Note: I forgot to mention in the post that, yes, I’m diagnosed with high-functioning BPD. Also, for this week only, this post will replace Wednesday’s Random Rant.
BPD stands for Borderline Personality Disorder, a mental disorder believed to be linked to an overactive limbic system in the brain. Symptoms can start early, but onset is typically between ages 18 to 25. Only 1-2% of the population has Borderline, but they represent at least 10% of those recieving psych care in hospitals. BPD is marked by nine main criteria. Paraphrasing what’s outlined in the DSM-IV, these are: emotional instability, inappropriate anger, feeling empty, suicidal behavior or self-injury, dangerous impulsivity, unstable sense of identity, paranoia or dissociation, abandonment issues, and extremely intense close relationships. Moving on, let’s talk about anime characters. Each one exhibits or personifies one of the nine criteria.
(FYI, there are quotes in this post from the DSM-IV. That’s short for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition. It’s what’s used in the United States for diagnosing mental illnesses and disorders. Technically, the 5th Edition is what’s being used now, but I’m sticking with the DSM-IV version of BPD because it’s more convenient to quote from.)
Emotional Instability: Shinji Ikari
The DSM-IV describes this symptom as “Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability, or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days).” In other words, we have mood swings, but none of the swings go into positive emotions. Most of the time, it’s frustration, fear, panic, despair, and sorrow. People used to ask me often, “Why aren’t you ever happy?” or “Why can’t you just be happy?” Well, positive emotions just don’t come naturally to those of us with BPD. Anyway, for this criterion, I picked Shinji Ikari from Neon Genesis Evangelion.
Shinji is known for being fearful and anxious, but he’s emotionally unstable in other ways, too. When he gets mad, it’s not a pretty sight. His fear and frustration are often mixed with or replaced with anguish, despair, regret, and self-loathing. Shinji can go between anger, fear, sorrow, and agony very quickly. While the same can be said about most teenagers, the emotions we see Shinji experiencing are more pronounced than normal. And that is because of his circumstances. To clarify, I’m not saying Shinji is a Borderline character; but his feelings and actions provide great examples of a standalone symptom (swings between different negative moods).
Inappropriate Anger: Katsuki Bakugou
It’s difficult to describe with words the raw, brute rage we with BPD often feel. They don’t last long, but these negative mood swings make you feel like your mind, body, and soul have been completely eaten alive by unspeakable wrath. Sometimes, even little things can set it off. Most of the time, the anger level we feel doesn’t match the situation or event that made us mad. It’s out of proportion to say the least. For this symptom, I chose Katsuki Bakugou from My Hero Academia.
With how widely popular MHA is, you probably know about Bakugo. On the off-chance that you don’t know, he’s the rival of the main character as they both try to become great superheroes. Bakugo’s power is causing small explosions that can propel him through the air or be used as attack. That’s a very fitting power for him because he also exhibits “explosions” of anger. Despite being one of the “good-guys,” Bakugo is impatient, hostile, aggressive, envious, bitter, and is sometimes a bully. He’s a good choice for this symptom because his anger is out of proportion.
Chronic Feelings of Emptiness: Zero Two
“Chronic feelings of emptiness,” as the DSM says, are difficult to describe. It’s not the same as being sad or angry, but it can feel similar to both. It’s also not the same as being apathetic, because usually, you want to feel something, or you want to care. But you just can’t. You feel empty: emotionally, “spiritually,” and with regards to love and friendship. Also, you’re empty of identity, because you can be anyone, and there’s nothing that makes you, you. Nothing satisfies us. Nothing holds our interest or attention. We can’t care, don’t care, or both. Our hearts are cold and dead, and maybe we aren’t even human. That’s how it feels.
It was difficult thinking of a character who exhibits feelings of emptiness, but I settled on Zero Two from Darling in the Franxx. She sometimes acts friendly and cheery, but can also be hostile, and for much of the series, she’s bitter. Deep down, she thinks things like, I’m not human. Nobody makes me feel fulfilled. All the pilots die after I’m with them. I’ve killed some on purpose. I’m terrible but I don’t even care. Nobody can understand me. I’m a monster. Zero Two’s feelings of not being “human,” and the way she can’t feel satisfied, are very close to BPD feelings of emptiness.
Suicidal behavior and/or Self-Harm: Noriko and Rena
I don’t think I need to go into detail to explain this. The category includes threats of suicide, attempting suicide, suicidal ideation, and physical self-injury such as cutting or burning. The reasons for self-harm are different for everybody. Most people with BPD struggle with it at least once in their lives, especially during onset. I chose Rena Ryugu from Higurashi, because, as she explains in her backstory in the last arc of season one, she once cut her own wrist on purpose.
If you’ve seen Kiznaiver, you know Noriko has some suicidal tendencies. She tries to kill herself twice in the show and most likely experiences suicidal ideation. I’d love to explain why, but that would lead to some pretty big spoilers. (You should watch Kiznaiver if you haven’t seen it.)
We’ve covered 4 of the 9 criteria for BPD, each with an example of an anime character who exhibits that behavior. Next time, we’ll look at the other 5 criteria: dangerous impulsivity, unstable sense of identity, paranoia or dissociation, abandonment issues, and extremely intense close relationships. This is Anime Rants. Thank you for reading and have a fantastic day!!
- Quotes are from: American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.
- For a webpage containing excerpts of the DSM, click this link. It covers the grouping of Personality Disorders, comparing the 4th and 5th Editions.
- All images were found by searching the web, and I don’t own them.