Girl, Interrupted

by

Susanna Kaysen

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Borderline Personality Disorder Term Analysis

A mood disorder marked by a pervasive pattern of instability of self-image, interpersonal relationships, mood, and behavior (or “affect.”) Susanna Kaysen is diagnosed with BPD at eighteen years old and, as a result, checks into the McLean psychiatric hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts. Susanna worries about her diagnosis more and more as she meets the other patients around her, since she fears that her mood disorder—or “character disorder,” as many of her therapists and nurses refer to it—means that there is something wrong with her as a whole, rather than just a chemical imbalance or disorder of the mind.

Borderline Personality Disorder Quotes in Girl, Interrupted

The Girl, Interrupted quotes below are all either spoken by Borderline Personality Disorder or refer to Borderline Personality Disorder. For each quote, you can also see the other terms and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Isolation and Seclusion Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of Girl, Interrupted published in 1994.
Chapter 16 Quotes

Cynthia was depressive; Polly and Georgina were schizophrenic; I had a character disorder. Sometimes they called it a personality disorder. When I got my diagnosis it didn't sound serious, but after a while it sounded more ominous than other people's. I imagined my character as a plate or shirt that had been manufactured incorrectly and was therefore useless.

Related Characters: Susanna Kaysen (speaker), Polly, Georgina, Cynthia
Page Number: 59
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 32 Quotes

If my diagnosis had been bipolar illness, for instance, the reaction to me and to this story would be slightly different. That's a chemical problem, you'd say to yourself, manic-depression, Lithium, all that. I would be blameless, somehow. And what about schizophrenia—that would send a chill up your spine. After all, that's real insanity. People don't "recover" from schizophrenia. You'd have to wonder how much of what I'm telling you is true and how much imagined.

Related Characters: Susanna Kaysen (speaker)
Page Number: 151
Explanation and Analysis:

I have a few more annotations to my diagnosis. 'The disorder is more commonly diagnosed in women." Note the construction of that sentence. They did not write, 'The disorder is more common in women." It would still be suspect, but they didn't even bother trying to cover their tracks.

Many disorders, judging by the hospital population, were more commonly diagnosed in women. Take, for example, "compulsive promiscuity." How many girls do you think a seventeen-year-old boy would have to screw to earn the label "compulsively promiscuous?” Three? No, not enough. Six? Doubtful. Ten? That sounds more likely. Probably in the fifteen-to-twenty range, would be my guess--if they ever put that label on boys, which I don't recall their doing.

And for seventeen-year-old girls, how many boys?

Related Characters: Susanna Kaysen (speaker)
Page Number: 157-158
Explanation and Analysis:

I often ask myself if I'm crazy. I ask other people too.

"ls this a crazy thing to say?" I'll ask before saying something that probably isn't crazy.

I start a lot of sentences with "Maybe I'm totally nuts," or "Maybe I've gone 'round the bend."

If I do something out of the ordinary--take two baths in one day, for example--I say to myself: Are you crazy?

It's a common phrase, I know. But it means something particular to me: the tunnels, the security screens, the plastic forks, the shimmering, ever-shifting borderline that like all boundaries beckons and asks to be crossed. I do not want to cross it again.

Related Characters: Susanna Kaysen (speaker)
Page Number: 159
Explanation and Analysis:
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Borderline Personality Disorder Term Timeline in Girl, Interrupted

The timeline below shows where the term Borderline Personality Disorder appears in Girl, Interrupted. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 31: Borderline Personality Disorder
Perception vs. Reality Theme Icon
Sanity vs. Insanity Theme Icon
...threats, self-mutilating behavior, social contrariness, and recurrent physical fights are just a few “presentations” of BPD. The disorder is more frequently diagnosed in women, and complications of BPD include neurosis, major... (full context)
Chapter 32: My Diagnosis
Perception vs. Reality Theme Icon
Women and Medicine Theme Icon
Sanity vs. Insanity Theme Icon
Manipulation, Restriction, and Control Theme Icon
...tempted to refute the diagnosis, but notes that resistance and defensiveness are two hallmarks of BPD. (full context)
Isolation and Seclusion Theme Icon
Perception vs. Reality Theme Icon
Women and Medicine Theme Icon
Sanity vs. Insanity Theme Icon
...falling ill, and would be seen as a “real” insane person. She wonders what “ borderline personality ” even means, and concludes that it seems to be a “way station” between neurosis... (full context)
Isolation and Seclusion Theme Icon
Perception vs. Reality Theme Icon
Women and Medicine Theme Icon
Sanity vs. Insanity Theme Icon
Manipulation, Restriction, and Control Theme Icon
Kaysen notes that she sees what is diagnosed as “ borderline personality disorder ” as simply a description of what it is to be an adolescent. The only... (full context)
Isolation and Seclusion Theme Icon
Perception vs. Reality Theme Icon
Women and Medicine Theme Icon
Sanity vs. Insanity Theme Icon
Manipulation, Restriction, and Control Theme Icon
...such constant, overwhelming scrutiny, Kaysen says, was “chronic emptiness and boredom”—yet another major hallmark of BPD. Susanna felt anger at her being “shut out of life,” and while her classmates invested... (full context)
Chapter 34: Girl, Interrupted
Perception vs. Reality Theme Icon
Women and Medicine Theme Icon
Sanity vs. Insanity Theme Icon
Manipulation, Restriction, and Control Theme Icon
...and her date of discharge, January 3rd, 1969. She is stated as having “recovered” from borderline personality disorder . (full context)