The REAL Number of People with BPD

by Jade S

The difficulty and expense of identifying brain disorders makes it difficult to accurately pinpoint the number of people who suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder.  Various methods of scanning the brain, including fMRIs, have been invented in our recent technological boom; unfortunately many of them are unavailable to the masses, even to scholars committed to the diagnosis and treatment of this disorder.  

Most accepted reports about the rate of occurrence of BPD estimate the number around 1-2% of the population.  Where is everyone getting this information?  How outdated has our research become in light of the new abilities we have to study the brain on such varied scales?  The National Institutes of Health of the U.S. Department  of Health and Human Services reports, in a mass interview study of over 34,000 subjects, a prevalence of a 5.9% occurrence of Borderline Personality Disorder was found among the participant1.

Granted, this study was just an interview, but done on a mass scale and reported in 2009, it is just one of the growing number of reports I have come across in my recent years that the real number of people suffering from Borderline has risen to 6%.  Likely this is just an effect of better health care and knowledge of mental illness in general, instead of an actual rise in occurrences of the disorder.  In other words, more people aren't necessarily getting sick; the sick people are simply coming out into the light, out of the woodwork, so to speak. 

I suspect, as does a specialist I am in contact with, that the number may be much higher than 6%.  How can we confirm or disprove this suggestion that Borderline is highly underdiagnosed, misunderstood, and underdeveloped as a concept in modern science and medical treatments?  The answer: more education, better use of improved technology, newer and more accurate studies of mental illness and its devastating effect on our health.  Perhaps with the strength of the many of us who live with BPD, we can improve the state of our societies' treatment of this illness.

1.Prevalence, Correlates, Disability, and Comorbidity of DSM-IV Borderline Personality Disorder: Results from the Wave 2 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions

Bridget F. Grant, S. Patricia Chou, Risë B. Goldstein, Boji Huang, Frederick S. Stinson, Tulshi D. Saha, Sharon M. Smith, Deborah A. Dawson, Attila J. Pulay, Roger P. Pickering, W. June Ruan
J Clin Psychiatry. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2009 May 4.
Published in final edited form as: J Clin Psychiatry. 2008 April; 69(4): 533–545.
PMCID: 
PMC2676679

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