What is BPD? Part One.

I usually write blogs about David and loved ones of people in prison because I am passionate about the lives of people in prison. So why the hell am I poking my nose into Borderline Personality Disorders (BPD)??

Because 80% of the people in our prisons are affected by BPD. That’s not a rough guess. In January 2020, The Royal College of Psychiatrists published a Position Statement.

Services for people diagnosable with personality disorders. (PS01/20)

The following statistics relate to our criminal justice system in their Epidemiology of borderline personality disorders (Evans et al, 2017)

  • Community prevalence: 4.4%
  • Up to 80% prison population
  • Five times more likely to offend with BPD, compared to no BPD.
  • 3.5 times more likely to have incidences of serious violence with BPD, compared to no BPD.

It’s not just the lives of the individual with BPD that are affected. It has an impact on everyone around them, including loved ones, prison staff, other prisoners and pad mates. That is why I care so much about BPD.

David and I watched this video last night of Holly Daglish, a former HMP Governor, who has found the courage to talk publicly about her mental ill- health for the first time. Everyone who watched it has been reduced to tears. Apart from us.

Do we have hearts of stone? No, we just recognised ourselves in Holly. We know how she thinks, feels and behaves because this is our reality too. We are both diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), with quite a number of co-morbid conditions between us. (He has more than me!)

I have a deep admiration for Holly and it prompted me to consider if I should open up and share my story to raise awareness and help others with BPD. But, I hit 50 this year, which means I’ve been wearing this mask for a long, long time. I’m not sure I’m ready to remove it yet, but I’m going to put my big girl pants on and take off my mask in Part Two.

I’m not going to tell you all the gory details about my childhood because it’s none of your business. I’m not here to shock or horrify you, I’m not seeking attention and I certainly don’t crave your sympathy or help.

I was exposed to Adverse Childhood Experiences.

I avoid talking about my mental health and the most I will give away is “I’ve had problems with depression and anxiety in the past” occasionally I will goes as far as saying “I’ve been diagnosed with BPD.” Most people assume that BPD mean Bi-Polar Disorder and that I’m a manic depressive with a touch of the old Kayne West. That’s fine with me. It’s better than them thinking that I’m completely unstable and I’m going to lose my shit at any time.

I mentioned that I’m going to explain what it’s like living with BPD day to day. But first I want to give you a better understanding of what it means.

So, what does it mean?

BPD is the most commonly diagnosed personality disorder. Someone who will think, perceive, feel or relate to themselves and others in a different way to, what is considered to be ‘normal‘. I prefer to say different to ‘other people‘ without the implication of being ‘abnormal.’ Even if that is true, it’s really not a nice or helpful way to describe someone, who already has a deep rooted poor self-image, as ‘abnormal.’ Stop that now, please. I don’t like it.

In recent years the term ‘Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder’ (EUPD) has replaced BPD and is defined as ‘A disorder with an inability to regulate emotions and intense emotional reactivity’. I have to say, that sentence pretty much sums up BPD/EUPD. However I’m not going with EUPD, it’s way too accurate and I find the term BPD to be more vague and nondescript. I would like my diagnosis to be recorded as “She is a bit wonky, but she’s doing alright.”

Many people, including those in the medical profession, describe personality disorders as an “untreatable, life-long condition.” Believe me, this is probably the worst thing they can say to anyone diagnosed with BPD. What they are effectively saying is:

This is your life forever and there is absolutely nothing anyone can do to help you. You are broken and you can’t be fixed.

You’re always going to be like this and you’ll just to have to live with it, and deal with it the best you can.

Life will never, ever get any better for you and there is no chance for improvement. You are a lost cause.

Good to know! Thanks for condemning me to a life-long battle with my thoughts, feelings and behaviour. Wow! What an amazing future I have in front of me.


Who we are on the outside.

Personality comes from the thoughts, feelings and behaviour that make us who we are. We use personality traits to describe people.


Who we are on the inside.

Character traits are based on beliefs, like the belief that honesty and treating others well is important or the belief that it has no importance whatsoever.

Character traits can be changed, they are not fixed and there is light at the end of a tunnel. It’s not easy but it can be done with talking therapies and professional support.

I cannot change my personality.

I can change my character.

BPD Characteristics

Get your BPD badge

In order to qualify for your BPD badge and certificate, you must display five or more of the nine criteria.

We both tick all nine boxes. Chez Breakspear really is a House of Fun – unless you catch us on a bad day and you’ll find it’s the House of Horrors.

It’s important to note that these character traits are normally triggered by events and circumstances, the rest of the time we’re just a bit wonky!

What causes it?

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) may lead to the development of coping strategies or beliefs which might cause distress when struggling with feelings of anger, fear or sadness. Often as a result of the following:

Being scared, unsupported or invalidated.

Family difficulties and instability

Sexual, physical, emotional abuse

Neglect of basic needs

Losing a parent

Parental imprisonment.

Some evidence suggests that BPD could be genetic and you’re more likely to be given this diagnosis if someone in your close family has BPD. It’s hard to know if difficulties are inherited or caused by other factors such as learned behaviour in the ways of thinking, coping and behaving.

Genetics might make you more vulnerable to developing BPD, but more often it’s due to adverse childhood experiences.

The final point I would like to make is that BPD does not excuse or justify behaviour, but it does provide an explanation. Most of it anyway, sometimes I’m just a bitch for shits and giggles!

That’s my very basic introduction to BPD as seen through my eyes. I hope you found it useful and if you have any questions, please do get in touch.

Keef’s Key Messages

BPD is caused by ACES.

Huge problem in our prisons

Personality is fixed

Keef is Wonky

I encourage you to watch Holly in the podcast from @realporridge. She explains why life with BPD is never easy.

Part Two will be out later this week, when I’ll tell you exactly what it’s like when Wonky and Wonkier share their Wonky lives together. I’ll let you decide who is Wonkier. I’ll give you a clue though, it’s definitely not me!

Best wishes

Wonky Keef x

7 thoughts on “What is BPD? Part One.

  1. Your blogs are always interesting, funny and moving, but this is by far the deepest of them all. I have to say I cannot wait for the next pieces. I had no idea that 80% of those in prison had been identified with this problem and it once again highlights that urgent action is needed to improve support for those. Unless this cause of the behaviour that led people to offend is resolved then they will leave with the same issues as before they came in and likely to reoffend.
    Your writing is unmissable.


    1. Thank you Ray. I was also surprised at the statistics and double checked that it didn’t refer to ALL personality disorders – nope, definitely BPD. However, I note the title refers to ‘diagnosable’ and not ‘diagnosed with’, which could imply that up to 80% display characteristics of BPD but have not been diagnosed as such. The only other credible statistics I could find came from the NHS England & HMPPS Practitioners Guide to working with offenders with personality disorder, 2015. It states “Studies have estimated that, whilst it affects between 4 and 11% of the UK population, its prevalence in the criminal justice system is far higher: 60-70% of prisoners and about 50% of offenders managed by providers of probation services.” Up to 80% five years later must be about right. .
      We know the majority of personality disorders result from ACES, society and CJS must focus on early intervention and help our children when they need it most. It won’t lead to an immediate 80% decrease in crime, personality disorders or prison sentences and it will be another generation before we can see tangible results, but it will make a huge difference to thousands and thousands of people. None more so than the poor souls having a tough time at home.

      I am loving the research as much as the writing on this subject!


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