Ethics and Mental Health Journalism: The Difficult Case of Borderline Personality Disorder

November 18, 2013

By Dominic Sisti

Emotions run high in interviews with clinicians about patients with borderline personality disorder (BPD). Many doctors are not comfortable treating patients with BPD. Some are even openly hostile and admit they ‘turf’ or avoid patients with BPD because they find them too exhausting or challenging.

It is true: for many clinicians, treating persons with BPD can be a challenging and often frustrating endeavor. This frustration may come out in the words they use to describe their patients. These words are often morally loaded and pejorative. Often we hear clinicians say that persons with BPD are ‘manipulative’– and they think erroneously that ‘manipulativeness’ is a criterion of BPD in the DSM. (APA, 2013)

As mental health journalists, it is critical to understand the power of words and their impact on the health and well-being of persons with all mental illnesses. In this post, I focus on BPD as it is one of the most stigmatized mental disorders both within and outside the clinic.

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