Last Updated on August 25, 2022 by Dr. Ronaye Calvert-Conley
Movies about borderline personality disorder not only bring awareness to the disorder but they also remind those suffering from BPD that they aren’t alone. The people surrounding them may also get a better understanding of the traits and symptoms associated with it. Living with BPD is a struggle—and it’s not easy recovering either.
Mental illness is one of the prevalent health issues affecting our communities. It affects 19% of adult population, 13% of children and 46% of teenagers. While the latter is true, the stigma attached to it has made many shun away from getting help or even accepting their condition. These mental illnesses can present themselves in different versions, i.e., anxiety disorder, eating disorder, post-traumatic disorders, etc. But our main focus in this article is Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).
Borderline personality disorder—a severe mental illness characterized by unstable moods, etc.—is the most misdiagnosed, misunderstood, and stigmatized mental condition. What’s even worse is that some mental health professionals, according to studies, refuse to treat people suffering from this illness—labeling them ‘treatment resistant.’
To end the stigma and encourage the 1.6% of BPD victims, the U.S. Congress introduced Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness Month, which has served more than the intended purpose—many are now aware.
We’ve highlighted and analyzed some of the movies about BPD and how they depict the symptoms. But before that:
What is borderline personality disorder?
A brief explanation of this illness is; a disorder associated with mental instability, i.e., the way one thinks about themselves, which affects their daily life. Its symptoms may include struggling with managing one’s emotions, self-image issues, unstable relations, among many others.
Initially, people assumed that it wasn’t treatable. But this isn’t true. With the proper medication and therapy, the victim has all the chances to live a normal life.
7 Movies about borderline personality disorder
- Welcome to me
This is among the most remarkable documentaries about borderline personality disorder. Alice Klieg (Kristen Wiig) is diagnosed with BPD. She wins a lottery, and the attention she gets frustrates her. She foregoes the treatment she’s getting and uses her money to make her own show—Welcome to Me. She shows her previous experiences through this platform, thus exposing her unhealed wounds.
- Girl, Interrupted 1999
Directed by James Mangold, Girl, Interrupted features Susanna Kaysen, who attends a local psychiatric hospital after overdosing on alcohol and aspirin. She meets people with different mental illnesses, herself being diagnosed with BPD. She particularly meets and engages with Lisa Rowe (Angelina Jolie), a sociopath who tells her to quit taking her medication as well as resist therapy.
The friendship leads Kaysen to a difficult path that jeopardizes her recovery. And eventually, Kaysen is left with a tough decision of whether to end her friendship or recover from BPD.
This film was released in 1982 and starred Jessica Lange as Frances Farmer. Based on a true story, it’s documented from her days as a student when she wins $100, gets married, cheats, leaves Hollywood for Group Theatre, and returns to Hollywood, leading to great failure. She suffers mental breakdowns after she sabotages her career. She struggles with BPD, which leads to her institutionalization, and later, after a hard time, deinstitutionalized—it follows a better ending.
Lange was awarded the Best Actress in the Golden Globe nomination and won an Academy Award after critics hailed her role.
- Silver lining playbook (2012)
The romantic comedy-drama film features Bradley Cooper as Patrizio Solitano Jr alias ‘Pat.’ He is a man with bipolar disorder released from the psychiatric hospital after eight months of treatment. He moves back in with his parents and is determined to win his estranged wife back. However, things take a different turn as he meets Tiffany Maxwell (Jennifer Lawrence), a young widow exhibiting all signs of BPD.
The movie was well-received and earned Lawrence an award for Best Actress.
- Prozac Nation (2001)
The movie describes Elizabeth Wurtzel’s experience with atypical depression. As a young Harvard Freshman raised by a single mother, she misses her father, regardless of his disinterest in being involved with her life. This is the main contributor to her depression. She goes through a series of events that eventually put her career, physical, and mental state at risk. She’s then sent to a psychiatric institution where—when the movie ends—she stabilizes and adjusts to her life.
- Eternal Sunshine of the spotless mind
The film earned an Academy Award and Golden Globe nomination. It’s a science-fiction-based romantic comedy/drama that shows an estranged couple who erased their memories of each other. Jim Carrey (Joel Barish) and the free-spirited Kate Winslet (Clementine Kruczynski) develop a central conflict that leads clementine to undergo the memory-erasing procedure. The movie doesn’t tell us about her diagnosis, but it’s made clear from her substance abuse, impulsivity, emotional intensity, and devaluation of Joel.
These mental breakdowns possibly indicate that she struggles with BPD.
- Uncut Gems (2019)
Howard Ratner (Sandler) is a Jewish-American jeweler addicted to gambling. He gets so many debts, and to pay them off, he has to retrieve an expensive gem he bought. He suffers a roller coaster of emotions which brings chaos to the lives of those around him.
Note: not all the BPD movies and movies about borderline personality disorder highlighted above gave their characters a diagnosis of borderline personality disorders. Instead, the signs they exhibited made the assumption.
Documentaries about Borderline Personality Disorder
Environmental and genetic factors may cause borderline personality disorder. The symptoms may vary and sometimes can even overlap with other mental illnesses. Its treatment is, in most cases, successful—includes cognitive and dialectical behavioral therapies.
With over 1.4% of people struggling with the illness, some still go undiagnosed, which may make their symptoms unbearable. Luckily the BPD movies listed above may display some signs and act as an eye-opener for those living with it.