Does Public Stigma Towards People with Borderline Personality Disorder Differ among Mental Health Providers?

Date of Submission


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)



Department Chair

Stephanie H. Felgoise, PhD, ABPP

First Advisor

David Festinger, PhD

Second Advisor

Michelle Lent, PhD

Third Advisor

Amy Cunningham, PsyD


Individuals with borderline personality disorder (BPD) frequently utilize the mental health system, representing around 20% of visits in outpatient settings. Individuals with BPD often have high levels of disability, morbidity, and mortality. Unfortunately, individuals with BPD are typically considered difficult patients because of the perception of their symptoms. Mental health providers often have more negative attitudes towards them, manifesting in diminished empathy, greater blame and judgement, increased difficulty providing care, and avoidance. This stigma is likely to further diminish treatment engagement. This study sought to identify mental health provider characteristics associated with higher levels of stigma. Based on prior research, it was hypothesized that (a) psychiatrists would have significantly higher levels of stigma towards BPD than social workers and psychologists; (b) providers with training in treating personality disorders (PDs) would have lower levels of stigma than those who did not; and (c) providers who have been employed in their profession longer would have significantly higher levels of stigma. Seventy-four psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers were recruited via listservs and Facebook to participate in an online survey assessing demographics, clinical experience, and level of stigma using the Mental Health Provider Self-Assessment of Stigma Scale. Psychiatrists had higher levels of stigma towards individuals with BPD than did psychologists and social workers. Neither PD training nor time in current profession was found to be significantly correlated with stigma. These results may inform future approaches to reducing stigma toward people with BPD and to increasing quality of patient care and prognosis.

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