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Think About It... Whenever we refuse to take responsibility for ourselves, we are unconsciously choosing to react as victim. This inevitably creates feelings of anger, fear, guilt or inadequacy and leaves us feeling betrayed, or taken advantage of by others.~ Lynne Forrest
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Author Topic: Is BPD a mental illness? is it a sickness?  (Read 687 times)
broccoli girl
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« on: February 25, 2012, 06:21:59 AM »

My therapist and I had a discussion last night where he said that some mental health experts would not classify BPD as a mental illness (he agrees that it is though).  This has upset me...it very much helps to think of my diagnosed BPD mom as mentally ill. 

I mean, what else do you call someone who is that manipulative and at times cruel?  (I don't know --- maybe you just call them manipulative and cruel.)

Anyway, your thoughts are appreciated...
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GeekyGirl
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« Reply #1 on: February 25, 2012, 06:30:29 AM »

My T refers to it as a mental illness also. Maybe some mental health experts don't consider BPD a mental illness because it's not caused by physical trauma (like brain damage), a genetic defect (like Downs Syndrome) or genetics. It's recognized in the DSM IV, so I'd guess that most mental health professionals would look at it as a mental illness.

I agree with our Ts--even though they think that BPD traits are often learned, I do think that the disorder affects the person's personality and thoughts to the degree that he/she doesn't function the way that a non would.
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rehtorb70
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« Reply #2 on: February 25, 2012, 07:40:33 AM »

My therapist and I had a discussion last night where he said that some mental health experts would not classify BPD as a mental illness (he agrees that it is though).  This has upset me...it very much helps to think of my diagnosed BPD mom as mentally ill.  

I mean, what else do you call someone who is that manipulative and at times cruel?  (I don't know --- maybe you just call them manipulative and cruel.)

Anyway, your thoughts are appreciated...

I would say it depends on how you define the phrase "mental illness"  I would define it as a persistent pattern of mental beliefs and characteristics which greatly interfere with one's ability to socialize and work. So defined, I would say that BPD is a mental illness.  

I do think it's useful to see BPD as a mental illness.  If a non-BPD family member were to act in a manipulative (or even cruel) way, it would be worth it to explain to them that they are mistreating you; to urge them to shape up; and so on.  Thinking of BPD as a mental illness makes it clear that this sort of exhortation will not be effective.  It also makes it easier to compare notes with other family members of pwBPD and to let you predict and deal with the pwBPD's behavior.

For me, thinking of my sister as being mentally ill is very helpful because it takes my focus away from my anger and indignation over her misconduct; makes me realize that it's a waste of time to reason with her; and helps me to face the reality that we will never have a normal, loving brother-sister relationship.  Not until they discover a cure for BPD.

Perhaps most importantly, thinking of my sister as being mentally ill helps me recognize her twisting of reality for what it is.  See, in normal life when a person demands an apology from you, it's natural to ask yourself if you did anything wrong, perhaps even to agonize over it.  In normal life, when you have a bad interaction with an acquaintance, it's natural to ask yourself whether you could have behaved differently or even to obsess over it.  Accepting that the person is mentally spares you all of this obsessing and doubt.  It makes you realize that there was nothing you could have done any differently.  It absolves you.

So I think you need to ask yourself:  Why is it that you find it helpful to think of your family member as being mentally ill?  And how would you define "mental illness"?


« Last Edit: February 25, 2012, 08:19:48 AM by rehtorb70 » Logged
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« Reply #3 on: February 25, 2012, 08:31:35 AM »


When I came to the conclusion that my uBPDsis was 99% likely uBPD, I felt a sense of relief that there was the possibility of her not being intentionally cruel and manipulative due to an inherent evil or malice -- but instead, it was possible she acted out destructive behaviour because her thinking is disordered and she has a considerable amount of unresolved mental anguish.

I empathise a lot with your description, Rehtorb -- thinking of my sis having a problem she is unable to control due to illness is helpful, because it's changed my approach to communicating with her. I still can't seem to get through to her, but I hate myself less for failing, and don't beat myself up for 'being a bad friend/sister'.

