As impressed as I was with an athlete coming forward with the news that he was suffering from depression, this week’s athlete coming out as being diagnosed with a disorder moved me even more. This week Brandon Marshall of the Miami Dolphins came out stating he had Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). He discussed his treatment, and his desire to be an advocate. He is shining a light on a disorder that many shun, and don’t like to talk about.
Many in the mental health field would do almost anything to avoid working with a patient with BPD. Personality disorders are difficult to treat and people with them can be difficult to work with. We are talking about personality here, not just treatable symptoms of a particular disorder. Try to change aspects of your personality – you will find that it is very difficult and not something that can be done overnight (if at all).
BPD is somewhat controversial; there are professionals and researchers who believe it is under-diagnosed, while others believe it is diagnosed too often, especially in “cutters”, i.e. those who engage is self-harm. While cutting can be one behavior seen in those with BPD, certainly those who engage is self-harming behavior do not always have BPD.
The importance of someone like Brandon Marshall coming forward as having BPD cannot be underestimated. Oftentimes people with BPD feel hopeless and like they can never get better, so seeing someone with BPD getting treatment, playing football, and trying to put his life back together can show that there are ways to get better. On the flip side, professionals have to be careful that there is not a rush of people who suddenly believe they have BPD because they read about it in the paper. Unfortunately this occurs and then you have people with inaccurate diagnoses getting the wrong treatment.
There is no real way to measure the overall impact of an announcement like this. Do people pay attention? Do people care? Cynical people may assume this diagnosis is nothing more than excuse for poor behavior. But as someone who has worked with people with BPD I cannot help but be hopeful that Brandon Marshall’s story will help someone who is suffering.