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Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is the black sheep of the mental health community. Despite being recognized as affecting 1 in 10 people, it is not as commonly known as depression or anxiety. Interestingly enough, it is not even as well known as its sister-PD's bipolar disorder and post traumatic stress disorder. 

Borderline Personality Disorder is characterised by emotional instability and tumultuous relationships with the people around them. Diagnosis of BPD is tricky because of the overlapping symptoms it has with other personality disorders. A potential diagnosis requires at least 5 of the 9 key BPD symptoms to be exhibited in the patient. These include:

  1. Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment. 

  2. A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation.

  3. An unstable sense of self.

  4. Impulsivity in at least 2 areas that are potentially self-damaging 

  5. Recurring suicidal behaviour, gestures or threats, or self-mutilating behaviour.

  6. Emotional instability in reaction to day-to-day events (e.g., intense episodic sadness, irritability, or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days)

  7. Chronic feelings of emptiness.

  8. Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger 

  9. Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms.

Nevertheless, this list is filled with a lot of psychological jargon, and BPD is not simply a set of symptoms. For this reason, understanding BPD mostly comes from the media surrounding it, which again is not extensive. However, there are a few characters who canonically have BPD or depict several BPD symptoms. 

  1. Susanna Kaysen from Girl, Interrupted 

    Susanna is one of the most famous borderlines in film. A writer who drifts in between her moods and lovers, Susanna depicts the difficulty of being admitted into a psychiatric institution after having a suicide attempt. She is diagnosed with BPD because of her tumultuous and risky relationships, including one with her professor, as well as her unstable identity. She shares a common origin of BPD which occurs from childhood trauma and negligence, as she recounts having being dropped off the bed as a baby and breaking all her bones. In the institution, her impulsivity continues as she engages in rule-breaking behaviour such as escaping to meet a friend in need. This shows the extreme care and selflessness without regards to consequences that borderlines face. 

  2. Clementine from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

    Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is an exemplary film depicting the intensity of borderline relationships. The premise of the film finds Clementine seeking to erase all memory of her turbulent relationship with her ex Joel because of the heartbreak she was facing. This is concurrent with going to extreme lengths to avoid feelings of abandonment. Losing a relationship with a friend or lover can be devastating for borderlines because of the intensity of emotion that follows it. Nevertheless, both characters seem to find each other again and relive their intense relationship over and over again, with the highs being very high and the lows being even lower. 

  3. Bella Swan from Twilight 

    Bella Swan is an undiagnosed borderline, which makes some parts of her story even more tragic. She exhibits almost all of the 9 symptoms throughout the series, particularly in New Moon after her belief that Edward had abandoned her. She engaged in risky behaviour like cliff jumping and reckless motorbiking. This was coupled with her chronic feelings of emptiness that left her emotionally paralyzed for months, as she experienced nightmares, hallucinations, and an unstable sense of self. Nonetheless, Bella Swan has a happy ending, as she gets to live eternally with Edward and her daughter Renesmee. This is uncommon for characters with BPD, who are often shown as living a life of calamity and tragedy, unable to sustain relationships with the ones they love. Ultimately, it is a breath of fresh air. 

  4. Bojack Horseman

    Bojack Horseman is an exceptional piece of television, in its attempt to bridge the gaps between absurdism, humour, and tragedy. It depicts the life of Bojack, part horse, part man, who lives an alcohol and drug-fueled existence after his declined fame as a sitcom star in the 90's. While his character does exhibit symptoms of BPD, he also possesses traits of concurrent mental illnesses, including major depressive disorder and alcohol addiction. What makes Bojack stand out as an unusual BPD character, is that he is shown as having moments of intense anger and isolationism. Bojack switches between clinging on to the people in his life and pushing them away. He also engages in self-destructive behaviours, going on week-long benders and sabotaging his sobriety and his career. The show deals well with depicting intrusive thoughts, as well as the daily aspects of life that are affected by having BPD. 


Haya Sardar

U Toronto '20

Haya Sardar is a second-year undergraduate student at Victoria College, University of Toronto. She is currently enrolled in an economics major, alongside political science and english minors. She is enthusiastic, ambitious, and not afraid to share her mind. Her goal is to go to law school and become a lawyer. She enjoys writing as well as spoken word poetry, indulging in both love sonnets and active feminism.
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