Facing stigma

Mental illness often comes with stigma because some people don’t understand it and have negative attitudes or beliefs towards it. Dr Perry Hoffman, president of the National Education Alliance for BPD (NEA-BPD), terms the stigma associated with BPD as “surplus stigma” that affects not only individuals presenting with BPD but also their family.

Seldom does an illness, medical or psychiatric, carry such intense stigma and deep shame that its name is whispered, or a euphemism coined, and its sufferers despised and even feared. Perhaps leprosy or syphilis or AIDS fits this category. – John G. Gunderson and Perry D. Hoffman.

The “surplus stigma” of BPD arises from:

  • theories on the development of the disorder
  • frequent refusal by mental health professionals to treat patients with BPD
  • negative and pejorative websites and films that project hopelessness
  • clinical controversies as to whether the diagnosis is legitimate

JOHN GUNDERSON – Causes for stigma surrounding the BPD diagnosis

As a result, this stigma encourages those with the diagnosis and their loved ones to hide their condition and be reluctant from seeking treatment. This slows down the agenda to develop appropriate support systems and therefore minimising access to correct care for all those affected by BPD. Greater exposure to the negativity can also trigger BPD symptoms, intensify the emotional distress and painful thoughts and ultimately reducing the quality of life of those affected by BPD.

Overcoming the BPD stigma

Here are some ways you can deal with stigma:

  • Talk to your mental health professional about BPD treatment options.
  • Don’t let stigma create self-doubt and shame.
  • Learn and share the facts about BPD.
  • Try to spend time with other people and confide in a trusted friend or family member.
  • Tell others about events or situations that may trigger your symptoms.
  • Identify and seek out comforting situations, places, and support groups.
  • Remind yourself that you are a person, not a diagnosis.
  • Speak out and openly against stigma.

These recommendations require you to be brave and trust others. If you overcome the stigma, you can take the next steps to learning about BPD and begin research on BPD treatment, support and self care.

SID  – Anti-stigma activism
To see more interview footage from those with lived experience and experts speak about BPD stigma, see BorderlinerNotes.

Remember we all have a role in creating a mentally healthy community that supports recovery and social inclusion and reduces discrimination.

Know BPD. No Stigma.

For more information

SANE Australia – Changing attitudes, changing lives

BPD Awareness – Awareness for hope

Health Direct – Mental illness stigma

BPD treatment – Dealing with the stigma of a BPD diagnosis

Mayo Clinic – Mental health – Overcoming the stigma of mental illness

BPD treatment – Educate yourself: Reduce the stigma of mental illness

National Alliance on Mental Illness – stigmafree

ABC News – BPD: Study shows stigma a barrier to those seeking treatment


BPD treatment – Dealing with the stigma of a BPD diagnosis

Mayo Clinic – Mental health – Overcoming the stigma of mental illness