Woman with Mental Illness

Personality disorder an invalid “catch-all” label which damages women, says clinical psychologist

Borderline personality disorder is an invalid “catch-all” label which can further damage women who have suffered abuse, a clinical psychologist has written in a new book.

In a far-reaching attack on the validity of the borderline personality disorder (BPD) diagnosis, Gillian Proctor criticises the “growing prevalence of labeling women with BPD”

Proctor, a clinical psychologist with North Bradford Primary Care Trust, argues that the BPD diagnosis, which she says has “no excepted cause”, is often made on women who “fail to live up to their gender role because they express anger and aggression, which is unacceptable for women in this society.”

Being diagnosed with BPD is a “deeply stigmatising” experience which can damage abused women, Proctor writes in a chapter of the book, Beyond Fear and Control – Working with Young People who Self-Harm.

In her chapter, published by psychminded.co.uk, Proctor cites research finding that 88 per cent of women diagnosed with BPD had experienced abuse, and 77 per cent sexual abuse.

Proctor argues it is often such experiences which lie behind self-injury, which can lead to a diagnosis of BPD.

Proctor, who helped set up a service providing medical treatment for self-harm patients in Bradford GP surgeries, concludes: “We need mental health services to see sexual abuse as an issue that affects the whole of society, and which needs a political and societal response. Diagnosing women with borderline personality disorder achieves none of this.”

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