Tag Archives: Borderline Personality Disorder

What causes mental illness and do you have any choice?

The common medical assumption is that mental illness is the result of multi-faceted vulnerabilities in combination with stressors. A person may have some vulnerability markers but those alone are not likely to result in mental illness without biologic, social, or environmental stressors “turning on” the markers.

If you want to see this model in action, you should watch a most troubling episode of “Independent Lens” on your local PBS channel. It aired in Philadelphia last night. You can find more about the episode here on their website and watch clips of the show.

The hour long episode follows a 16 year old girl, Cyntoia, facing life for murder. You will see extended conversation with the girl, her adoptive mother, her biological mother (who she never really related to). Her bio mother drank throughout her pregnancy, smoked crack and prostituted herself. Cyntoia was being prostituted and was at a “john’s” house when she shot him thinking he was going to kill her.

You can see that Cyntoia probably meets criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder. Watch her mother for a bit and you can see that she comes by it quite naturally. They both have a similar pattern of speech and attitude. There is a long history of suicide and paranoia in the extended family. Very interesting to see how this young woman talks to the forensic psychiatrist.


Watch and wonder how Cyntoia could have avoided her predicament. She started out with poor genes, alcohol exposure and poor attachment opportunities. She lists 36 people she had sex with (she felt obligated to have sex with those who wanted her). The issues are legion.

Even more brutal is to watch the interviews with her adoptive mother who is trying to wrap her head around the facts that come out during the investigation. Watch also how Cyntoia talks about her and to her. Notice that there is love.

Very rarely would you get this kind of information from 3 generations of rape and sexual abuse (and adoptive mother’s story).

Watch the episode and consider this question: just how much choice do some people have? Even with her incredible insights (e.g., “everybody wants admiration, everybody wants to be desired. That is my **** problem too.”), this young woman had 3 strikes against her.

The truth is we often believe people have easy choices to avoid trouble. Cyntoia’s story reminds us that trouble begins generations before some people are conceived.And even when we acknowledge that Cyntoia could have made choices to tell adults about her abuse or to escape her pimp, we are left with the gnawing question, would we have made any different choice if in her place? For the record, I am a firm believer in that we do have choices to make. But some have a whole lot more than others and the roadsigns to better choices are bigger for some of us than others.

Challenging story which also pulls on your vision of redemption, restoration and appropriate punishment for minors who commit murder.


Filed under Abuse, addiction, cultural apologetics, Psychology, stories, suffering

Last chance for cheap Counseling CEs!

My weekend course on Counseling individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder begins this Friday night (6 pm) at Biblical Seminary. Class meets 3 hours on Friday and then from 9 to 5 on Saturday. It is not too late to sign up for CEs. If you are LPC and in need of a bunch of continuing education, these will count towards your requirements.

Check out this page for more information on CEs at Biblical and how to register.

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Filed under biblical counseling, Biblical Seminary, christian counseling, christian psychology, personality, Psychology

Emotional Arousal: Too much or too little?

I am doing some prep for my upcoming class on the treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). [Links: summer institute brochure, and CEU information for LPCs] Many theorize that BPD is really a problem of emotional (over) sensitivity resulting from a combination of psychological factors (trauma, loss, attachment injuries, or chronic invalidation) and biological predispositions (high base-line emotional experiences, slow return to baseline once activated, and chronic and inappropriate scanning environment for danger).

If a person is prone to intense emotional experiences, they are likely to get the message that their emotional expression is out of line. Thus, they may either try to avoid emotions (leaving them less aware of how they feel and maybe more likely to be taken advantage of) or give in and respond out of their full expression (leaving them less likely to be able to solve the problem given their high state of arousal).

Are you a person of high emotional arousal? Do you know or live with one? Do you struggle with thinking that high arousal is wrong? Theoretically, most of us do not think strong emotions are wrong. But practically those who experience their own intense emotions and those who live with them do think they are wrong. “I shouldn’t feel this way…she shouldn’t feel that way.”

Counselors do not seek the goal of eliminating or even tempering emotions. What they seek is to avoid the “why” or “because” that often follows the strong feelings. It appears that the big problem is not the feelings but the beliefs and interpretations that one holds during and after the emotional experience. I feel this way because…(I’m stupid, a loser) or because…(others hate me) leads to cementing emotions and beliefs together in such a way that lead to more easily experiencing invalidation.

Looking to get into this a whole lot more in a few weeks (July 30-31)!


Filed under counseling, counseling science, counseling skills, Psychology, Uncategorized

Summer Counseling Courses

Want to learn more about counseling this summer? Are you in ministry and want to sharpen your skills? Already a licensed mental health provider and need CEUs*? Want to explore…

  • How to counsel people diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder?
  • How to help those diagnosed with a chronic condition?
  • How to use the Old Testament better in counseling?
  • How to better understand and evaluate the major models of counseling?

Just a reminder that this summer Biblical is offering 4 electives for students, alum and any auditors who might find the topics of interest. The first three of the four courses are only one credit and delivered in a weekend formats(Friday night and Saturday) with some pre-class reading/assignments. The fourth is a two credit course delivered in a completely on-line format.

For information about each of these course, the professors, the costs, and how to apply, click this link. It will take you to the Biblical website and a PDF of our flyer.

* Note: For those seeking CEUs, there are two ways you may be able to count them as fulfillment of your licensure requirements. Biblical Seminary is an accredited graduate institution and these courses are offered as graduate education in counseling and psychology. Most mental health licensure bodies accept graduate courses (shown on a transcript) as meeting the requirements for approved CE providers. You will need to check with your board to see if that applies to you. Second, we have applied for CE provider status for my class (Borderline Personality Disorder) from the State Board of Social Work, Marriage & Family Therapy, & Professional Counseling. If approved, we will be able to provide licensed attendees with 9 clock hours at the cost of ONLY $175.

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Filed under biblical counseling, Biblical Seminary, christian counseling, christian psychology, counseling science, counseling skills, History of Psychology, Psychology, teaching counseling, Uncategorized

Facial change recognition speed and personality problems

Read a study recently where the researchers discovered that folks with a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder are markedly faster in their ability to discern subtle affective change in facial expressions than the general population. This data from the study also suggests that this population of people DO NOT make more mistakes in assessing mood than the general population.

Why would some folks be more sensitive to very subtle affect changes in others? The study didn’t attempt to answer that but I suspect it is because they (a) needed to be vigilant to potential danger, (b) they themselves are highly emotional, and (c) they have been “schooled” to believe that others are more right in their assessments and so they should accept other people’s feelings as more true. 


Filed under Abuse, personality, Uncategorized