Originally published at The Telegraph.

shyness_2134220b Mental health has never been so high on the agenda. Both Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband have made it a key part of their election campaigns, and we’re getting used to famous figures like Stephen Fry and Ruby Wax speaking openly about depression, anxiety and bipolar.

But there’s one condition, which mainly affects women, that you rarely hear a whisper of: Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). I’d never even heard of it until last year, when one of my best friends took an overdose and ended up on a mental health ward.

Lottie was 24 when she was diagnosed with BPD; talking about it a year on, she tells me: “At the time, I was adamant about ending my life. I couldn’t deal with the rollercoaster in my head; I always felt like I never truly belonged, like my friends and relatives would have been better off without me.” It’s not an easy thing to hear, as a friend, but I know it must be an even harder feeling to live with.

Borderline Personality Disorder – which is, perhaps more helpfully, also known as Emotionally Unstable or Emotional Regulation Personality Disorder – is a relatively rare mental health condition, affecting around one per cent of the population, but 75 per cent of those with the diagnosis are women.

Put simply, BPD is characterised by emotional instability, unstable relationships, and impulsive behaviour – but no, it’s not even close to the way you jokingly describe your 20s.

“At the core of BPD really is a difficulty in regulating emotions, meaning that someone with BPD can find emotions overwhelming, out of control, or always changing,” explains psychotherapist Imi Lo, who specialises in the treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder. “It’s not like after a breakup when you may become really resentful and clingy for a couple of months afterwards – BPD has to be problematic, pervasive and persistent.”

As it stands, there’s so little public awareness of the condition that Lottie tells me it’s often easier to tell people she has depression or bipolar. “When people hear anything about a disordered personality, or emotional instability, they assume you’re this volatile person who is a danger to society,” she explains.

“On many occasions I’ve said it’s just depression, or not told friends or family at all, in case they thought I was weird. I know people [with BPD] who don’t disclose anything about their mental health due to the stigma. Many people haven’t even told their parents.”

To be diagnosed, you have to fulfil at least five of the nine criteria for BPD. These traits can include intense mood swings, an overwhelming fear of being alone, an impulse to self-harm or act recklessly, and psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations or delusions. They are persistent, often beginning during the sufferer’s teenage years, and have a profound, distressing impact on their life.

Continue reading at The Telegraph…

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