A survey of 120 psychiatrists published in Psychiatry Research found that the more psychiatrists fear death, the more negative emotions they have towards people diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.
A team of Israeli researchers conducted statistical analyses on answers from psychiatrists to survey questions about their attitudes towards death generally and to suicide, and about their attitudes towards patients diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. “In line with the hypothesis that fear of death would contribute to negative emotions toward BPD patients, psychiatrists’ fear of death greatly contributed to negative emotions toward BPD, as it explained half of the variance of the entire model, even after controlling for professional experience with BPD and for attitudes toward suicide and death,” they write.
The researchers suggest that people diagnosed with borderline personality disorder are people who often present particular types of challenges to psychiatrists. “Among the psychiatric diagnoses, suicide mortality in borderline personality disorder (BPD) is similar to that of mood disorders,” they write. “However, while clinicians perceive mood disorders as curable and sympathy-evoking illnesses, BPD patients are considered more problematic, and are held accountable for their suicidal behaviors. Such patients often tend to undermine the therapeutic process, may turn members of staff against each other, have high drop-out rates from therapy, and exhibit acting out episodes that may cause psychiatrists a sense of professional impotence.”
“(W)e suggest that psychiatrists’ ability to compensate for their fear of death by curing their patients is being hampered among psychiatrists with high death anxiety, when it is activated by their frustrating encounter with BPD patients,” they comment. “These patients impede psychiatrists’ need to compensate their own fear of death through professional achievement, by frequently creating hostility and violence, dropping out of treatment, and above all – by the possibility of committing suicide. Hence, when psychiatrists’ fear of death is high, their professional impotence also increases when treating BPD, and they react to them with negative emotions.”
Bodner, Ehud, Amit Shrira, Hagai Hermesh, Menachem Ben-Ezra, and Iulian Iancu. “Psychiatrists’ Fear of Death Is Associated with Negative Emotions toward Borderline Personality Disorder Patients.” Psychiatry Research. Accessed July 5, 2015. doi:10.1016/j.psychres.2015.06.010. (Abstract)