January 29, 2021

What we can Learn from Pete Davidson’s Borderline Personality Disorder Diagnosis.

Pete Davidson, an American comedian and actor, recently came out as having Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

This sort of public disclosure is a rare occurrence in the BPD community due to the negative stigma surrounding this mental health condition, it is typically shrouded in a veil of secrecy forcing those afflicted to go underground.

While Pete’s full-time job involves making other people laugh, he recently took on a more serious tone. In an interview for Variety’s Actor on Actor series, he pulled back the curtains on his diagnosis in a discussion with Glenn Close. Glenn has her own intimate connection with mental illness as her sister suffered from addiction and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 50. Coincidentally, individuals with BPD are often misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder due to some overlap in symptoms between the two illnesses.

At this point, it’s important to acknowledge that many therapists and psychiatrists can be hesitant to give and treat the diagnosis of BPD due to the stigma even within the medical community. In fact, Marsha Linehan, the creator of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), the gold standard in treatment for BPD, has advised her own clients not to disclose this information when going to the emergency room for a medical disorder because they will likely be treated differently (and not in a positive way).

According to Pete, he was diagnosed with BPD back in 2017 after several inpatient hospitalizations. Pete says, “I got diagnosed with BPD a few years ago, and I was always just so confused all the time, and just thought something was wrong and didn’t know how to deal with it.”

Receiving a correct diagnosis can be important for a number of reasons. Firstly, and most obviously, it will inform your prescribed treatment going forward. (As noted above, DBT is the premier treatment of BPD.) Additionally, not having an appropriate diagnosis can lead to self-blame and feelings of being chronically invalidated.

Borderline personality disorder, in part, is characterized by extreme emotional sensitivity, black-and-white thinking, impulsivity, intense anger, interpersonal difficulties, and fear of abandonment. The symptoms can be so severe that it exacerbates an urge to self-harm and increases suicidal ideation. Experiencing life in this fashion can be quite painful and lead to a tremendous amount of suffering.

However, with the correct diagnosis and treatment, people can and do get better from this disorder.

“Then, when somebody finally tells you, the weight of the world feels lifted off your shoulders. You feel so much better,” Pete continued.

For many, receiving the official diagnosis of a mental illness can be a difficult pill to swallow. At the same time, it can be the first step to receiving help.

When it comes to emotional health, there is a saying “name it to tame it.” To regulate an emotion, we must first identify and label that emotion. The same is generally true of mental health disorders as a whole; an accurate diagnosis can empower a person to make sense of their reality and seek out specialized care. For many, knowledge is the first step on the path to recovery and building a life worth living.

By bringing awareness to this topic, Pete’s candor will undoubtedly save lives. The mental health community is grateful to you for your courage in stepping forward.


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