Women Diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and Current Interventions


  • Alice Di Maggio The University of Sydney


 “One cannot hope to understand the phenomena of psychological distress, nor begin to think what can be done about them, without an analysis of how power is distributed and exercised within society” (David Smail, in MacLachlan, McVeigh, Huss & Mannan, 2019.). This paper uses this quote as a starting point to offer a critical analysis of dominant discourses of mental distress. In doing so it aims to identify opportunities for social work responses and advocacy in relation to women diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.


Becker, D. (1997). Through the looking glass : Women and borderline personality disorder . Boulder, Colo: Westview Press.

Biskin, R., & Paris, J. (2012). Evaluating treatments of borderline personality disorder. Clinical Practice, 9(4), 425–437. Retrieved From: https://doi.org/10.2217/cpr.12.35

Bjorklund, P. (2006). No Man’s Land: Gender bias and social constructivism in the diagnosis of borderline personality disorder. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 27(1), 3–23. Retrieved From: https://doi.org/10.1080/01612840500312753

Chesler, P. (1989). Women and madness (1st Harvest/HBJ ed.). San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders : DSM-5. (Fifth edition.). (2013). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association.

Eriksen, K., & Kress, V. (2008). Gender and Diagnosis: Struggles and Suggestions for Counselors. Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD, 86(2), 152–163. Retrieved From: https://doi.org/10.1002/j.1556-6678.2008.tb00492.x

Ferguson, A. (2016). Borderline Personality Disorder and Access to Services: A Crucial Social Justice Issue. Australian Social Work, 69(2), 206–214. Retrieved From: https://doi.org/10.1080/0312407X.2015.1054296

Horsfall, J. (2001). Gender and mental illness: An Australian overview. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 22(4), 421–438. Retrieved From: https://doi.org/10.1080/01612840119734

Jansson, Å. (2018). Teaching “small and helpless” women how to live: Dialectical Behaviour Therapy in Sweden, ca 1995–2005. History of the Human Sciences, 31(4), 131–157. Retrieved From: https://doi.org/10.1177/0952695118773936

Kaplan, M. (1983). A woman’s view of DSM-III. The American Psychologist, 38(7), 786–792. Retrieved From: https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.38.7.786

Krumer-Nevo, M., & Komem, M. (2015). Intersectionality and critical social work with girls: Theory and practice. British Journal of Social Work, 45(4), 1190–1206. Retrieved From: https://doi.org/10.1093/bjsw/bct189

Lafrance, M., Mckenzie-Mohr, S., Marecek, J., & Gavey, N. (2013). The DSM and its lure of legitimacy. Feminism & Psychology, 23(1), 119–140. Retrieved From: https://doi.org/10.1177/0959353512467974

Lazaroff, A. (2006). The role of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in the maintenance of the subjugation of women: implications for the training of future mental health professionals. Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table. Retrieved From: https://go-gale-com.ezproxy1.library.usyd.edu.au/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA175164813&v=2.1&u=usyd&it=r&p=AONE&sw=w

Lester, R., (2013). Lessons from the borderline: Anthropology, psychiatry, and the risks of being human. Feminism & Psychology, 23(1), 70–77. Retrieved From: https://doi.org/10.1177/0959353512467969

MacLachlan, M., McVeigh, J., Huss, T., & Mannan, H. (2019). Macropsychology: Challenging and Changing Social Structures and Systems to Promote Social Inclusion. In O'Doherty, K. & Hodgetts, D. (Eds.) The SAGE Handbook of Applied Social Psychology, pp. 166-182, Sage: London.

Marecek, J., & Gavey, N. (2013). DSM-5 and beyond: A critical feminist engagement with psychodiagnosis. Feminism & Psychology, 23(1), 3–9. Retrieved From: https://doi.org/10.1177/0959353512467962

Nicol, K., Pope, M., Sprengelmeyer, R., Young, A. W., & Hall, J. (2013). Social judgement in borderline personality disorder. PLOS One, 8(11), e73440, 1-6. Retrieved From: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article/file?id=10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0073440&type=printable

Sansone, R., & Sansone, L. (2011). Gender patterns in borderline personality disorder. Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience, 8(5), 16–20. Retrieved From: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3115767/

Shaw, C., & Proctor, G. (2005). I. Women at the Margins: A Critique of the Diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder. Feminism & Psychology, 15(4), 483–490. Retrieved From: https://doi.org/10.1177/0959-353505057620

Skodol, A., & Bender, D. (2003). Why Are Women Diagnosed Borderline More Than Men? Psychiatric Quarterly, 74(4), 349–360. Retrieved From: https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1026087410516

Tseris, E. (2019). Social Work and Women’s Mental Health: Does Trauma Theory Provide a Useful Framework? The British Journal of Social Work, 49(3), 686–703. Retrieved From: https://doi.org/10.1093/bjsw/bcy090

Widiger, T., & Spitzer, R. (1991). Sex bias in the diagnosis of personality disorders: Conceptual and methodological issues. Clinical Psychology Review, 11(1), 1–22. Retrieved From: https://doi.org/10.1016/0272-7358(91)90135-H






Student Edition 2019