An Autistic Woman Was Misdiagnosed With BPD for Years

BPD Diagnosis and Misunderstandings

Bree Conklin, now 39, received a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder (BPD) at the age of 27. A male doctor in Germany attributed Conklin’s meltdowns, self-harming behavior, and suicidal ideation to BPD, describing her as “seductive” and “manipulative” due to her dating habits. Conklin, however, had simply assumed that adults could date multiple people at once. Despite not relating to some of the disorder’s symptoms, Conklin embraced the diagnosis for years, taking prescribed medication that made her condition worse.

The Confusion of BPD and the Discovery of Autism

Conklin’s acceptance of her BPD diagnosis became increasingly difficult as she encountered conflicting information while researching the mental illness. Many sources cited a lack of empathy and frequent lying as characteristics of BPD, which she did not personally identify with. Ultimately, Conklin’s revelation came five years later when she realized she might be autistic. During her second pregnancy, her therapist questioned the BPD diagnosis, recognizing her sensory sensitivities and suggesting that autism might provide a more accurate explanation for her experiences.

Autism: A New Perspective

After conducting her own research on autism, Conklin found that its symptoms better aligned with her own experiences, offering clarity and understanding. Emotional dysregulation, mood swings, and self-soothing behaviors, such as “stimming,” resonated with her feelings and actions. It took Conklin two years to obtain a formal autism diagnosis, but the time in between was transformative.

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Empathy and Understanding

Conklin’s journey allowed her to develop empathy for individuals misdiagnosed with autism and BPD, realizing the significant stigmas associated with both conditions. Misdiagnosis can lead to judgment, lack of support, depression, and even suicidality. Autistic women and gender-nonconforming individuals are particularly vulnerable to misdiagnosis due to gender biases, while BPD sufferers often face stigma even within the mental health community.

Impact on Treatment and Relationships

Conklin noticed a stark difference in how she was treated when her diagnosis shifted from BPD to autism. Disability benefits and custody battles became more favorable with the change, but she also experienced infantilization due to her autism diagnosis. Despite this, Conklin’s journey has allowed her to cultivate empathy toward both autistic individuals and those with BPD.