Why is it Called Borderline Personality Disorder?

Why is it Called Borderline Personality Disorder?

It’s pretty obvious to most that the PD in BPD stands for Personality Disorder and that is because that is what it is. It’s not a physical disorder, it’s not an emotional disorder, it is a personality disorder. But that about the ‘Borderline’ part? Well…that is a little more interesting so I will break down the history of BPD and how it got its name…

So…What does the “Borderline” part in Borderline Personality Disorder stand for?

Believe it or not, the term “borderline” when being used in a mental health context was first seen in a paper on schizophrenia way back in 1938 and it was written by Otto Friedmann Kernberg who is a psychoanalyst (which means he is an expert on psychological theories and therapeutic techniques) and he is also a professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College.

When the term was first used it was used in the context of someone who is “borderline schizophrenia”. Why was this term used? Because back then someone with psychoses was sadly deemed untreatable and often thrown into a lunatic asylum (or mental asylum) never to be seen again. But someone with neurosis (a relatively mild mental illness) was deemed as treatable and could go home if they wanted to, but most would stay in a mental asylum voluntarily. People with BPD were on the ‘borderline’ between these two and deemed as being able to go either way. So, if you haven’t worked it out already it figuratively means someone with BPD is “Borderline Crazy”

The good news is things have gotten a lot better since the 1930s and in the late 1970s the same professor (Otto Friedmann) then describe people with BPD as “Borderline between a personality disorder and psychosis” so that is where it comes from. It wasn’t until 1980 that the exact diagnoses was termed as an official personality disorder and added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders III or DSM-III.

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