I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) by a psychiatrist about 5 years ago, and I have been in some form of treatment ever since. I feel like I am finally making progress and getting more control over my symptoms. I’ve even started seeking out more social connections and recently started dating someone. Now that I am forming new relationships, I am wondering when and if I should tell people about my BPD diagnosis.
First, good for you for getting the help you need and for starting to put yourself out there for relationships! You are entering a very important (and sometimes stressful) part of the recovery process — many people with BPD withdraw from relationships because intimacy can trigger so many emotions and symptoms. But, getting back into relationships is a very healthy step.
The choice to disclose your BPD diagnosis depends on a few different variables, including your own need for privacy and comfort with disclosure, your relationship with the other person, and the context of your relationship.
First, there is your personal comfort level. Are you someone who feels comfortable with others’ knowing private details, or do you prefer to keep private information off the table? If you are uncomfortable with disclosure, keep that in mind when making the decision about whether to tell the other person that you have BPD.
Next, consider your relationship with this person. How long have you known them? Are they one of the people you would consider yourself to be very close to? Or are they a more distant friend or relative? Do they need to know about your BPD because they are affected by the symptoms and need an explanation? Or are you motivated to tell them simply because you feel the need to share and get support?
Finally, consider the context of the relationship. For example, it is safer to tell a family friend about your diagnosis than a work colleague.
There is no definitive way to know whether disclosing your diagnosis is a good or bad decision, but if you consider all of the factors above, you may find yourself closer to an answer. The most important thing is that you take the time to think it through and make an intentional decision about whether or not to tell (rather than making a decision in the moment that you may regret later). Take it on a case-by-case basis whenever possible.
If you have a therapist or other professional support person, this is definitely the sort of decision that you may want to consult with them about.
It is important to remember that there is considerable (undeserved) stigma about the BPD diagnosis. So, if you do decide to tell someone that you have BPD, it may make sense to also provide them with some information about the diagnosis, the symptoms, and the prognosis. The “What is BPD?” fact sheet is a good place to start.
Aviram RB, Brodsky BS, Stanley B. “Borderline Personality Disorder, Stigma, and Treatment Implications.” Harvard Review of Psychiatry. 14(5):249-256, 2006.