Regardless of what some professionals say, Broccoli Girl, I would say BPD is as much as a mental illness as depression or bi-polar. It's a horrible thing which eclipses a persons ability to function productively, with society and with themselves.
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CalledaPerson
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« Reply #4 on: February 25, 2012, 12:01:07 PM »

First, the analysis of whether or not it's a mental illness does not change my decision to stay vLC and refuse to visit my uBPD mother. I still refuse to be a victim anymore regardless of the reason for the abuse. As to whether it is a mental illness, I think it's a mental illness, with the biggest clue being, why would someone WANT to act like that and constantly take the consequences? Why would someone keep doing things that result in people refusing to want to be around them? It doesn't make any sense. If she was not mentally ill, she might make a mistake once or a number of times until the consequences became too painful to bear, then she would change her behavior, but she doesn't. She's lost so many friends, acquaintances, and jobs over the years, that she should have figured out by now that it's NOT the rest of the world that's the problem: It is HER behavior that is causing her losses. She is a reasonably intelligent person and should be able to figure that out. So my thinking is that it is a mental illness.
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notsureonbeinghere

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« Reply #5 on: February 25, 2012, 12:35:30 PM »

A question I have reflected on a lot is 'does it matter if she (my mom) is mentally ill?

Maybe it doesn't matter because...
-She will never get diagnosed or treated
-Nobody I know has found a way to comfort her, find good ways to deal with her, or fix things
-I have to figure out how to react to things
-Whether it's an illness or not, can we look for patterns/ways to help?

Maybe it does matter because...
-If it is a mental illness, it's okay for me to believe things and say things that would make her irate (like visiting this message board and believe there is a such thing as mental illness, whether she has one or not)
-I don't have to try to believe and make sense of what she says and asks for, because one wouldn't expect it to make sense


I think I share the feeling you have, broccoli girl, that it helps to think of he as mentally ill.  My overall conculsion at this point is that it's something mental, and it's something wrong. 

I haven't spent much time conversing on these boards or researching or talking to a therapist yet, so I'm not sure if that conclusion will change eventually.
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educator
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« Reply #6 on: February 25, 2012, 05:03:02 PM »

Our T sees it as a mental illness...but one that is nearly impossible to treat due to the fact that a pwBPD will rarely seek treatment for it or acknowledge that they have it.

It makes me feel a lot better to see MIL as being sick rather than just being a mean woman.  And...it makes it easier for me to justify staying no contact with her and keeping my kids from her.  If she's mentally ill, she's not safe for them to be around. 

Either way...these are dangerous people who can really ruin your mental stability.
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Sara M
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« Reply #7 on: February 25, 2012, 05:18:58 PM »

My therapist and I had a discussion last night where he said that some mental health experts would not classify BPD as a mental illness (he agrees that it is though).  This has upset ...it very much helps to think of my diagnosed BPD mom as mentally ill. 


I have heard and read in many journals that it is a disorder, different than a mental illness. It is pervasive and resistant to treatment.
The disorder is an inherent part of the person's personality.
It is not considered to be a disease, as it does not necessarily get worse with time.

Because it is not considered a mental illness, there is a problem with some insurances covering the disorder...because it is pervasive and resistant to treatment, insurance companies sometimes won't cover the illness/disorder. Therefore, it is hard to recoup the monies from insurance companies. But, often the therapist will be able to get coverage due to the underlying illnesses that accompany the disorder, eg.,depression, anxiety, chemical abuse. These illnesses are often covered by insurance.

At least this is how I interpret the disorder.

Sara

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DeityorDevil
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« Reply #8 on: February 25, 2012, 05:22:43 PM »

For me it's helpful, at least to have a framework that helps to explain where some of my parents screwed up thought processes might be coming from. It helps the fact that my father doesn't love me, to understand that he doesn't really have that capacity, even when it comes to himself. My father likely has antisocial personality- which is very different than borderline, but the principle is the same I guess. It qualifies as some kind of mental disorder.

In the case of my mother, oddly (or not so) it helps me to empathize with her. Knowing, or having a better idea, where her ugliness comes from makes it easier for me to detach with less anger, and to understand better that her moods and her treatment of her children wasn't our fault. It's because her brain is broken in some way, which will probably never be diagnosed or treated. She will probably die (eventually) without being free from overwhelming, conflicting, and often painful emotions.

It's helpful for me to know that I didn't cause those things in them, and I can't fix them, and my presence isn't able to help them. I can't abandon people who don't know what it really means for me to be there in the first place.
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« Reply #9 on: February 26, 2012, 01:54:00 AM »

It's not a mental illness like schizophrenia, manic depression, etc., that stems from brain chemicals. People with those diseases cannot help their condition.

If a person with BPD was in the presence of someone they wanted to impress, they could turn off their bad behavior like a switch and put on a great facade of normalcy, all the while treating those who they CAN get away with abusing, like they're dogs. It's borderline personality disorder, a behavioral disorder. A disorder of behavior, that you have to unlearn.

I do not think of it as a mental illness, which is uncontrollable and requires medical treatment, not behavioral modification and therapy, like BPD.
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Sara M
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« Reply #10 on: February 26, 2012, 06:51:42 AM »

It's not a mental illness like schizophrenia, manic depression, etc., that stems from brain chemicals. People with those diseases cannot help their condition.

