Friday, June 22, 2012

Ask Haven: Are people with BPD dangerous?

A Reader asks: How dangerous are people with BPD?

::sigh:: This is a very unfair question and one that comes heavily loaded from the stigma surrounding Borderline Personality Disorder.

Having Borderline Personality Disorder in and of itself does not make someone dangerous. It does not make someone a threat to society. BPD has been stigmatized as being very aggressive, very volatile, with people falling apart, throwing outbursts of temper and rage, and lashing out at those around them. While it’s true that this does sometimes happen, most people with BPD do not walk around in a constant stage of rage and aggression. This is only one aspect of the disorder and not the usual state a person lives in. I’d go so far as to say that many with BPD have sort of a default state in a Detached Protector mode (according to my Therapist). It’s a mode of anxiety and self-preservation, but outwardly not very different from most people. Unfortunately it’s the extreme cases that people report, hear about, and discuss. You don’t hear about the Quiet Borderlines, or the ones that tend to Act In and take things out on themselves… because they often don’t affect anyone other than themselves.

In fact, someone with BPD is more likely to be a danger to themselves than to others. The risk of suicide and self-harm are quite high for those diagnosed as Borderline and this does pose a significant threat to the person with BPD themselves.

It’s true that BPD can be very emotionally hurtful and taxing to all those involved but does this mean someone is dangerous? I guess that does depend on your definition of danger. Physically dangerous? Not usually, no. Often we live in a state of perpetual fear of abandonment and work to protect ourselves from that fear and also ensure that it does not happen at the same time. This is why there can be a lot of push-pull because these two things act against each other. I won’t say that there aren’t instances where people with BPD haven’t lashed out physically in an emotional impulse of hurt or anger. This can be true, but it is certainly not always true, nor is it as common as you may have been lead to believe.  Emotionally dangerous? Perhaps. But this is hardly the same thing as being a dangerous person. All relationships come with an element of risk because you’re putting your heart in someone else’s hands. When your heart is connected to someone that already has a mountain of confusion and trauma concerning their own emotional state, it’s very difficult for them to maneuver safely through new emotional territory. Something to keep in mind is that, for as painful as it can be for those affected by a loved one with BPD, it’s usually not intentionally malicious. It’s a fear response to protect the Self, not set out and cause you purposeful discomfort. Though unfortunately this does happen more often than anyone would like.

People are people though. How BPD presents in a person is unique to that person and their own base personality. It would be dishonest to say that nowhere does a dangerous person with BPD exist, because we live in a world where dangerous do people exist. There are also plenty of people without BPD that are extraordinarily dangerous. Probably more so than those that do have this diagnosis. There are plenty of people with BPD that would never hurt anyone (even where self-defense is warranted). So my point is, throw out the stigma. Treat each person as the individual they are.  As with all people, you should keep an open mind, open eyes, use your best judgment, and you will be able to determine if someone has the potential to be harmful to you. 

And on a completely separate note: Today was my 500th post! Holy crap. That's a lot of writing. I feel this to be a pretty decent accomplishment though. And as you may have noticed by getting to the end of this post: Since I won't be doing a Lucid Analysis: Trials in Therapy post every Friday (just every other), I think I'll substitute in an Ask Haven post in the interim. Cheers! 


  1. Haven, you are such a wealth of knowledge. Touche.
    It is unfortunate that mental illness has such an unfair stigma attached, as even with my OCD, I get the "your not some deranged hoarder of body parts, are you?" schpeel (Spell Check) Violence is often associated with mental disorders regardless of the type. Good for you Sith. Your a beacon of light in the midst of a rather dark and unknown territory. Hopefully, I'll be talking to you more, as I have decided to dedicate more time to my blog and the good people I have met through it.

    1. Aw thanks ib. Glad to see you around again. It really is unfortunate. And I definitely look forward to seeing more of you on your blog.

  2. Congrats, you just got one more follower! :)
    And that "You might also like" is freakin amazing.

    1. Yay, and welcome =) Always glad to have one more in the pack.

  3. This was nice to read. I have borderline and in my rage outbursts I often wonder if I'm a danger to others, even though I ALWAYS take out the physical anger on myself. Granted I have lost it on a few people verbally when pushed too far. It's sad though because aside from my husband and mother I'm afraid to let anyone else in on how I feel not only because I have severe trust issues but because so many people see mental illness as terrifying and bad. Doesn't make things any easier.


Leave me a comment! It makes me feel good and less paranoid about talking to myself =)

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