There’s an interesting collection of pieces about Borderline Personality Disorder in the yesterday’s NY Times; see here and here (you might want to look at the questions/answers after this second entry). It raises some questions that might be worth discussing here.
I think of the NYT characterization as falling into two parts. The first is a general description of perhaps the most visible manifestation of BPD:
People with the disorder are said to have a thin emotional skin and often behave like 2-year-olds, throwing tantrums when some innocent word, gesture, facial expression or action by others sets off an emotional storm they cannot control. The attacks can be brutal, pushing away those they care most about. Then, when the storm subsides, they typically revert to being “sweet and wonderful,” as one family member put it.
BPDers (people with the disorder) can seem to be one of natures tragedies, both needing and longing for close relationships while at the same time destroying them. And the other, sometimes less social items in the symptomotology:
Moods can change quickly and unpredictably, behaviors can be impulsive (including abuse of alcohol or drugs, reckless driving, overspending or disordered eating), and relationships with others are often unstable [short, impulsive affairs]. Many patients injure themselves and threaten or attempt suicide to relieve their emotional pain.
The first two questions raised for me are (1) what is it? Is there something like a psychological natural kind here? Or a constructed category? Does the category give rise to Hacking’s “looping effects,” as those so diagnosed are drawn into and changed by a way of life. Why are BPDers largely women? Is there something pathological in women’s current condition, or is the therapeutic talk a way of pathologizing women.
(2) Given the immense amount of pain experienced by and caused by BPDers, what are we to say of disability theorists who tell us to get over our insistance on people being either neurotypical or unacceptedly diseased. An alternative example might be obsessive-compulsives, some of whom live with extremely painful anxiety and who are less than able to respond to the needs of family members. Some OCD suffers have their lives dramatically improved by medications whose side effects are not so bad; should we regard the medication as relief from pain or as a bad “normalizing”?
I don’t have answers to these questions, and I’d love to hear what people think. I’m particularly ill-equipped to answer the second. For the first, I’ve been Googling around and, having found Janet Wirth-Cauchon’s Women and Borderline Personality Disorder and, having gotten a sample of it for my new kindle, I’m on the verge of buying it. W-C looks at BPD as ‘the new female malady,’ with the ironic distance that label suggests, I’d bet.
If you are – or think you are – involved in someway with BPD, you might find the NYT interesting. The questions, with many short takes on life and BPT, is pretty upsetting.
addition: In comments Bri mentioned Rachel Reiland’s Get Me Out of Here; an extensive and riveting ‘preview’ is available on Google Books. I’m not sure about recommending that resource; like MANY authors I’ve signed onto a claim against them for using books without paying. And if you read it, you might find the first few chapters before the narrator is hospitalized very painful reading. Still, it is absorbing. Thanks, Bri!