9 Movies About Borderline Personality Disorder
The stigma associated with poor mental health in the United States and other societies around the world, is all too often a reason people suffering from these issues don’t seek help. One of the ways society learns more about mental illness, its symptoms and consequences, is through storytelling. That lens, in modern society, is often film.
Movies are particularly well-suited to showing how people, their family, friends and colleagues, deal with difficult mental health problems, how their lives sometime unravel, and what it takes to recover.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a very serious condition. It’s characterized by unstable moods, and behavior, self-image concerns, or day-to-day functioning issues.
There are intense periods of depression, anxiety and anger that a person is unable to control.
Research suggests that about 1.4 percent of adults in the U.S. – just under 5 million people – coped with BPD in the last year.
Here are 9 Movies About Borderline Personality Disorder
1. Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
In this film, Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) suffers from bipolar disorder. Tiffany Maxwell (Jennifer Lawrence) is thought by many in the film to have BPD. Her diagnosis is not explicit, but Lawrence’s character displays many bordeline personality symptoms.
The pair find themselves in a relationship and are criticized, at least for a time, by their friends and family while they battle their own illnesses and try to create a life together.
2. Fatal Attraction (1987)
This thriller follows the experience of Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas) after he has an adulterous one-night-stand with Alex Forrest (Glen Close).
Forrest feels put off by Gallagher’s refusal to continue the affair and has a mental break, stalking him, threatening, being violent in one moment and desperately depressed in another.
Some observers believe Forrest’s behavior in the film are indicative of BPD.
3. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Clementine Kruczynski (Kate Winslet), after a difficult breakup with her boyfriend, Joel Barish (Jim Carrey), opts to have her memories of him erased by a medical procedure.
Barish does the same and the film unravels as the pair, tragically, begin to forget about each other.
Clementine’s character is considered a free-spirit in the film, though mental health advocates have written that much of her “free-spirited behavior” is consistent with symptoms of BPD.
4. Girl, Interrupted (1999)
A period film set in the 1960s, Susana Kaysen (Winona Ryder) is hospitalized for BPD, after attempting suicide.
While in the hospital, Kaysen meets Lisa Rowe (Angelina Jolie), another patient who portrays more of the violent and dangerous aspects of BPD.
In the film, Kaysen must decide whether or not to try and heal or, perhaps like Rowe, give in to her mental disorder.
5. Prozac Nation (2001)
Based on a bestselling novel of the same name, this film follows young Elizabeth Wurtzel (Christina Ricci) to her first year at Harvard, and her ensuing struggle with mental illness.
Though Wurtzel’s diagnosis is depression, her unstable identity, troubled relationships, impulsive behavior, fear of abandonment and substance abuse are all indicative of BPD.
6. Single White Female (1992)
In this thriller, Allison Jones (Bridget Fonda) takes on a new roommate, Hedra Carlson (Jennifer Jason Leigh).
The new roommates quickly develop a relationship, but with the return of Jones’s ex-boyfriend, Carlson begins exhibiting BPD symptoms: fear of abandonment, impulsiveness and attempting, sometimes violently, to take over her roommate’s persona.
7. Monster (2003)
This film is based on the real life story of Aileen Wournos (Charlize Theron), a former prostitute who is diagnosed with BPD and turns into a serial killer, killing seven men between 1989 and 1990.
Her diagnosis is thought to have contributed to her unstable, destructive and violent behavior.
8. One Hour Photo (2002)
After years of developing photos for community members, Sy Parrish (Robin Williams) grows obsessed with the potential infidelity of one of his customer’s husbands.
Parrish’s fragile mental health breaks as he starts to believe he must do something about the situation.
The thriller follows this character’s unpredictable, unstable and violent actions – much like a BPD break – throughout the entire film.
9. American Psycho (2000)
Set in 1987 New York City, Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) is young, handsome and a success in the world of finance.
His second life, however, is that of a gruesome serial killer. Many of Bateman’s behaviors point to BPD, but the film is also a metaphor for the shallow, money-grubbing hedonism that was often celebrated in what is sometimes called “the decade of greed.”
Borderline personality disorder can be caused by genetic or environmental factors, although cognitive and dialectical behavioral therapies have shown success for treatment.
The stigma associated with this mental health issue prevents many people from seeking help. Hopefully its portrayal in films will motivate some people to look for help and find ways to cope with their illness. There’s no shame in getting much needed medical assistance.
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