Thursday, May 7, 2009

DSM IV Axis II - The Church's Dirty Little Secret Part V II- Boarderline Personality Disorder - Final

In simple laymen’s terms I want to make a few points about borderline personality disorders. First, it is fairly common, affecting about 2% of adults. So in any given church of 400 people, there should be 8 people suffering from it.

Secondly, while the first two disorders I wrote about mostly affect men, BPD is mostly a disorder of young women. As I mentioned last time, if there is one simple root cause it is a deep insecurity and fear of abandonment.

The other point I want to make is that it is a recognized mental illness. This is where I think Evangelicals can be naive. In these lesser (as compared to schizophrenia or psychosis of any type) mental illnesses, it is easy to assume that these are just bad people (or in some cases they leave you feeling that you are the bad person). But, by recognizing it as a disorder, I think we are better equipped to cope and steer away from the complexities.

The best hallmark of dealing with someone with a BPD is that they have a rapid changing of opinions of others. They can easily start as the best friend you have ever known. They can be over the top with praises for you. They will bring you gifts, never forget your birthday and quickly consider you their BFF . . . forever until you disappoint them.

You can disappoint them for reasons that just don’t make sense to you. But remember, they have a very deep insecurity and fear of abandonment, and this is where this fear is manifest.

For example, you may simply go out of town to visit your mother. But when you return, your new BFF is very, very angry at you. But in the Christian context, and if the person has learned the game well, they know that the only “approved anger” is righteous anger. So for the Christian BPD person to express their anger, they have to “dress it up” as righteous anger.

“I’m so disappointed in you. We were working on this (church) project and I called your house and you are not even home. This is NOT the way that someone treats their sister in Christ! I wasted three days because of this. If I had been warned of your sudden disappearance, then I could have solicited someone else to help me. I just think that when you do God’s work you must be faithful. You know, once you put your hand to the plough, you never look back!”

Remember, in this situation you simply went to visit your mother for the weekend and it wasn’t really your friend’s business. But the BPD person will blow it hugely out of proportion. This is where it gets tough. As a sincere Christian, you can be overwhelmed with a false sense of guilt, like you had done something horrible . . . and that’s exactly what the BPD person wants you to feel. They are angry that you “abandoned them” and they want you to pay a hefty price for it.

The BPD person is known best by these “stormy” relationships. They are known second best by their impulsive actions, which seem outrageous.

The best example of this kind of behavior, which I can think of today, is a young lady in my mom’s church. I do think she has BPD plus a couple of other disorders (including a somatization disorder or what they use to call being a hypochondriac.)

This girl (about 28 years old and married) keeps herself at the center of attention of the church with fantastic prayer requests (and amazing miracles) to report. She gets very close to different women, usually using her imagined chronic illnesses to keep them close (fake pregnancies, fake cancer etc.). But she breaks up friendships very quickly and dramatically if someone crosses her or does not live up to her very high expectations (forgetting the anniversary of when she miscarried).

However, last year she was trying to become the official church pianist (vs an older woman who had been the pianist for years). One man, the head deacon (in his late 50s and married) would make the final decision. To make a long story short, she slept with the deacon to get the post and it was exposed (they were caught with their pants down—literally). This seemed to come completely out of the blue, but BPD people often do these outrageous acts (many times either sexual or going into debt).

But sincere women, who want to be their friends, often find their worlds turned upside down in these relationships

The good news, when compared to some of the other disorders, the BPD is treatable and there is hope of near complete recover . . . unless it is not understood.


Jaimie said...

I love your blog. I'm in the process of reading through the archives. I'm in my early 20s, a Christian disenchanted with the Evangelical church. It is so good to read someone with these thoughts.

MJ said...

I think there are more of us out there than (I for one) realized. It is good to know that we are not alone.

I still live in the Evangelical world and it can make me feel like I'm the nutty one, if it wasn't for some of my "Internet" buddies.

Jaimie said...

Yes, I don't plan on leaving the Evangelical world anytime soon. MAYBE if I move and find a good medium. I agree with what you said (back in January, 2008) about liking Donald Miller but disliking his response. If this is truth, we should help everyone not only ourselves. Some can leave but some should stick around.

Anna A said...

Please stick around in there. I couldn't for my own reasons and peace of mind and soul.

But, I will always be glad to encourage those who stay.

And no, the grass is NOT greener where I am. Just with some different, some same problems.

Anonymous said...

Is BPD (as you've described it) related to what's commonly called "Drama-rama" or "Drama Queen"? From your description, it seems that a BPD has "bang-bang" emotional states (i.e. nothing in-between) on a hair trigger.

I experienced something similar in my immediate family for a couple years, never knowing what (if anything) I did or said would trigger an immediate go-for-the-throat counterattack. It was one of several factors that contributed to my estrangement from my parents.

Headless Unicorn Guy

pennyyak said...

Anna, I would agree. Every church will present it's own sort of problems. I stuck around a long time before I left the evangelical world (but never have been able to leave it completely behind, because I loved many things about it, or maybe its just ingrained in me). Not to say that I don't love where I ended up, because I do. But if everybody jumped ship, where would the "ghetto" busters then be found? The ones who shake us out of our complacency? We need them in every church (including mine), I thank God for them, because I so love my comfort. I just can't seem to locate that key scripture, "And I shall provide for your comfort in both mind and body, considering your considerable self-righteousness, and put you among the well-dressed and bathed." No, I guess we all need a good shaking now and then, as individuals and as churches.