Discrimination against Cluster B personality disorders

In the face of any tragedy or political disaster, people with mental illnesses can always expect to be among the collateral damage. Whenever there is a mass shooting or a hate crime, the media is quick to label the perpetrator as mentally ill regardless of whether or not they meet the criteria for any diagnosable condition. Public speculation is rampant over the mental health of politicians.

Those who fall under a certain category of mental illness, known as Cluster B personality disorders, face the most scapegoating and discrimination. According to the Mayo Clinic, “a personality disorder is a type of mental disorder in which you have a rigid and unhealthy pattern of thinking, functioning and behaving.” In Cluster B personality disorders, these patterns generally involve dramatic and emotional behavior.

The Cluster B personality disorders include four specific disorders: Antisocial, Narcissistic, Borderline and Histrionic. Antisocial personality disorder is often referred to as sociopathy, and often includes impulsive and aggressive behavior. Narcissistic personality disorder often causes the person diagnosed to act as though they are better than others. Borderline personality disorder tend to have an unstable sense of identity. Histrionic personality disorder often makes the person diagnosed consistently try to seek attention.

It is easy to understand why these conditions are so stigmatized since “sociopath,” “narcissist,” and “attention seeking” are common insults. One article, titled “How to Train Your Borderline,” refers to said hypothetical person with BPD as a “woman-child” and a “ball-busting, bitchy female.” According to a 2013 report in the Lewis & Clark Law Review, children labeled as having ASPD are more likely to be tried as adults and given life sentences under the false assumption that they are more likely to offend again, even though ASPD cannot be diagnosed before 18.

This discrimination is especially harmful given that these disorders by definition cause distress to the people experiencing them. Not only that, Cluster B disorders often — but not always — result from trauma.

It is true people with these disorders can cause trouble for others — as can everyone — and this should not be sugarcoated or excused. But this also drives home the importance of humanizing people with Cluster B PDs. Stigmatizing them can prevent people from seeking treatment, and also drive them further into their behavior.

No matter what conditions someone has, they are still human.