Tuesday, August 02, 2011
Borderline personality disorder now has a face
Patty Duke and Kay Redfield Jamison have written books about living with bipolar disorder. Famous people who have spoken about their struggles with chronic depression include Sheryl Crowe, Jim Carrey and Owen Wilson. But the mental illness that fascinates me the most is borderline personality disorder and now we finally have a spokesperson for it.
Yesterday I saw this article about Miami Dolphins receiver Brandon Marshall stating publicly that he has borderline personality disorder (BPD). (I apologize since that's the same acronym used for bipolar disorder, but apparently the two disorders share the same initials.) I find this absolutely incredible. I think BPD, even more than other mental disorders, is characterized by the person with BPD being certain that there's nothing wrong with them. For Marshall to realize he has this particular problem shows amazing self-awareness and openness to change. Sometimes someone will call me brave for admitting publicly on my blog that I have chronic depression, but I'd say that's nothing compared to someone coming clean on borderline personality disorder.
So what is it? The National Institute of Mental Health says BPD is:
characterized by pervasive instability in moods, interpersonal relationships, self-image, and behavior. This instability often disrupts family and work life, long-term planning, and the individual's sense of self-identity. Originally thought to be at the "borderline" of psychosis, people with BPD suffer from a disorder of emotion regulation.
Actually, I believe there's some debate about BPD since some argue that it doesn't count as a mental illness so much as a personality disorder. Someone please correct me, but I think the difference is that a mental illness like depression or bipolar disorder has a physiological component: our brains don't have the right balance of hormones and/or enough active neurotransmitters, etc. Mental illness is often treated with drugs that help our brains achieve the right mix.
But since BPD is a personality disorder, the behaviors aren't caused by faulty brain chemistry, but by trauma and/or learned behaviors and stress responses. (Seriously, someone please correct me if I have this wrong because I'm a complete layperson on all this. All I really know is the flavor of the crazy that's inside my mouth.)
Whichever way you argue it, borderline personality disorder is serious stuff and is very difficult to live with, for both the sufferer and their family and friends. I totally salute Brandon Marshall for stepping up. I've been wondering when we'd have a spokesperson who is willing to take this one on and now we have him.