Marilyn Monroe: Borderline Personality Disorder

Marilyn Monroe

Disorder: Borderline Personality Disorder

Thesis Statement: Marilyn Monroe’s candle burned out long before her legend ever did (Elton John. Goodbye Norma Jeane). Marilyn Monroe, a well-known legend, was a public figure for several decades.

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Monroe was an actress, model, and singer. She began her career as a model, which led to a film contract with Twentieth Century Fox in 1946. She then went on to start in many successful motion pictures during the late 1940s and early 1960s. Throughout her career, Monroe had roles in 23 films which grossed more than $200 million since her debut in 1950 (A&E Television Networks). Although she was a highly well-known legend, she soon became known for something other than her ability to act. Monroe swiftly became known to the public for her behavior and eccentric actions; she eventually was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder which is a mental illness marked by an outgoing pattern of varying moods, self-image, and behavior. These symptoms often result in impulsive actions and problems in relationships. People with borderline personality disorder may experience intense episodes of anger, depression, and anxiety. (Borderline Personality Disorder). Monroe ended her depression and anxiety along with her future when she overdosed on chloral hydrate enema, a sleeping pill, and died at the age of 36.

History of Psychological Disorder: Borderline Personality Disorder was first discovered in 1938 by Adolph Stern. The study began with him identifying a group of patients who had no response to classical psychoanalytic treatment. Stern described these people and their manifesting symptoms as being on the line between neurosis and psychosis, and therefore labeled them the borderline group(Wilderkt). Treatment methods of BPD in 1938 included dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) which incorporated techniques of validation and the concept of acceptance to a cognitive behavioral therapy. Another treatment method was Schema-Focused Therapy; this treatment method was developed for personality-disorder patients who did not respond to standard cognitive-behavioral therapy. Both methods explicitly address the borderline patient’s typical treatment-interfering behaviors so that his or her responses were not overactive. Today, we can conclude that Borderline Personality Disorder is a common mental disorder characterized by unstable moods, behavior, and relationships. Although the cause of BPD is unknown, it can still be treated with talk therapy, and in some cases, medication.

 Prevalence & Biological Relationship of Psychological Disorder: Borderline Personality Disorder, a dominant trait, is officially diagnosed in early adulthood. BPD is often caused by certain traumatic childhood experiences such as emotional, physical, or sexual abuse as well as loss, neglect, and/or bullying and the prevalence of borderline personality disorder is estimated to be 5.9% of the population, 75% of whom are white women (American Psychiatric Association). Marilyn Monroe experienced a disrupted, loveless, and neglectful childhood. She was born to a mentally unstable mother who gave her up to a foster family because she suffered from Schizophrenia. She was then put in an orphanage in Los Angeles, where she was molested by her mother’s new husband. She spent twelve years of her life in and out of foster homes and orphanages. Marilyn possessed this disorder through years of loss, neglect, and lovelessness.

Cultural Perspectives: Hispanics and African Americans both view Borderline Personality Disorder and its treatment methods in a somewhat similar way. In the Hispanic community, individuals are skeptical and hesitant about seeking out therapy or professional mental health service. Usually if they do so, it is a last resort. If he or she does seek out help for their problem, they hide it. Within the Hispanic community there is a misconception that visiting a mental health professional means that the person is crazy, or that something is terribly wrong with him or her (Daisy Novoa Vasquez).  Therefor the idea for seeking help is either put off as a last resort or nonexistent. The African American culture prefers to use the bible and their religion as a method of coping with the stress and troubles that come with having a personality disorder, Therefore, many African Americans view seeking treatment for mental health as less culturally acceptable. They believe that if they see a therapist they may be seen as spiritually weak by the people close to them(Erlanger A. Turner Ph.D.). In both the Hispanic and African American culture, prayer is used as a treatment to cope with the disorder as well as stress and troubles.

Symptoms: Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder include antisocial behavior, fear of abandonment, unstable relationships, impulsive behavior, self-harm, extreme emotional swings, a chronic feeling of emptiness, explosive anger, and suicidal thoughts (Dina Cagliostro, PhD). Someone with BPD can have many mood swings in the course of a day, whereas most people will only experience one or two major emotional shifts in the course of a week. Through adolescence and adulthood symptoms tend to reduce over time. Marilyn’s symptoms included a feeling of emptiness, a split identity, extreme emotional volatility, unstable relationships, and an impulsivity that drove her to drug addiction and suicide.

Treatments: Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) focuses on the concept of mindfulness to the present emotion. DBT teaches skills to control intense emotions, reduce self-destructive behavior, manage distress, and improve relationships. DBT was designed specifically to treat BPD. Treatment includes individual therapy sessions, skills training in a group setting, and phone coaching as needed. DBT is the most studied treatment for BPD and the one shown to be most effective because it uses a skill based approach to teach you how to manage your stress and improve your relationships. Another method of treatment, known as transference-focused therapy (TFP) is designed to help patients understand their emotions and interpersonal problems through the relationship between the patient and therapist. Patients then apply the insights they learn to other situations. Marilyn used reading and writing poetry as a way to cope with BPD as well as self motivation to further her career. She also used sleeping pills and alcohol as a coping method. Rather than coping to her disorder using substances, Monroe could have gone to dialectical behavior therapy or transference-focused therapy.

Societal Perspectives: Although many praised Marilyn Monroe for her ability to act, after diagnosed with Borderline Personality disorder, many viewed her as a misfit to society. BPD is a mental illness that tends to carry a burden and is often shrouded. Borderline individuals are often perceived as self-harming, socially awkward, eccentric individuals who don’t fit into society.  After she committed suicide, not only was Marilyn looked at as a misfit but she was also bashed and looked down at upon society. Borderline Personality Disorder is a disorder society should not identify and only under certain circumstances should one recommend treatment for individuals with BPD. One should only recommend treatment for a BPD patient if they have experience working with this disorder, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist. One could also share treatment recommendations for a BPD patient (Patient 1) if the person willing to share recommendations is suffering with BPD themselves and properly treating it (Patient 2).

 Patient 2, who is currently suffering with BPD but properly treating it could kindly reach out to Patient 1 who has maybe not seeked others help to cope with BPD. Patient 2 could share what personally worked best for them and how much it helped them in the hopes of influencing Patient 1 to get proper treatment. It has been seen that over the past decade, various groups have formed to help move the BPD agenda forward and to bring hope to individuals with BPD. First, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has worked intensively to augment the focus on BPD research. Also, the Borderline Personality Disorder Research Foundation, a private foundation, has joined the research effort and provided funding for projects both in the United States and abroad. In addition, the National Education Alliance for Borderline Personality Disorder with support from NIMH has convened five national and 14 regional conferences on BPD. And lastly, the BPD Resource Center provides a free service to callers and has developed and maintains a list of treatment referrals as well as informational brochures on the disorder (Perry D. Hoffman, Ph.D).

Conclusion: While for many, Marilyn Monroe was a well-known legend for her acting, behind her breathtaking beauty and her magnetism, was a complex and troubled woman. This iconic actress suffered from Borderline Personality Disorder.

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