Men with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

Men with borderline personality disorder get the shortest end of a stunted stick; not only are they thrust into a highly stigmatized group, but they’re made to feel they’re the only ones there. Farahnaz Mohammed, Quartz (2018)

Contrary to popular belief or knowledge, notes clinical psychologist Joseph Nowinski, PhD, author of Hard to Love: Understanding and Overcoming Male Borderline Personality Disorder (2014), men may be just as likely as women to develop Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).   

As he’s stated in a Psychology Today post:

The problem is that the symptoms associated with BPD, when they manifest themselves in a man, are often attributed to such things as ‘antisocial personality disorder,’ ‘substance abuse disorder,’ or ‘impulse control disorder.’ These men are most often shuffled into treatment programs for ‘anger management’ or substance abuse. And depending on just how much trouble they get into they may very well spend some time in jail. By failing to accurately diagnose these men, we fail to help them understand the roots of their difficulties, and we send them down blind alleys seeking help.

The following view, per Christine Hammond, MS, Psych Central, likewise illustrates how complicated making a diagnosis can be:

Most male BPDs also display signs of other personality disorders. They look narcissistic when they attack others and make nearly every discussion about them. They appear anti-social in their risk-taking sexual behaviors and have a desire to shock others with their extreme behaviors. They seem avoidant when they push back on intimate relationships for fear of abandonment. They act obsessive-compulsive when they obsessively repeat how they are feeling in an exaggerated manner. They perform at a passive-aggressive manner with no follow-thru and procrastination.

In list form, some of the BPD traits that might present differently in men than women, per Nowinski (Psychology Today):

  • Aggressively thin-skinned
  • Controlling through criticism
  • Irrational jealousy
  • Possessive but detached
  • Rejecting relationships
  • Holding grudges
  • Using sex to relieve insecurity
  • Substance abuse (more likely to be alcohol or pot versus women’s more common choice of “abusing psychotropic medications”)

On her blog noted BPD expert Randi Kreger introduced Nowinski’s work and recapped the following important points about having realistic expectations:

As is true for women, Nowinski says, the vast majority of men with BPD are not unlovable—rather, they can be hard to love. The first step is always opening oneself up to the pain and stop using other lovers, people, and things to manage it. In his chapter ‘Facing the Demon Within,’ he writes:

As much as borderline men might wish they could cast off their insecurity and move on, the reality is that a more realistic goal is to acknowledge that it exists, recognize where it is coming from, and then learn ways to mitigate it so that it doesn’t make you miserable or contaminate your relationships.

In time it can be reduced from a demon that dominates and controls their lives to a small beast that may rear its head from time to time, but never takes control.

What kind of treatment helps men with BPD? In addition to specialized psychotherapy, there’s a helpful and free website started by Peter Miller, who’s not only a mental health professional but also diagnosed with this condition. Check out BreakAwayMHE.com: Connecting Warriors of BPD. Their 9-Step program for self-improvement and recovery covers the gamut of areas to be addressed.

Men as well as women can benefit from PositivePyschology.com‘s thorough article “21 Emotion Regulation Worksheets & Strategies.” As writer Courtney Ackerman states in her intro, “…(I)t doesn’t take a pilgrimage to a holy site or thousands of dollars to learn these secrets to feeling better.”

Nowinski, Psychology Today, summing up the desired outcome for men with BPD: “…(T)hey need to change their stance in life from ‘being on the outside looking in’, to ‘being on the inside, looking out’.”

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