The Mystery of Borderline Personality Disorder

People with borderline personality disorder are some of psychology's hardest cases. Many commit suicide. But recent treatment advances are unlocking what was once a mystery illness

Photo-illustration for TIME by Andree Kahlmorgan; Images by iStockphoto

Doctors used to have poetic names for diseases. A physician would speak of consumption because the illness seemed to eat you from within. Now we just use the name of the bacterium that causes the illness: tuberculosis. Psychology, though, remains a profession practiced partly as science and partly as linguistic art.

Because our knowledge of the mind's afflictions remains so limited, psychologists — even when writing in academic publications — still deploy metaphors to understand difficult disorders. And possibly the most difficult of all to fathom — and thus one of the most creatively named — is the mysterious-sounding borderline personality...

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