One of the biggest misconceptions is that people with borderline personality disorder tell a lot of lies and are experts at manipulating others.
Let's look at some alternative theories—
1. People with BPD usually don't lie.
Now this isn't to say that people with BPD never lie—they probably lie just as much as other people. Most people don't lie unless they they feel like they are backed into a proverbial corner and see no other option. A sense of shame or guilt usually follows a lie and individuals with BPD are no different.
In her book Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder, psychologist Marsha Linehan writes, "It is difficult to answer contentions by some theorists that borderline individuals frequently lie. With one expection, that has not been my experience. The exception has to do with use of illicit and prescription drugs..."
If you are a family member or friend who has noticed a persistent pattern of lying, there may be reasons to think that a diagnosis of BPD is not a good fit. I once had a gentleman telephone me and—after reading a popular book for families on borderline personality disorder—he was convinced that his ex-wife had BPD. As he explained her behavior which involved a lengthy history of telling self-serving lies, I suspected that she may not meet criteria for BPD but antisocial personality disorder (APD). I read off the criteria of BPD and he reported that she met 4 of the 9 and then I read him the criteria for APD and he reported that she met all of the criteria. While no one can diagnose BPD or any other mental illness over the phone, the exercise gave him a little more information about both disorders.
2. People with BPD don't have the skills to be manipulative.
The behaviors of someone with BPD frequently appear to be designed to manipulate but is that really the person's intention?
Most people with BPD have very poor social and interpersonal skills—especially when they are feeling emotionally dysregulated. By its very definition, manipulation requires someone to be acutely aware of the effect that they behavior has on others. When people with BPD try to communicate their needs it's often done through histrionic tears, shouting, or pleading but not through deceptive or subtle acts.
Individuals who have been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder are not often able to ask for help in a way that they feel like they've been truly understood or are being taken seriously. However, this is a skill that can be practiced and learned over time and there are things that family members and friends can do to bridge the communication gap so that everyone feels like they've been heard.
What other myths and misconceptions about BPD are you holding onto today?