impulsivity and instability of being an adolescent.  Some people are diagnosed “early” when criteria suggests that there is no doubt that the person suffers from the disorder.

Having borderline personality disorder has been described by Marsha Linehard as being “like people with third degree burns over 90% of their bodies. Lacking emotional skin, they feel agony at the slightest touch or movement.” It is not the sign of a weak mind or a jerk. It is the sign of someone who is suffering intensely and is is not able to truly feel life with the same joy and happiness that a “normal” person might experience.  Personally, I am hesitant about disclosing the extent of the impact of the disorder on my daily life, so I’m not sure if I should feel that Marshall is behaving bravely or if his disclosure is just a sign that he doesn’t fully understand how hard living with this disorder (especially once it is known you have it) can be.  It is hard enough to deal with it around people, like doctors, who know what it is.  When you have to suffer public scorn over the diagnosis, it seems like it would make the disorder much more devastating to a person’s psyche.  For a disorder where you deal with intense emotions and inability to deal with criticism properly, opening yourself up to this kind of hate seems almost masochistic.


About Janet Morris

I'm from Huntsville, Alabama. I've got as many college credits as a doctorate candidate, and the GPA of some of them, too. I have a boss by the name of Amy Pond. She's a dachshund. My parents both grew up in Alabama.