Borderline: The Biography of a Personality Disorder (Hardcover)

Borderline: The Biography of a Personality Disorder By Alexander Kriss, PhD Cover Image
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An intimate, compassionate, and expansive portrait of Borderline Personality Disorder that rejects the conventional wisdom that the condition is untreatable and those diagnosed with it are “difficult,” told by a psychologist who specializes in BPD

Mental illness is heavily stigmatized within our society, and folks with BPD are portrayed as especially hopeless by doctors and popular culture alike. When, as a graduate student, Alexander Kriss first began working as a therapist in the field, his supervisors warned him that borderline patients were manipulative and had a tendency to drop out of treatment. Yet, years later, when Kriss was establishing his private practice and a patient named Ana came to his office, he felt compelled to try to help her, despite all of the warnings he'd heard.

Borderline is the story of his work with Ana—how their relationship led Kriss to a deeper understanding of the borderline experience and what it means to be a person. Borderline is also the story of the disorder itself—Kriss traces accounts of the condition going back to antiquity, showing how this diagnosis has been known by many names over the millennia, most of them gendered: witchcraft, hysteria, moral insanity. All referred to a person—usually a woman—whose behavior and personality were seen as unstable, unpredictable, and uncontrollable. Kriss illustrates the pivotal role borderline patients played in the invention of psychotherapy, the development of modern psychology and psychiatry, and current attitudes about what it means to be healthy. Through the interweaving of personal and global histories, he ultimately argues that BPD is the most important diagnosis of our time: the individual expression of cultural angst that emerges out of systemic inequality, the fracturing of narratives, and our collective search for meaning and identity.

About the Author

Alexander Kriss, Ph.D., is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychology at Fordham University, Director of the Fordham Community Mental Health Clinic, and author of The Gaming Mind: A New Psychology of Videogames and the Power of Play. His private psychotherapy practice is based in Sleepy Hollow, NY.

Praise For…

“Insightfully and plausibly rendered . . . an illuminating survey of the prominence of the disorder in the history of psychology and psychiatry . . . A revealing exploration of borderline personality disorder and the future of therapies addressing it.”
Kirkus Reviews

“[A] stimulating study . . . this is an enterprising and in-depth exploration of who decides what it means to be ill, how mental illness is framed in cultural narratives, and who gets shut out of those narratives. It’s an ambitious reassessment of an understudied condition.”
Publishers Weekly

“In a world where we now diagnose ourselves on TikTok, rare is the occasion to actually see what these diagnoses really mean. Beyond labels, beyond any idea of sickness or psychopathology, diagnosis is the starting point for a long conversation between a therapist and a patient about what makes for a life. Kriss’s book is not only beautiful; it demystifies and educates.”
—Jamieson Webster, author of Conversion Disorder: Listening to the Body in Psychoanalysis

“Alexander Kriss’s Borderline: The Biography of a Disorder is a dialectical treat, with alternating chapters that provide original musings on the history of psychoanalysis and that present a six-year case study of his work with a patient. The two strands come together in Kriss’s feminist reading of the borderline construct, where he appreciates past and present efforts to understand it as a form of psychopathology but encourages us to face underlying sexist assumptions and to question the boundaries of ‘normal’ human life. Kriss deftly shows us why some patients require and benefit from long-term treatment. His book is strikingly successful in underscoring the relevance of a contemporary psychoanalytic approach to psychotherapy but will be of interest to anyone who is curious about what happens in psychotherapy.”
—Elliot Jurist, PhD, author of Minding Emotions: Cultivating Mentalization in Psychotherapy

Borderline is a gripping, humane, brilliantly prismatic inquiry into the peculiarities of the mind, at once a case study, an intellectual history, and a reckoning with the education of a therapist. Alexander Kriss treats every subject he takes up—his patients, his field, himself—with penetrating rigor and scrupulous honesty.”
—Adam Ehrlich Sachs, author of Inherited Disorders: Stories, Parables & Problems

“One would be hard-pressed to find a more intimate account of a practiced clinician’s experience of working with patients with a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder than what Dr. Alexander Kriss so generously offers us in his new book, Borderline: The Biography of a Personality Disorder. Kriss walks us through his training in a psychiatric hospital and onto his work in private practice to show how he helps his patients develop more stable and integrated relationships. He writes with empathy, thoughtfulness, and—yes—circumspection, mindful of the fact that the manifest content of his patients’ communications is often just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Thoroughly researched and beautifully written, Borderline will be of value to anyone interested in what is to this day one of the most challenging and complex psychiatric disorders.”
—Christopher Christian, PhD, editor in chief, Psychoanalytic Psychology

“Alexander Kriss’s Borderline is nothing short of a revelation. In lucid and intensely readable prose, Kriss brings us into the world of his patients who live ‘on the borderline,’ illuminating a profoundly misunderstood condition with rigor and humanity in equal measure. Pairing personal narratives with historical research, Borderline offers a compassionate and deeply insightful analysis of the ways that such patients have been dismissed, wronged, silenced, and deemed ‘untreatable’ by medical systems for many centuries—and, perhaps most importantly, it provides clear reasons why there is hope for such patients going forward.”
—Marin Sardy, author of The Edge of Every Day: Sketches of Schizophrenia
Product Details
ISBN: 9780807007815
ISBN-10: 0807007811
Publisher: Beacon Press
Publication Date: April 30th, 2024
Pages: 304
Language: English