Far from being click bait, the title of this post is sadly 100% true.
Psychologies is a women’s magazine which focuses on personal development and well being. It publishes articles and dossiers on mindfulness, career and relationship advice as well as discussing anxiety and depression. Sounds great doesn’t it? I thought so to, which is why I subscribed to the magazine at the beginning of the year.
Roll on the August 2018 edition.
This month’s 18 page dossier is all about restoring your energy and how you can rid your life of energy vampires. That’s me.
Let me explain.
I have a mental illness, Borderline Personality Disorder. It is a disabling illness which affects every aspect of my life. Which according to this dossier means I suck all of the energy from my peers, partner and everyone around me. This is not OK.
I have included the email I sent to Psychologies Editor Suzy yesterday afternoon, which includes the first paragraph of this heartbreaking feature.
Please accept my apologies for the delay in emailing you after our discussion on Twitter. It was important for me to take some time to think clearly about what I wanted to say before I got in touch.
As you know I am contacting you regarding the “How to avoid energy vampires” article published in the August 2018 issue of Psychologies.
As a subscriber of the magazine, Psychologies comes directly to my home. Can you imagine reading front page tag line “you can rid yourself of energy vampires” only to read in the first paragraph of the article that the energy vampire, is you? I can only describe it as being made to feel as if there is something fundamentally wrong with me. That I am irreparably broken and best avoided.
When I reacted to this on Twitter, Psychologies response stated that Northrup was not referring to BPD and “huge apologies if it reads this way”. If Northrup genuinely didn’t intend to say that people with personality disorders are energy vampires then the article is at best misleading. Not only does Northrup refer directly to Borderline Personality Disorder in the article, whoever responded to my tweet made me feel as if I were somehow to blame for reading it ‘this way’.
I know that by now, you will have seen this several times, but to remind you, here is the opening to the article: “When I use the term ‘energy vampire’, I’m talking about a subgroup of people – about one in five of us – who, in psychiatry, are called Cluster B Personalities, with narcissistic, borderline, histrionic and antisocial personality disorders, and there’s a spectrum, you can certainly live with someone who’s a little self-centred and has narcissistic traits and then, at the other end, there are full-blown psychopaths”
Your magazine is in thousands of shops across the country, how many people have read this? How can a magazine that claims to focus on personal development and wellbeing publish an article which refers to specific, highly stigmatized mental illnesses in this way? Not only is this triggering for people with personality disorders, potentially feeding self deprecating depression by compounding the belief that they are flawed, the use of negative use of words such as ‘vampire’, ‘narcissistic’, ‘antisocial’ and the phrase ‘full-blown psychopaths’ have connotations of aggressive, manipulative and dangerous people. If you had no previous knowledge of personality disorders would you want to befriend this person, or would you want to avoid them? This is stigma.
Did you know, that 1 in 10 people with BPD die by suicide? Did you know that there are YouTube channels, blogs and websites dedicated to calling people with personality disorders monsters, narcissists and spreading the belief that we are dangerous? This article feeds into this hate, it plants a seed that people with personality disorders are “energy vampires” and to be avoided. As an informative and supposedly factual magazine, surely you should be working to educate non-sufferers and destigmatize the issues surrounding mental illness.
Any kind of stigma is dangerous. Would Psychologies have allowed something so negative to be published about a physical disability? Is there anyone on the team who is knowledgeable about mental illness or even thought to check what these personality disorders were before allowing this to be published and read by thousands of people?
Psychologies is a popular and well-regarded magazine, this almost guarantees that your readers trust what you print and what you have printed is damaging to anyone diagnosed with a personality disorder; myself included. With thousands of trusting readers, you are in the position to drastically effect someone’s view of mental health and mental illness. I believe this article does just that; in entirely the wrong way.
I was diagnosed with Borderline in 2017 at the age of 33 after years of misdiagnosis. The stigma around this condition caused me to lose friends. People actually walked out of my life due to the misconceptions of personality disorders. Misconceptions fed by this feature. Why not have a feature on successful people with personality disorders, or how to support someone with a mental illness whilst also taking care of yourself. I agree entirely that people need to take good care of themselves – after all you can’t pour from an empty cup – surely it isn’t too much to ask for this to be done in a respectful way, which has been fact checked, and any emotional impacts considered?
Whilst I appreciate your apology in the public forum of Twitter I feel that the damage has already been done. The article is still on shelves in thousands of stores. I would like a written apology in response to this and a printed apology in an edition of Psychologies.
I would be happy and honoured to work with you on any future features regarding personality disorders, either in print or online on my blog and/or social media.
If you would like to learn more about personality disorders, I highly recommend visiting the Mind website. They have fact sheets on all the of the disorders listed in this article.
I cancelled my subscription the same day I read this article. I am hopping for a written apology for the magazine but mostly, I am hoping for a published apology in the next edition of the magazine. People need to know this is not acceptable. People with personality disorders are not monsters, we are not to be avoided, we deserve respect and love.
I would love to hear from you regarding this, please do contact me or leave me a comment below with your thoughts.