Borderline Personality Disorder Isn’t A “Women’s Disorder”

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Borderline personality disorder (BPD) has a long history of being misunderstood. Now recognized as a unique and serious mental illness, BPD was initially thought to be atypical or “borderline” versions of other mental illnesses (hence the name). However, this was only because patients with severe BPD are prone to brief psychotic episodes, and the community has yet to come to a consensus on a more fitting name.

Dr. Robert Fischer

Dr. Robert Fischer

We have come to understand BPD quite a bit more since those days. We know those with BPD suffer from problems regulating their own thoughts or emotions,impulsive or reckless behavior, and unstable relationships with people. We also know those who suffer from borderline personality disorder tend to have high rates of co-occurring disorders such as depression, anxiety, or other problems like substance abuse or self-harm.

But, the misunderstandings surrounding BPD still persist, though they have changed a bit. One of the most common modern misconceptions of borderline personality disorder is the idea that it is a “women’s disorder”. There is practically no supporting evidence saying women have higher rates of BPD compared to men, but yet many believe BPD doesn’t affect males.

Dr. Robert Fischer, executive director of the Optimum Performance Institute, believes BPD may have developed the reputation of a women’s disease because scientific literature implies the symptomology for borderline personality disorder differs between men and women. According to the literature, women with BPD are more likely to demonstrate symptoms such as disorders of eating, mood, anxiety, and PTSD, while men tend to demonstrate paranoia, passive/aggressive tendencies, and narcissism.

Fischer spoke to Therapy Soup, a blog run by Psych Central focused on interviews with respected members of the psychiatric community. In the interview, Fischer explains how the observable differences in symptomology can affect the public and scientific understanding of a mental illness despite having the same root cause.

Before you consider any mental health issue as being a male or female issue, I encourage you to read the interview with Dr. Fischer. It may focus on BPD, but the message is relevant for nearly every disorder of the mind that has become gendered by public understanding rather than scientific research.

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