Borderline personality disorder can make it extremely difficult for a person to fully engage in a productive and satisfying lifestyle. It can disrupt relationships and cause setbacks in school and at work. But is borderline personality disorder a disability?
What is Borderline Personality Disorder?
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a complex mental health condition that is characterized by impulsivity and instability, particularly in the context of a person’s relationships, self-image, and displays of emotion.
People who have BPD may exhibit signs such as the following:
- Undertaking frantic efforts to prevent abandonment, even when there is no credible evidence that their loved one is planning to abandon them.
- Acting impulsively in ways that can cause considerable harm to themselves, such as unsafe sex, substance abuse, extravagant spending, and reckless driving.
- Making repeated suicide attempts or threats, or engaging in self-harm.
- Being unable to control their anger, which can include frequently getting into fights.
- Having episodes of paranoid ideation and/or dissociation.
Experts estimate that borderline personality disorder affects about 1.6% of the general public. Among those who receive inpatient psychiatric care, the rate of BPD jumps to about 20%.
Research also indicates that more than 80% of people with BPD have an anxiety disorder or another co-occurring mental health condition, while more than 60% struggle with addictions to alcohol or other drugs.
Is Borderline Personality Disorder a Disability?
The question, “Is borderline personality disorder a disability?” sounds like a simple query that can be quickly answered with either a yes or a no.
Unfortunately, this question is a bit more complex than it appears. But that doesn’t mean it is unanswerable. It just means we need to work a bit harder to arrive at an accurate response.
The first challenge with the question, “Is borderline personality disorder a disability?” is that the final word (disability) can mean different things in different circumstances.
In this post, we’re going to limit ourselves to two common legal contexts:
- Receiving workplace protections under the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)
- Qualifying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
Is Borderline Personality Disorder at Disability Under the ADA?
In the aftermath of the passage of the ADA, several lawsuits were filed to determine which conditions are protected by this landmark legislation.
To prevent the court system from establishing unnecessarily narrow parameters that contradicted the spirit of the law, Congress clarified its intent through the ADA Amendments Act of 2008. One of the benefits of this clarification is that it established that mental illnesses are, indeed, protected disabilities under the ADA.
This means that borderline personality disorder is a disability as far as the ADA is concerned. That, in turn, means that people who have BPD qualify for protections such as the following:
- They cannot be discriminated against in employment matters (such as being hired, fired, or promoted) due to myths or stereotypes related to their mental illness.
- They are entitled to request and receive reasonable accommodations that will allow them to fulfill the responsibilities of their job.
Please note that this does not mean that someone who has BPD must be hired and cannot be fired. If a person who has BPD cannot fulfill the responsibilities of a job, even if reasonable accommodations are put into place, they do not have an absolute right to continued employment. They do, however, have the right to not be punished or denied opportunities solely because of their disability.
Is Borderline Personality Disorder a Disability for SSDI or SSI Purposes?
Several mental illnesses, including BPD, can qualify a person to receive benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). This means that, as with the ADA, borderline personality disorder is a disability as defined by the Social Security Administration. However, it doesn’t mean that it is easy to qualify for and receive disability benefits for BPD. According to the SSA website, to have a qualifying disability, you must prove that you meet all three of these criteria:
- You cannot do work and engage in substantial gainful activity because of your medical condition.
- You cannot do work you did previously or adjust to other work because of your medical condition.
- Your condition has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or to result in death.
Thus, to get SSDI or SSI benefits, you must be able to document that you have been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. You must also be able to prove that, even after receiving appropriate treatment, you remain unable to work.
Find Mental Health Treatment in Nashville, TN
The good news about borderline personality disorder is that it is a treatable condition. When you receive appropriate care from a reputable provider, you can make significant progress toward improved functioning and better quality of life.
Arbor Wellness offers multiple levels of personalized care for adults whose lives have been disrupted by BPD and other mental health concerns. Programming options at our treatment center in Nashville, Tennessee, include residential care, partial hospitalization, and an intensive outpatient program. At each level, you can benefit from a variety of therapies and support services, all of which may be customized to best address the full scope of your unique needs.
To learn more about treatment for borderline personality disorder and other mental illnesses at Arbor Wellness, or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our admissions page or call us today.