6 misconceptions someone with borderline personality disorder wants you to know

1. We are not manipulative and attention-seeking; we are desperate and we are hurting

I cannot count the number of times I have been labelled as these two things by people in my life, including by a handful of the “professionals” who have treated me. From school and treatment to friends and family, even top clinicians have described me as manipulative in my behaviours. Since entering into therapy with my 4th dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT) therapist, however, she has helped me start unravelling the belief that this adjective describes me as a person. Manipulation implies intent and has negative connotations, and calling someone manipulative suggests that they are deceitful and hence bad in some way. The truth is that my behaviour was never meant to be manipulative of anyone, nor did I do the things I did simply for attention. I have certainly cried out for help through my behaviours and I will not deny that, but I have never cried wolf; there has always been so much more than what meets the eye.

Usually when someone with BPD (also referred to as emotionally unstable personality disorder) acts in a way that may be perceived as manipulative or attention-seeking, it is because they are experiencing emotional and mental pain to such a degree that they are beyond the point of being able to reason, or lacking the skill to be effective in the moment. Most of us simply never learnt how to communicate or release our pain in any other way, and so doing so through our actions became the only way we knew how. If anything, these feel more instinctual than anything else. There is no inherent malice; we just become lost within the moment, and taken over by feelings, thoughts and urges which lead us to act in a way we otherwise would not.

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