It seems that whenever I blog about borderline personality disorder, I get a good deal of angry letters telling me how very insensitive I am and that borderlines need to be understood rather than avoided. I do, in fact, give that advice frequently. I would like to reply to that criticism.
I have spent most of my professional career researching, treating, teaching, and writing in the field of personality disorders. Along with my colleague and friend, Dr. Alan Cavaiola, I have published three books giving advice to those involved in the workplace and in their personal lives with individuals with personality disorders. Sometimes the advice we give is to simply stay away.
Do you think that is mean-spirited?
Well, I don’t. And here’s why. But let me say this up front:
I get it.
I know that individuals with personality disorders – and especially individuals with borderline personality disorder – really have a rough time and who suffer enormous amounts of psychological pain from moment to moment. It is a miserable and incredibly debilitating disorder. These individuals have most often been terribly abused both physically and emotionally and my heart goes out to them. In fact, I have devoted hundreds of hours of my professional practice in treating them most often at low or no cost. I want to help these folks. I have friends, even family members, who suffer from this disorder.
But I have to tell you this also. My heart also goes out to alcoholics and drug addicts. They too suffer inordinate amounts of misery. But I try not to get involved with them in my personal life as well unless there is someone close to me who is ready to be helped or someone I’m treating. In fact, I would advise most people not to engage in professional and business relationships or intimate personal relationships with an addict.
I think that’s good and sound advice. And the same thing is true for borderline personality disorder.
So here is why I won’t apologize. There are way too many people who are unaware and innocently get themselves involved with an individual with borderline personality disorder. These things can end very badly; often in divorce, abuse, as well as corporate destruction and financial ruin. That was the whole point of our book Toxic Coworkers… It was making people aware that many of the problem individuals in their lives actually had a psychological disorder and needed to be treated differently than people who did not have these disorders. Consciousness-raising if you will. Even psychotherapists, who have received special training in the understanding, diagnosis, and treatment of personality disorders, will tell you that many times they are outgunned by an individual with personality disorder. In fact, any psychotherapist will tell you that treating borderline personality disorders is an formidable challenge. Researchers such as Marsha Linehan have even gone so far as to suggest that individuals with borderline personality disorder need two psychotherapists; one to deal with the daily brushfires that seem to pop up on a continuous basis in their lives and another to get to the root of many of the abandonment and self-esteem issues which underlie this disorder. So if people with special training have a difficult time interacting with individuals with borderline personality disorder, imagine the struggles of someone who doesn’t.
So. I will repeat my standard advice: Better stay away if you can. Use the same caution you would use with someone who is an addict. You can, as many 12 step programs advocate, “distance yourself with love”. Hope the best for these individuals; indeed, prayfor them to recover, but it is best to keep your distance if you can. Avoid them at work and in your personal relationships whenever possible. Learn to recognize the symptoms and stay away if possible. If they are a friend or loved one, point them to professional psychotherapy.
That’s still some really good advice and I certainly won’t apologize for that.
Find out more about BPD
- Types of borderline personality disorder (psychscoop.wordpress.com)
- Schema Therapy for Borderline Personality Disorder (authorjaenwirefly.wordpress.com)
- Are you Borderline or do you have BPD? (authorjaenwirefly.wordpress.com)