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BPD as hysteria in sheep’s clothing: the persistent myth of female instability from ancient greece to modern psychiatry [preview]

In honor of "BPD Awareness Month", we’re taking a critical and eye-opening journey through time to deeply understand the history of the borderline personality disorder diagnostic label, tracing its disturbing roots back to the ancient concept of 'hysteria.'


Together, we’ll explore the pathologization of women's emotions and behaviors from the times of Plato and Hippocrates, through the 19th-century diagnosis of hysteria, to the contemporary label of BPD. We delve into the controversial legacy of Jean-Martin Charcot, whose exploitative and later debunked experiments on "hysterical" women laid the groundwork for modern psychiatry and influenced figures like Sigmund Freud. You’ll also discover how Freud's initial recognition of the trauma and sexual abuse suffered by his female patients morphed into the infamous oedipus complex blaming women for their own distress.


This episode also shines a light on Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD), another modern label that pathologizes the natural cyclical changes in women, reinforcing outdated notions of female instability. Drawing from historical accounts and modern critiques, this episode will reveal how the diagnostic criteria for hysteria were simply repackaged into histrionic personality disorder, and later, BPD. The result is a powerful critique of the psychiatric model, showing how little has changed in the medical gaze on women’s mental health.


Listeners will gain a deeper understanding of the gender biases that persist in psychiatry and how the stigmatization of women’s experiences continues to echo through time. This episode challenges the liberating narrative of mental health labels, urging us to reconsider the origins and implications of these diagnoses. BPD is not just a modern label—it is hysteria in sheep's clothing. By the end of this episode, you'll view BPD and the entire psychiatric model through a new lens, questioning the narratives that have been accepted for centuries.


 RESOURCES: 


✧ Ussher, J. M. (2013). Diagnosing difficult women and pathologising femininity: Gender bias in psychiatric nosology. Feminism & Psychology, 23(1), 63-69. https://doi.org/10.1177/0959353512467968 

✧ BPD = Hysteria? By Amanda Robins via https://www.amandarobinspsychotherapy.com.au/  (October, 2017)

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) – The New Hysteria by Joy Eidse MSW, RSW (November, 2017)

In Search of Hysteria: The Man Who Thought He Could Define Madness (On Jean-Martin Charcot, Dark Star of 19th-Century Neurology) by By Allan H. Ropper and Brian Burrell via LitHub (September, 2019)


UNLOCK THE FULL VERSION OF THIS EPISODE: visit https://www.patreon.com/backfromtheborderline to join the community on Patreon. From here, you'll be able to access all full-length (and ad free!) episodes of BFTB.

 

CONTACT ME CHECK OUT MORE OF MY WORK: To read my Substack articles, access my Amazon book recommendation list, submit a voicemail, or contact me for collaborations, visit backfromtheborderline.com.

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