Why We Use The “B” Word When Talking About BPD

Why We Use The “B” Word When Talking About BPD

Some of you like it and some of you don’t and yes we do receive some complaints about our flagrant use of the word “borderline”. People don’t mind too much if we use it as an adjective but they really get riled up when we use it as a noun. There are several reasons why we use this word so much rather than BPD or Borderline Personality Disorder. What may, as they say, be a hopeful diagnosis also has a hell of a long name!

First, it works much better for marketing. In fact, some of our marketing tactics could not even be executed without shortening the disorder’s name. For example, on Twitter, update lengths are very limited as far as word count goes. Also, myspace status updates limit the word count to a brief sentence. Besides word count problems, we also face an aesthetic dilemma. In order for marketing and awareness campaign materials to look appealing and professional, they cannot contain long, awkward phrases. Not only is Borderline Personality Disorder awkward to read or look at but also awkward to say, especially if it’s used frequently in copy.

Right now, you may be saying “Well, why not just use the word BPD?” I’ll tell you why. How does this sound? “The child with BPD is feeling better.” Awkward. How about this? “The BPD people seem to like our site.” It just doesn’t sound right, or even look correct, for that matter. I have seen an interesting language trend on several websites as well. People have been referring to borderlines as “BPDers” or “BPs” and those without BPD have been called “Nons”. I just couldn’t take that seriously, if I were to see those words in an awareness campaign. So what are we left with? “Borderline”.

There are two ways to approach stigma overturn in this situation. We can avoid using the stigmatized word or we can use it and change its meaning and connotation. Some people want to quarantine the word “borderline” and this makes the disorder or any reference to the disorder seem taboo, which actually creates even more fear and just perpetuates the stigma. Or, we can execute some emergency reputation management and rehabilitate the word into better standing with the public. This is what creating awareness is about. It’s not about just broadcasting the problem but also presenting it in a new light, showcasing it from a fresh, proactive angle. It’s about taking what is taboo, what is stigmatized and transforming its image and collective meaning- creating awareness is about profoundly influencing public opinion rather than being constrained and marginalized by it. Awareness advocacy is not for the faint of heart, the conformist or the extreme introvert. We will tactfully step on some toes in the process.

Readers have mentioned that calling a person a “borderline” or describing them as such creates the impression that the disorder is part of who you are and not just an illness. I, personally, see it as both. How does this work? First of all, it is an illness because this term denotes an imbalance, a lack of wellness and well-being, a dysfunction. It is not an ideal state to exist in. Second, I personally believe that BPD is an extreme personality type more than a disease. In my view, all personality disorders are just extreme personality types. Just like the cliché Type As and Bs, these individuals are rigged with certain psychological mechanisms and unique ways of reacting to the same situation. Unlike typical personality types, personality disorders are so extreme that they are classified as pathological and individuals with them often lead dysfunctional lifestyles. In my opinion, a personality type lasts a lifetime. This doesn’t mean that functioning cannot be restored to someone with a disordered personality “type”. It just means that I don’t think they can just throw it away or recover from it.

But we are advocates of “recovery”, aren’t we? Definitely. But it depends on how you define recovery. If you define it as getting rid of or making your BPD disappear, then no. If you define “recovery” as learning to work with and maybe even leverage your borderline personality so it no longer impedes your functioning, then yes.

Borderlines in the recovery phase may attend dialectical behaviour therapy or take medications but these are actually ongoing treatments. When you go to DBT therapy, you are learning skills such as mindfulness that you must continue to practice for the rest of your life. When you take medications, you are balancing neurotransmitters that are possibly out of balance due to some genetic or physiological brain imbalance. You cannot just stop taking your medication and, if you are instructed to do so, you may need to change your diet or lifestyle to ensure this achieved balance continues. You may need to watch what you eat, take special supplements or medications, and practice skills which your Type A friends don’t need to. But, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being different. As you can see, a person may not just stop being borderline or having BPD but rather learns skills and techniques for working with their personality, mind and body in ways that improve their functioning and satisfaction in everyday life.

Do you think saying someone is “Borderline” is OK? If not do let us know in the comments below. 

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