Movies That Depict Borderline Personality Disorder

Michael Fassbender in Steve McQueen’s “Shame”

Fish Tank (2009) — Mia

Mia’s aggression despite her need for closeness from her friendships, her mother and her sibling is a defense mechanism built up from fear of rejection. Even in moments where she is almost ready to be vulnerable, she defends herself and blocks it with anger.

Shame (2011)— Brandon

Brandon’s inability to form trusting relationships begins a reliance on sexual contact for intimacy. His charm disguises a lack of stable identity.

Softness of Bodies (2018) — Charlotte

Charlotte’s consistent acting out / meltdowns, patterns of hysteria are familiar to everyone, including her roommate. Her reaction to just slightly stressful situations is as intense as it is for bigger ones. With each emotional outburst and she acts as thought is is novel and gigantic in importance, despite usual occurrence ie her roommate tells his boyfriend at dinner, “She’s always like that”.

Joker (2019) — Arthur

Arthur’s total alienation and isolation is representative of the total alienation and isolation of his deep suffering. He tries to address it but no matter who he speaks with, no one is able to understand his pain — not even himself.

Love (2015) — Electra

Electra’s fear of abandonment becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. When it is finally realized, in its full devastation by her ‘favorite person’, it completely destroys her.

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ORIGINS:

Borderline Personality Disorder is a mental health condition characterized by a disruptive pattern of thinking, extreme emotions and a lack of epistemic trust. Borderline is thought to emerge during early childhood when an infant forms an identity separate from their mother through ‘mirroring’. Healthy attachment begins when a mother is able to accurate mirror a child’s anger, sadness, happiness etc and thus form in the child an image of themselves as angry, sad, happy. etc. When a mother is unable to mirror the infant’s emotions (eg neglect, alexithymia) the infant does not form a stable, secure and trustworthy sense of self.

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TREATMENT:

Borderline Personality Disorder can be treated with DBT to control and decrease intense negative emotions that might escalate to self-harm and suicide. Useful strategies include coping ahead, distraction, urge surfing and TIPP skills (eg putting an ice cube on your forehead or jumping into cold water to reverse your vagus nerve). Other therapies include psychedynamic therapy which can treat the fear of abandonment and MBT which can form the absent mentalization skills.

Upon seeking treatment, borderlines have a high percentage of recovery. In a six year study, it was found that 2 years after hospitalization, 35 percent of people with BPD no longer met criteria for the disorder. After four years, 69 percent did not meet the criteria and after the 6 year period, a full 74 percent of the patients did not meet the criteria. This is why BPD has been called ‘the Good Prognosis’.

RESOURCES:

Dr. Marsha Linehan’s DBT Addiction Skills series on Vimeo

Borderline Hotline at TARA BPD (1–888–4-TARABPD)

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