Borderline Personality and Mental Health and BDSM: Is there a Connection? PART I

By 2019-09-04Uncategorized

It’s a reasonable question: Does BDSM attack those with mental health issues?

That’s not an easy question to answer. Given the number of people who’ve suffered some form of mental health problem, BDSM is guaranteed to have its fair share of those with issues. But does it actually attract people?

I’ll skip to the good stuff…

I’ve been asked about mental health and BDSM a number of times and I’ve read the tweets from those I follow.

We’ve all dealt with mental health matters. But the one area these tweets, emails and DMs have all shared is the concern that our lifestyle attracts those when associative disorders (narcissistic, sociopathic, psychopathic) and those with Borderline Personality Disorder.

I’ve addressed narcissism, sociopathology/psychopathology in different posts, so I’ll address BPD here. CAVEAT: I am NOT a therapist or even remotely associated with mental health services; I simply do research on the topic.

 

Borderline Personality Disorder, By the Book

The DSM-V asserts that a person must fall into certain criteria to be diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. Those are:

There must be “a pervasive pattern of instability in interpersonal relationships, self-image, and emotion, as well as marked impulsivity beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

  • Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment
  • A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by extremes between idealization and devaluation (also known as “splitting”)
  • Identity disturbance: Markedly or persistently unstable self-image or sense of self
  • Impulsive behavior in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating)
  • Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-harming behavior
  • Emotional instability in reaction to day-to-day events (e.g., intense episodic sadness, irritability, or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days)
  • Chronic feelings of emptiness
  • Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights)
  • Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms

These criteria guide the professionals to their decisions.

 

BPD and BDSM

There are obvious parallels between BDSM aficionados and those with BPD. Most articles and research I’ve read discuss what to do if subs/bottoms are diagnosed Borderline Personality Disorder. I’ve not run across anything beyond opinion that discusses Dominants/tops.

Extreme emotions. That’s the key in all this. Irrationally extreme emotions. Fear and anger being the most prominent extremes.

To be sure, many practitioners of BDSM do talk about fear and display anger, rage at their dynamics partner, especially after a break-up. I have succumbed to that anger, that rage. Most people do, to some extent. However, we aren’t always like that. Fear leads to paranoia too. We wonder what We did wrong.

Dr. Michael Aaron clarifies the criteria some on his blog:

“Borderlines enter relationships already terrified of experiencing rejection and abandonment. As a result, they look to hook the other person in and gain a sense of control over that person so as to ease their fears of losing him/her. This kind of “hooking in” can take the form of portraying oneself as a victim in order to evoke empathy and guilt. Often, the hooking in happens through sex. It may be a stereotype, but research suggests that most borderlines are female. And it may also be a stereotype that borderlines are highly sexual and “great in bed,” but my experience working with both borderlines and people in relationships with borderlines holds that these stereotypes often exist for a reason.”

These extreme emotions, then, lead the person with BPD to view actions—like sex—as the display of love.

They also lead to manipulation of others. The “oh woe is me” attitude Dr. Aaron mentions is all too common in the world, but when it’s combined with the extreme emotions, that’s when it gets dangerous.

In some ways, this hooking in and the high sexual drive are what most submissives have. We vet—at least We SHOULD be vetting—our Dominants and submissives. The willingness to give oneself over to another for sexual gratification is powerful amongst those with BPD.

This is where it differs with “true” BDSM. I place “true” in quotes because I recognize and accept there is no one “true” way to have a dynamic), but the difference here is crucial and seems to be one My research indicates has been overlooked by researchers: The vast majority of BDSM dynamics are NOT about sex, they’re about consent.

The sexual aspect is there, but it’s about consent, giving over one’s body and soul to another. Not about sex.

This is where researchers appear to have veered off track with their research into BPD and BDSM. Some researchers have also overlooked the aspect of masochism with respect to BDSM practioners.

 

STAY TUNED FOR PART II COMING SOON…

Miss Ruby

Miss Ruby

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