Potential Misdiagnosis


Potential Misdiagnosis


your avatar   Confused (21 year-old woman)

Hi there, I am a 21 year old student in my fourth semester in college. This is an odd situation for me and I am a bit confused as to what I should do. When I was a child, I was sexually abused for over ten years, along with physical and mental abuse from my family. I never told anyone.

Two years ago I was suicidal - it was the only time I had ever been suicidal - and the police took me into protective custody and put me in a psychiatric hospital for the weekend. I took tests there and I was told that I had BPD and depression. They then set me up with a psychiatrist and therapist. They asked me why I wanted to commit suicide, and kept asking me uncomfortable questions that I could not answer. I went there three times and did not go back - I just did not feel comfortable.

I have not thought about suicide since, I have never cut myself, and I do not have any eating disorders. When they said I had BPD, I read all kinds of things about it and I felt most of those things were true about me (the mood swings, panic, nervousness, dizziness, nausea and nightmares) but I did not feel manipulative or anything like that. I feel a little depressed sometimes and I have not been able to sleep well since. I have been going to a regular physician who has prescribed many different sleeping medications, but none of them seem to be working.

I feel I have a healthy relationship with my friends - I love them and they love me. I don't talk to anyone about my family, but I don't mind that. I feel lonely and depressed most of the time, but that is only because I have not found anyone to relate to and who understands what I am going through.

Do you think they may have given me the wrong diagnosis? Do I actually need medication to fix whatever is wrong with me? If so, should I try to see a different mental health professional that I can feel comfortable talking to, or is it just normal for me to not feel comfortable talking to them?


    Bob Rich, Ph.D.

Dear "Confused",

You are perfectly right. Trust your intuition. From what you have written, you do not suffer from BPD. So-called 'Borderline Personality Disorder' is a problem for people who never managed to learn certain social skills: how to form healthy attachments to other people, how to accept a person even with faults and irritating mannerisms, and how to behave appropriately in the complex matrix of human affairs.

You wrote: "I also feel I have a healthy relationship with my friends - I love them and they love me." This alone disconfirms the diagnosis of BPD for you. I hate labels like that. You are obviously intelligent and resilient enough not to have given in to the negative magic of the label, but sure as anything the "experts" you worked with have been affected by it. They reacted to the wretched label, not to you as a person.

That therapist you saw for three sessions who made you feel uncomfortable should change occupations. The first task for any therapist is to unconditionally accept the client, to give warm positive regard and to show empathy. No therapeutic relationship can be established without these attitudes on the therapist's part, and without a good therapeutic relationship, it's a waste of time.

You didn't indicate the country you live in, and I wish you'd left an email address. However, wherever you live, there will be psychologists with all sorts of orientations, and a full range of competence from hopeless to brilliant. In most countries, there is a national association of psychologists (e.g., the American Psychological Association) which has a referral base. Typically, you can phone them for the cost of a local call. If so, contact them and ask for a therapist who practices Narrative Therapy. Also, in most places, there are free or subsidized services for the survivors of rape and serious sexual abuse. Check these out and make use of them. You will find acceptance, understanding and help there.

You don't need drugs to solve your problems. You need to apply your undoubted intelligence and courage, and grow inside, beyond the scar tissue. My dear, you can do it.

If you read this, email me.


This question was answered by Dr. Bob Rich. Dr. Rich has 30+ years of experience as a psychotherapist. Dr. Rich is also a writer and a "mudsmith". Bob is now retired from psychological practice, but still works with people as a counselor.For more information visit: http://anxietyanddepression-help.com

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"The worst loneliness is to not be comfortable with yourself."
Mark Twain
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