In no way diminishing the seriousness of the Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, the rapidly increasing number of cases and deaths bring to mind the staggering statistics of a health condition with which I am very familiar – Borderline Personality Disorder.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, as of March 14, 2020, 142,539 individuals have been infected by Covid-19 in 135 countries around the globe. Of these, 5,393 people have died from the disease.
Both the World Health Organization and numerous countries have declared the epidemic a major health emergency. And rightly so. There is much to learn about how the Covid-19 virus originated, why it so easily spreads and when the epidemic might end. Quite naturally, it is of great concern to every one of the nearly 8 billion people who populate the planet Earth.
Here’s one of mine:
An article published in the journal Psychiatric Clinics of North America, estimated the population prevalence of BPD in the U.S.to be 1% of the 330 million residents, or 3.3 million Americans who meet criteria for BPD. Comparing BPD and Coronavirus is clearly an “oranges and apples” comparison, but the numeric disparity between the two health conditions is staggering. And yet there is, and has long been, little widespread concern about the broad reach and impact of the devastating mental disorder that is BPD. Most media coverage related to BPD is equally dismal, and too often counter-productive.
Granted there are fundamental differences between an acute health condition like Covid-19 and a chronic condition like BPD. Acute conditions are by definition short term and highly treatable. Chronic conditions such as diabetes and asthma evolve slowly over time. While chronic conditions can be managed with medication and lifestyle adjustments they are relatively resistant to complete recovery.
One reason for this dichotomy is likely due to the irrational stigma that has long been attached to mental illnesses. While such beliefs should be debunked, they nonetheless persist.
Coronavirus is creating a great deal of stress and anxiety. For people living with mental health conditions like BPD, their emotional responses can be even greater in intensity. Fortunately there’s a very thoughtful and well written article published by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention that provides an excellent menu of supportive ideas for people who may be feeling overwhelmed during these worrisome times.
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