Updated: Jul 14
Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a mental health condition that affects millions of people worldwide. Although it is commonly associated with women, BPD can equally affect men. There may be differences in how the symptoms may present in men compared to women, but surprisingly it's more so the same.
This article will focus on the experience of men with BPD, including the causes, symptoms, and impact of BPD on relationships.
Stigma and Gender Imbalance in BPD Diagnosis for Men
As a man diagnosed with BPD, I often encounter people who are surprised upon learning of my diagnosis. Unfortunately, this response is not uncommon and highlights the social stigma surrounding BPD, which can make men with the condition feel like their emotions are invalid or wrong.
Statistics show that women are more often diagnosed with BPD than men. One possible explanation for this trend is that BPD symptoms are more socially acceptable in women than in men. Societal norms may make it easier for women to seek help and receive a diagnosis since certain traits associated with the condition, such as emotional sensitivity and fear of abandonment, are more widely accepted in women than in men. There exists a cultural expectation that men should be strong and not show emotion. This stereotype can be damaging, particularly for men who struggle with mental health issues. Men may feel ashamed or embarrassed to express their emotions, leading them to bottle up their feelings or suppress them altogether.
The pressure on men to be emotionally stoic is rooted in gender norms and expectations that have been reinforced over generations. However, it's important to recognize that these stereotypes are not inherently true or healthy. Men have just as much right to feel and express emotions as women do, and it's crucial for individuals to have the freedom to express themselves in a healthy and constructive way.
Diagnostic biases may be another reason why women are diagnosed with BPD more often than men. Research has suggested that mental health professionals may be more likely to diagnose women with BPD compared to men, even when men present with similar symptoms. Men may be more likely to be misdiagnosed with other conditions such as substance abuse, autism, or antisocial personality disorder, which can also contribute to the gender imbalance in BPD diagnoses. It's important to note that regardless of gender, seeking professional help for BPD symptoms is important for managing the disorder and improving quality of life.
What causes BPD in males
Regardless of gender, the causes of BPD are not fully understood and may vary from person to person. However, research suggests that childhood trauma or neglect may be a contributing factor for both men and women who develop BPD. Genetics may also play a role in the development of the disorder in both genders. One of the most significant environmental factors that contribute to the development of BPD is an invalidating environment, particularly during childhood.
An invalidating environment is one in which an individual's emotional experiences are consistently dismissed or invalidated by others. This can take many forms, such as emotional neglect, physical or sexual abuse, or constant criticism and invalidation from caregivers or peers. Children who grow up in these environments may struggle to develop a strong sense of self and may turn to maladaptive coping mechanisms such as self-harm, substance abuse, or impulsive behaviors. So while there may be some differences in how the disorder manifests in men compared to women, the underlying causes of BPD are similar for both genders.
Symptoms of BPD in males
BPD in men can manifest differently compared to women. While both genders may exhibit symptoms such as fear of abandonment, emotional instability, and splitting behavior, men with BPD tend to show more externalizing and overt symptoms than women. For instance, men with BPD are more likely to engage in impulsive and risky behaviors such as substance abuse, gambling, and reckless driving. Additionally, they may struggle with anger management and have a propensity to lash out at others when they feel threatened or abandoned. In contrast, women with BPD may be more inclined to experience identity issues, difficulties with self-image, and a sense of self-identity. They may also encounter more intense and frequent mood swings and are more prone to engage in self-harming behaviors such as cutting or burning themselves. However, it is essential to note that these differences are not absolute, and both genders can experience a broad range of BPD symptoms.
And since men may feel like they are expected to be strong and stoic, seeking help for their emotional struggles may be seen as a sign of weakness. This can lead to hesitancy to seek treatment or talk about their struggles, which can prolong the duration and severity of their symptoms. It's important to note that these gender differences are not absolute, and there is a significant overlap in the symptoms experienced by men and women with BPD. Additionally, individual differences in personality, life experiences, and other factors can have a greater impact on symptom presentation than gender.
BPD males in relationships
BPD can significantly impact relationships for men, just as it does for women. Men with BPD may struggle to form and maintain stable relationships, leading to feelings of loneliness and isolation. They may also have difficulty with emotional regulation, leading to conflicts with partners and loved ones.
Men with BPD may face unique challenges in forming and maintaining relationships due to societal expectations around masculinity and emotional expression. They may feel pressure to suppress their emotions or hide their vulnerability in order to avoid appearing "weak" or "unmanly." This can make it difficult for men with BPD to form meaningful connections with others and to receive the emotional support they need.
Additionally, men with BPD may be more prone to using substances or engaging in risky behaviors as a way to cope with their symptoms and emotions. This often doesn't go unnoticed by their partner and further strains their relationships and leads to a cycle of dysfunction and instability.