If a person with BPD was in the presence of someone they wanted to impress, they could turn off their bad behavior like a switch and put on a great facade of normalcy, all the while treating those who they CAN get away with abusing, like they're dogs. It's borderline personality disorder, a behavioral disorder. A disorder of behavior, that you have to unlearn.

I do not think of it as a mental illness, which is uncontrollable and requires medical treatment, not behavioral modification and therapy, like BPD.

Yes, and it is a disorder of emotions, too

Sara
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« Reply #11 on: February 26, 2012, 07:49:03 AM »

Red-Fox...that is very interesting.  It makes much more sense to me now and explains why DH and I have no choice but to be no contact with his uBPDm.  The more I think of it...she can control her behavior...like when she is around people she doesn't know well she acts super sweet and you'd never guess she could be a monster. 
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« Reply #12 on: February 26, 2012, 11:17:36 AM »

How we define it is less important to me than being able to identify, finally, that the pain we have experienced all our lives was not our fault. I have a friend who doesn't believe it is a mental illness as much as a personality disorder. What difference does the name make? The results of it are the same. What was it Shakespear said? "A rose by any other name is still a rose." Whatever happened or didn't happen to my mom to make her the way she is, pales in comparison to the affect it has had on me in my life.
If it makes some of us feel better to think of our pwBPD as being mentally ill, and thus not being able to help the way they act, then go with that label. I have come to a place where I don't really care what label is attached or whether what my mother did was on purpose or bc she couldn't help it, bc the pain and damage was the same either way. I have been profoundly affected by her actions. It just is what it is. I guess I'm just all out of sympathy or excuses for my abusers behavior...
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« Reply #13 on: February 26, 2012, 11:38:39 AM »

It's not a mental illness like schizophrenia, manic depression, etc., that stems from brain chemicals. People with those diseases cannot help their condition.

If a person with BPD was in the presence of someone they wanted to impress, they could turn off their bad behavior like a switch and put on a great facade of normalcy, all the while treating those who they CAN get away with abusing, like they're dogs. It's borderline personality disorder, a behavioral disorder. A disorder of behavior, that you have to unlearn.

I do not think of it as a mental illness, which is uncontrollable and requires medical treatment, not behavioral modification and therapy, like BPD.

I'm not sure where you got that, but I have to say I really disagree - first of all, I'm not sure anyone really knows what causes BPD; it could very well be a chemical disorder. My sister was treated with meds when she was being treated. Also, you could say the same for bipolar disorder regarding behavior - spend any time with an untreated bipolar disordered person and you'll face a similar situation. I'd love to read your sources.

I don't think calling BPD a mental illness excuses the behavior.  I'm actually very surprised there are mental health professionals who would say it's not...of course it is. Doesn't make it any easier on the nons. I think perhaps people are misinterpreting the phrase "personality disorder" in the sense that they thing you can just change aspects of your personality as a non might. In the clinical sense it's not the same. 
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Mom2MyKids
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« Reply #14 on: February 26, 2012, 12:39:33 PM »

First, the analysis of whether or not it's a mental illness does not change my decision to stay vLC and refuse to visit my uBPD mother. I still refuse to be a victim anymore regardless of the reason for the abuse. As to whether it is a mental illness, I think it's a mental illness, with the biggest clue being, why would someone WANT to act like that and constantly take the consequences? Why would someone keep doing things that result in people refusing to want to be around them? It doesn't make any sense. If she was not mentally ill, she might make a mistake once or a number of times until the consequences became too painful to bear, then she would change her behavior, but she doesn't. She's lost so many friends, acquaintances, and jobs over the years, that she should have figured out by now that it's NOT the rest of the world that's the problem: It is HER behavior that is causing her losses. She is a reasonably intelligent person and should be able to figure that out. So my thinking is that it is a mental illness.

Thank you for saying this.  I haven't thought about it that way, at least not in a while.  What I really want to know is if she knows that she is the problem.  I know, everyone here is thinking the same thing, of course she doesn't think she is the problem.  I'm not 100% sure.  I think there has to be some level of cognition that sees a common thread.  She gets along with very few people in our foo and yet, everyone else gets along well with each other.  She's the one person that everyone seems to have a problem with.  For everyone in our foo, there's just one person that they don't get along with and that is my mother.  Can't she see this?  I don't think she believes she is in the wrong, however.  I wonder if her Narcissism makes her believe that no one gets her or that everyone just unfairly hates her, but she has to see that no one else has issues with each other.

