“So many of the women you see on TV are out of control,” says Jamieson Webster of the New York Psychoanalytic Institute, and it’s true: Never in the history of television have we seen so many crazy women. The Bad Girls Club (Oxygen), for instance, offers a half-hour of screaming, fighting, and hair-pulling. Women Behind Bars (WE) follows women imprisoned for violent crimes (often, killing their husbands). And just last week, WE premiered the fifth season of perennial psycho-girl favorite Bridezillas. “These women all fall into the borderline category,” says Webster. We decided to (very unscientifically) test her theory.
Women Behind Bars, WE
Abused by father. Denies she killed him. Has been on both suicide watch and death row at the same time.
Real Housewives of NYC/Jersey, Bravo
Dresses like her daughter and attends junior-high-school dances. Prone to outbursts at parties.
Bad Girls Club, Oxygen
Prefers tantrums to rational conversation. Extremely loud. Exhibits movie-star fantasies.
The Hills, MTV
Low self-esteem. Lets friends take advantage of her. Drawn to men who treat her badly.
Afflicted by overspending problem. And poisoned both her husband and lover with antifreeze.
High School Confidential, WE
Depressed. No longer speaks to her family. Has a history of anorexia and self-mutilation.
Convinced her future mother-in-law thinks she’s a “tramp.” Very susceptible to panic attacks.
The Bachelor, ABC
Exhibits delusional fantasies about her future life, including that she will cure a disease.
CONSULTING THE TEXTBOOK
According to the DSM-IV, patients with borderline personality disorder exhibit “impulsivity” and “a pervasive pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, self-image, and affects.” Specifically, they display at least five of the following criteria.
Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment.
A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation.
Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self.
Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating).
Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behavior.
Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability, or anxiety).
Chronic feelings of emptiness.
Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights).
Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptom.