When it comes to a physical illness such as a heart attack, gender differences can be undeniably obvious. According to Harvard Medical School, some of these differences include the average age of a first heart attack to the survival rate to treatment. Even symptoms of a heart attack differ between genders in that, women report more throat discomfort, pressing on chest and vomiting, where men report more right-sided chest discomfort, dull aches, and indigestion. As it can be seen, it’s possible for there to be vast differences in the same illness between males and females. When it comes to mental illnesses, these differences can be found too. Unfortunately, with the stigma associated with mental illness, the differences in a disorder such as Borderline Personality Disorder can be traumatic.
Until a few years ago, most have believed that Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) mostly affected women. It was believed that it was three times as common in women as in men, but with recent studies, it was found that the difference of the prevalence in BPD is minimal between genders, if at all. This misunderstanding of the prevalence alone has created a stigma for men who are diagnosed with BPD. This has created a cage around sufferers, making them feel like they are isolated and weighed down because they don’t have the support of other men.
Pete Miller is a mental health professional who has also experienced what it is like to be a male diagnosed with BPD. According to Miller, “In [his] Psychology practice, [he] [does] see BPD more often in female patients than in male patients. In [his] experience about 8 females to every 2 males. Also, when males do attend therapy, they tend to have only a few sessions rather than complete a full intake, diagnosis, and treatment.” Miller later adds that while he does see more women in his practice, he doesn’t believe there are more women affected by BPD than men. Miller believes that due to the stigma associated with BPD, especially being a man with BPD, it is a stressful thing to ask for help and to actually follow through with it.
Farahnaz Mohammed, a writer for Quartz, wrote an article about David O’Garr, a man that struggled with the diagnosis and the stigmas of BPD. Mohammed wrote about some of the stigmas associated with men struggling with BPD, the biggest that they are “abusers, selfish or incapable of love.” This is a bold and extremely false claim that has fueled a fear in men with BPD. This, then, creates further hesitation in getting help for their BPD and the aspects of their life affected by the stigma of BPD. Mohammed goes on to explain that for men that have a significant other or a family it may be exceptionally hard for them because they are preoccupied with a traditional idea of masculinity (as many men are) of being the head of the household. Thus, these men want to earn a living and support their family, and if they are diagnosed with BPD, treatment will require a lot of involvement of the family leading the sufferer to be in a vulnerable place emotionally. This may also require an abundance of time, in order to help him with treatment.
These stigmas against men suffering from BPD are unfair. In a world where we fight for equal rights for all genders, races, we should also be advocating for men with mental illnesses like BPD. In order to put an end to these stigmas, we need to educate ourselves and the people around us to show them that men with BPD are not abusers or in any way different than any of us. They are their own person – they are not their disease and therefore, should not be considered incapable of love for what they are struggling with. We need to accept a mental illness, in men and women, the same way we accept a physical condition like a heart attack between genders. We need to learn to embrace their diagnosis to demonstrate that they are okay and to demonstrate that asking for help is okay. In doing these, we can only hope that more men suffering from any mental illness will realize the falseness to the stigma associated with having a mental illness and will reach out for more help unapologetically and with little fear.
Harvard Medical School. (2016, April). The Heart Attack Gender Gap. Harvard Health Publishing. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/the-heart-attack-gender-gap
Hitti, M. (2005, February 18). Men vs. Women: Confusion Over Heart Symptoms. WebMD. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/news/20050218/men-vs-women-confusion-over-heart-symptoms#1
Meyers, S. (2013, August 22). Understanding Borderline Personality Disorder: Men and Women. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/insight-is-2020/201308/understanding-borderline-personality-disorder-men-and-women
Mohammed, F. (2018, February 13). Modern Medicine is Failing Men by Diagnosing Them with Borderline Personality Disorder. Quartz. Retrieved from https://qz.com/1202985/how-modern-medicine-fails-men-with-borderline-personality-disorder/
Sansone, R. A., & Sansone, L. A. (2011), Gender Patterns in Borderline Personality Disorder. Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience, 8(5), 16-20. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3115767/