How Overcoming Cultural Perceptions Can Help Men with BPD Seek Treatment

Although Borderline Personality Disorder has traditionally been viewed as a predominantly female disorder, recent research suggests that it is just as prevalent in men. Through an understanding of cultural prejudice towards men, we can change our perceptions and ensure that this prejudice is shattered, allowing males living with this disorder to get the treatment they need without shame.

Insecurity often manifests in people with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), and it’s easy to see the turbulence that it can cause in relationships—particularly when it goes unacknowledged or untreated. There are many men who live with BPD, yet they live in silence, never getting the help they need, because they are ashamed to admit that they need help, or they don’t realize that they have a problem in the first place.

The main factor that prevents men from getting treatment for BPD is how we perceive it. For years, research presented the idea that Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is more prevalent among women—even the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) has supported this notion. Yet more recent research suggests that BPD is just as prevalent in men as women, and this is paving the way for a shift in the mental health community toward backing this new perspective.

There were times when I would see my wife so much as look at another man and become filled with rage. I accused her of flirting with other men on a regular basis, and when she would dress up nice before our dinners it would set me off—I took it as a sign that she was trying to gain the attraction of others instead of me. I knew I was being insecure and irrational, but I never sought help because I didn’t want to admit to these feelings. I was ashamed of them, and this only added to my insecurity.

If you’re a male with BPD, you have nothing to be ashamed of. Even if you do feel shame, that’s a completely normal reaction, given how our cultural perceptions have influenced the diagnosis of BPD—that of the “insecure and emotionally unstable woman,” pushing it to be seen as a distinctly female problem. This is why you feel shame, why you have trouble admitting that you have a problem—because society has told you that it’s women that usually struggle with BPD. But you don’t need to feel this way, and by understanding how our culture has affected the way that you feel, you can overcome these feelings and seek treatment.

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How Cultural Prejudice Shapes Expectations of Men

There’s a persistent, underlying cultural prejudice towards men that paints them as stoic and calm in the face of any sort of emotional event, which can make you feel the need to hold in your emotions and insecurities. One study found that men are expected to react with happiness to negative events, and they also expect themselves to act this way. Indeed, men who are more open with their emotions in our society are typically made to feel shame and guilt, and this finding highlights how this cultural expectation affects how you react to your emotions and insecurities.

On the flip side, women are expected to react with sadness to negative emotional events more than men, and they expect themselves to cry and withdraw more from such events. It’s no surprise then that even in the field of psychology, BPD has long been tagged as more of a female problem, given that the symptoms align more with cultural expectations of female emotional expression.

“For years, the field of psychology has been heavily saturated with attention and focus on women and the well-being of their relationships, particularly in terms of how to make their intimate bonds strong and healthy, as if the male gender’s situation didn’t matter,” wrote psychologist Debra Mandel in her foreword to the book Hard to Love: Understanding and Overcoming Male Borderline Personality Disorder.

“Tons of attention went toward understanding and diagnosing insecure and emotionally unstable women, both through the world of professional counseling and in the world of self-help,” she continued. “However, the male gender was seriously short-changed. Well, men too, can suffer from low self-esteem, insecurity, and enormous self-doubt that can result in serious emotional instability . . . And, sadly, because we’ve tended to stereotype men as ‘the tough ones,’ we have often missed the boat on understanding and appreciating the complexity of a man’s inner world.”

Mandel’s foreword highlights just how damaging and dangerous gender stereotypes can be when you’re living with BPD as a male. For your entire life, you grow up surrounded by cultural norms that support these stereotypes, and whether you realize it or not they do affect you. Think of how you react when you feel insecure, overcome with chaotic emotions, or any of the other symptoms of BPD—you probably feel the need to hold them inside. Instead of looking at your symptoms as signs that you need treatment, you look at them as sources of shame, causing you to continue living with your illness alone and in isolation. But you shouldn’t feel shame, because this shame is rooted in cultural perceptions that are wrong and not fair to you. BPD is not a gender-specific disorder, it’s one that can affect you as much as anyone else, regardless of their gender, and if we shatter our current cultural perceptions of BPD and create new ones, you can realize and acknowledge the importance of taking action and moving towards recovery.

Changing Our Perceptions Surrounding BPD

If you’re a male suffering from BPD, there is no shame in it. You have a mental health challenge that needs to be addressed, regardless of what gender biases say about what you’re feeling. Through residential treatment, you can address your BPD in an open and accepting setting using therapies that will help you turn the chaos that you’re feeling into peace. These therapies are catalysts to the healing process, with treatment modalities such as Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) proven in their ability to help people with BPD regulate their emotions, one of the crucial skills that you may struggle with.

Between the influence of our cultural perceptions and the common nature of BPD misdiagnosis, getting professional treatment as a male with BPD is key to bringing stability and security into your life through comprehensive treatment and the relationships that hold it together.

Bridges to Recovery offers residential treatment for men and women living with Borderline Personality Disorder and other mental health diagnoses. Contact us if you want to learn how you can begin to stabilize your emotions and relationships in an environment free of bias and judgment.

Lead Image Source: Unsplash user Jakob Owens