Dads with Borderline Personality Disorder can be good parents, but it takes a little more effort, says psychology expert

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) belongs to a larger group of mental health conditions called Cluster B personality disorders. All Cluster B conditions are distinguished by varying degrees of erratic behavior, difficulty maintaining emotional control and an inability to control impulsive or reckless behaviors.

By Justin K. Thomas

September 1, 2017

According to Michael A. Klein PsyD, a psychology expert, and principal advisor at MK Insights LLC, fathers who suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder, can lead fulfilling lives with their families, but there are difficulties beneath the surface that many people do not understand or even know exists.

“When using the traditional psychoanalytic term ‘Borderline’ there are varying levels of this cluster of symptoms,” Klein said. “Those [suffering from BPD] who are extremely intelligent or articulate can appear, and be, quite successful publicly while quietly fighting emotional ‘demons’ and maintaining some stability, however tumultuous, in their relationships.”

The National Institutes of Mental Health states that BPD is a severe mental disorder that is marked by patterns of ongoing volatility in self-image, behavior, and social functioning. Men with BPD may experience intense episodes of anger, depression, and anxiety that may last for a few days or a couple of hours.

BPD as a concept has been considered an official personality disorder since 1980, said Klein. And prior to that, it was primarily used in the psychoanalytic community to describe a level of psychological functioning that existed between psychotic disorders such as Schizophrenia and more everyday behavior, which is traditionally known as “garden variety neurotic.”

Earlier scientific research concluded that women were more likely than men to suffer from BPD. However, most recent findings have determined that the prevalence of the condition between the two genders are about the same, according to the 2011 study, Gender Patterns in Borderline Personality Disorder.

Due to the age of the person, Klein said that BPD is often time confused with other mental disorders because the underlying symptoms are easily overlooked and misinterpreted upon psychological examination.

“BPD can’t be diagnosed accurately until early adulthood since adolescent behavior can overlap with many typical BPD symptoms,” he said. “It is believed that the disorder exists equally among men and women although it is far easier for men to be misdiagnosed.”

Klein also stated that BPD is not a condition that only negatively impacts "everyday" fathers but fathers from all walks of life.

Brandon Marshall, a husband and father of two kids and current player in the NFL underwent a clinical evaluation nearly a decade ago, followed by a neurological exam, then received his diagnosis: borderline personality disorder. However, after receiving treatment, Marshall said he was ready to face the world with his family by his side and help other people, according to an ESPN article.

The article stated that Marshall set an ambitious goal: become for mental health as what Magic Johnson is for HIV. He wants to make a taboo subject such as BPD, commonplace. He's been teaming with numerous mental health organizations over the years to raise awareness and reaching out to players throughout the league who might need help.

Brandon Marshall (right) has come a long way since he was initially diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. He plans to continually promote mental health advocacy in a variety of ways.

Photo Courtesy of ESPN

Regarding family concerns, Klein said that fatherhood is more problematic for men suffering from BPD.

“Men with BPD can excel in certain areas of their life while suffering in others,” he said. “It can make fulfilling familial responsibilities much harder. But, addressing personal mental health issues via therapy can significantly enhance a parent’s ability to understand their impact on their children’s lives.”

Klein stated that children who frequently witness temperament changes in their fathers’ behavior are often inclined to seek out validation and security through alternative means.

“It is challenging for family members to be objective about [their parents’] behavioral patterns,” said Klein. “Children who live with parents that have severe mental health issues which include mood swings, substance abuse and psychotic episodes often seek stability in the homes of their friends. Therefore, they ‘adopt’ families when their own home life has become too dramatic.”

Klein’s advice for fathers who may or may not suffer from BPD is to seek professional psychological assistance and keep an open line of truthful and frank communication.

“Confronted and treated, a BPD diagnosis can enhance parenting skills,” he said. “While we may think we know best, trained professionals can provide insight and practical help so that a parent can face distressing moments. Involving psychological professionals is a sign of strength, not weakness. Most importantly, honest and open dialogue between family members can be tremendously helpful for rebuilding or strengthening relationships.”

In addition to providing businesses consulting, management and employee leadership development services, Klein is the author of the book, “Trapped in the Family Business."