I'm not really sure.  That's why I so desperately want to have a conversation with my dad about it.  He must have more insight to her thinking.  Doesn't she get that she can't act the way she does?  She'll insult someone and when you say "you can't say that.  You need to apologize to that person" she'll justify why they deserve it and then say that if anyone is to apologize, it's the other person who must apologize to her and off she goes in a huff and the person is just erased from her life and off she goes to have a life without that person.

And, if you know anything about narcissism, you know it's a deep hatred of oneself rather than a deep love.  Does she hate herself so much to think that she is just unlovable and is just resigned to the fact that no matter how hard she tries, no one else can love her and that is why everyone leaves.  Not because of anything she does.  So, still seeing that she is the common thread in all of these relationships, but because there is something unlovable about herself rather than anything else.
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kittykat63
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« Reply #15 on: February 26, 2012, 02:02:44 PM »

if that was my therapist i wouoldnt see him any more on the grounds of that comment alone
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alkaline
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« Reply #16 on: February 26, 2012, 02:14:15 PM »

First, the analysis of whether or not it's a mental illness does not change my decision to stay vLC and refuse to visit my uBPD mother. I still refuse to be a victim anymore regardless of the reason for the abuse. As to whether it is a mental illness, I think it's a mental illness, with the biggest clue being, why would someone WANT to act like that and constantly take the consequences? Why would someone keep doing things that result in people refusing to want to be around them? It doesn't make any sense. If she was not mentally ill, she might make a mistake once or a number of times until the consequences became too painful to bear, then she would change her behavior, but she doesn't. She's lost so many friends, acquaintances, and jobs over the years, that she should have figured out by now that it's NOT the rest of the world that's the problem: It is HER behavior that is causing her losses. She is a reasonably intelligent person and should be able to figure that out. So my thinking is that it is a mental illness.

I agree 100%! 
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Mom2MyKids
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« Reply #17 on: February 26, 2012, 04:17:39 PM »

I'm not one to use the word "insane" but...  What is the definition of insanity?  Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, essentially not learning from your repeated behavior/consequences. They keep the same behavior and don't learn from the consequences.

Maybe it's not so simple. I agree that it has to be a mental illness but we don't have to put up with it either.

It's also not an excuse.
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« Reply #18 on: February 26, 2012, 04:23:42 PM »

If it makes some of us feel better to think of our pwBPD as being mentally ill, and thus not being able to help the way they act, then go with that label. I have come to a place where I don't really care what label is attached or whether what my mother did was on purpose or bc she couldn't help it, bc the pain and damage was the same either way. I have been profoundly affected by her actions. It just is what it is. I guess I'm just all out of sympathy or excuses for my abusers behavior...
I agree with this!
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« Reply #19 on: March 03, 2012, 12:06:18 PM »

The question of whether a BPD is "truly" responsible for their actions is almost philosophical.  Are alcoholics truly responsible for getting drunk?  Every drink diminishes your judgment.  At some point you've had too much to judge that its time to stop.  And once drunk, is it the person or the alcohol that is behind the destruction?

So my Becky Borderline is definitely on the "mentally ill" side of the spectrum.  She's got prefrontal brain damage.  She's on some serious drugs to control the resulting seizures.  She also had the classic abusive upbringing of the BPD.  Her chances of being a normal, happy, functional person were pretty much zero, and as a result my chances of having a normal, happy family were pretty much zero.  At the same time, she has demonstrated over and over that she is aware that her actions are wrong.  She can turn on the charm when she wants to. She has expressed remorse (not to me though).  She doesn't act abusive when people are watching.  So while on some level this may be a disease, external to herself and beyond her control, on another level it is also a result of her deliberate choices, her protecting herself by damaging me.

What matters to me is how she's acted.  She's been abusive, neglectful, sometimes cruel.  She's also been loving, caring, thoughtful and insightful.  Which of these is the "real" her?  They both are.  My issue is that the good stuff set me up for the bad stuff, until eventually I learned that it just wasn't worth it.  I can't have the good mom, the cost is too high.  She can't have her son or her grandson in her life, until she can demonstrate that she can behave better.  She's had lots of chances, in fact she has a chance right now, and every day, to write me, call me, and make amends.  I don't think she will.  I think she's too lost in her own dysfunctions to make that step.  But the chance is there.

So to me, it doesn't matter if she's just a ~ed up little girl who needs to be loved, or she's certifiably insane.  It doesn't matter if her actions are driven by brain damage and abuse, inner need or inner greed.  It only matters that they are hurtful, and they haven't stopped.  I drew my line, for my own health.  I would much rather have the loving mom without the mean-ness.  I don't know how to.

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