Illustration for article titled Borderline Personality Disorder Is Damn Sexy! Right?

Borderline personality disorder is a serious illness that can lead to self-harm and suicide. And some are making the case that it's also super-sexy!


Gina Piccalo's piece for The Daily Beast starts out with a bang:

Chaos can have a bewitching allure, particularly when it comes in the form of a whip-smart, dead-sexy woman with ferocious impulses, deep emotional scars and no real sense of self.

For some, it is beyond irresistible.

Piccalo goes on to describe a sort of variant on the Manic Pixie Dream Girl — the Borderline Sexy Femme Fatale, if you will. The BSFF is a woman (apparently there are no borderline dudes) who attracts men with her beauty, lures them in with wild sex, then holds onto them with neediness and unpredictable moods that leave them desperate to please her. As examples, Piccalo cites Marilyn Monroe, Glenn Close's character in Fatal Attraction, and "any one of the modern-day pop stars, ingénues and reality TV spawn who live as if they're always in character, always trawling for companionship, looking for someone to love or blame, because they just can't find themselves." (These kinds of armchair diagnoses admittedly have sparked controversy even here.)


Oh, and then there's "the ethereal Elizabeth" (name changed), who charmed mild-mannered "Mike" with "breathless and overwhelming" sex, then began flying off the handle in "torrential blowout[s]" until he finally broke up with her. Crazy girls! We've all dated one, amirite bros?

In all fairness, Piccalo does acknowledge that it takes two to make a shitty relationship — she quotes mental health experts who say those drawn to women with borderline personality disorder may have issues of their own. But other experts simply reinforce the BSFF stereotype. Says psych professor Peter Freed, "Though it hasn't been studied, there is a sense among doctors that many patients tend to be attractive, which can trigger a vicious cycle." Why, one wonders, hasn't borderline women's hotness been studied? Piccalo makes it sound like their most important attribute.

Some have argued that the very diagnosis of borderline personality disorder (which is assigned far more often to women than to men) is stigmatizing, as it plays into stereotypes of overly emotional, needy, and clingy women. And the BSFF as set forth in Piccalo's piece hearkens back to age-old depictions of the crazy woman: man-eating, sexually voracious, irrational, dangerous, irresistible but to be avoided at all costs. And rather than emphasizing the need for treatment and help for people with borderline personality disorder (beyond an acknowledgment that with therapy, such people "can become accomplished individuals with thriving careers"), Piccalo chooses to close out her piece with Mike:

Mike eventually broke up with Elizabeth. But the experience still haunts him, particularly when his current girlfriend-an argumentative journalist-wants to engage in a friendly debate. "I'm still," he says, "a little traumatized."


It seems that the greatest risk of borderline personality disorder is that nice, mentally healthy men might feel insecure in their later relationships with nice, mentally healthy girls after their brief flings with BSFFs — who are then released into society to terrorize other men. I get that Piccalo is trying to work a fresh angle on a potentially dark and disturbing topic, but focusing on the sexuality of mentally ill women is as old as Freud. And women with borderline personality disorder aren't going to get the help they need if all we can talk about is whether they're good in bed.

Sex On The Edge [The Daily Beast]

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I don't know about the sexuality angle, but I definitely have this hurricane in my life.

The only way I've been able to understand it is that she (in this case) has such visceral and overwhelming emotional reactions to everyday, frustrating events, that she just wants that energy outside of her as quickly as possible, however that happens.

Unfortunately, that usually means hurting the people (me) who are closest to her. With words, to get a reaction. Or, when that doesn't work, fists. Like last night.

Not fun, not at all.

I think that in my case, it's a learned behavior. She saw growing up that dad could behave however he wanted, screaming and ranting and being abusive, and mom would never, EVER speak up, let alone leave the relationship. So if you're convinced the people closest to you will never leave you, no matter what you say or do, you've got a green light to react however you want.

But this is a devastating malady for people who love people with BPD. They've got to either steel themselves to always feeling like they're walking on eggshells, or have the courage to leave. Sadly, the more I see of this, the more I come to believe it's an either/or choice. BPD isn't something that just goes away, even with good counseling.