Wolves in Sheep Clothing? By Tiffany Marshall

The DSM IV – TR states that people with Borderline Personality have a pattern of unstable and intense relationships. And they may idealize potential caregivers or lovers at the first or second meeting, demand to spend a lot of time together, and share the most intimate details early in a relationship. I came across an amazing article featured in the Oprah Magazine by Martha Beck titled Beware the Overshare: Why You Shouldn’t Always Open Up. As I was reading this article it put me in a frame of mind of a person who had just encountered an individual with Borderline Personality Disorder. Beck points out that as humans we have a tendency to mirror the same level of disclosure that the person discloses to us. Beck warns us that whatever we disclose to the individual, who has a problem with being emotionally inappropriate, could be used against us if the person has ill intentions towards us. She terms the sharing of intimate detail as “forced –teaming,” which is when the emotionally inappropriate person pulls others into ill advised intimacy and gain information they can use to embarrass, exploit, invade, or control the other person.

As professional social workers, we must be cautious of how we interact with our clients whether it is in a therapeutic setting or in other areas such as an acute care setting. The individual with Border Line Personality Disorder will display some level of being emotionally inappropriate and it is very important that boundaries are set and maintained from the very beginning. Beck gives a simple solution for handling a person who is emotionally inappropriate; do not start a pattern of sharing equally intimate details to them. Simply respond with a simple response such as, “ok” or “I see.” I would suggest that the SW dealing with a person who meets the criteria for Borderline Personality make it a point to redirect the client to stay focus on what they requested assistance for, and try their best not to disclose information about their selves that has nothing to do with the client-social worker relationship.

American Psychiatric Association (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed., Text Revision). Washington, DC: Author

Beck, Martha. “Beware the Overshare: Why You Shouldn’t Always Open Up.” O, The Oprah Magazine, April 2012.

Tiffany Marshall, LMSW

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to our Newsletter