Borderline States of Mind and Destructive Feelings: A diagnosis for our times?

Part of the seminar series: ‘Cross Disciplinary Perspectives on antisocial personality disorder.’

Date:  Friday 5th May 2017, 10:00 - 16:30

Venue: Institute of Group Analysis, London NW3 5BY

This is a collaboration between the Institute of Group Analysis (IGA), Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Association for Psychosocial Studies (APS).

The diagnosis of ‘Borderline Personality Disorder’ is used to describe a set of problems experienced by individuals who often feel overwhelmed by their feelings and feel little sense of control of their lives. This might manifest in considerable unhappiness, volatile relationships and destructive (including self-destructive) behaviour. The diagnosis appears to be common amongst users of mental health services and even amongst offending populations. There are claims that the diagnosis (and related labels such as ‘emotional dysregulation’) is being used more frequently.  It would certainly seem that some of the difficulties (such as self-harm) associated with the diagnosis are becoming more common.

And yet, this is a controversial diagnosis. As the diagnosis becomes prominent, more questions are asked about its meaning. Is it simply just another demeaning label that is applied to people whose life experiences may have given them every reason to feel marginalised – at the borders of the mainstream?

Or perhaps, however clumsy the terms might be, does the phenomenology of the diagnosis point us towards something important about ourselves and our sources of discontent in the 21st century?

We are seeking to understand more about what is going on with borderline mental states. What can we learn about the times and culture that is producing these particular forms of distress? Can a focus on the psychology of such states of mind help us or we need a more thorough cultural analysis to understand what might be happening?

Speakers include: 

  • Prof Andrew Cooper (Tavistock Clinic and UEL)
  • Dr Marilyn Charles (Training Analyst, Austin Riggs; MA and PhD, MSU; Co-Chair APCS)
  • Laura Cariola (Department of Clinical Psychology, University of Edinburgh) 
  • Catherine Hayes (IGA Group Analyst, NEP NHS Foundation Trust)
  • Dick Blackwell (IGA Group Analyst)
  • Dr Andrew Shepherd (Psychiatrist, GMMH NHS Foundation Trust)


This workshop is now fully booked. 

If you are interested in putting your name on the waiting list please email Mari on


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