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Former NFL Player Brandon Marshall Shares His Experience With Borderline Personality Disorder

Photo: Courtesy of House of Athlete

Brandon Marshall, former NFL wide receiver and current sports TV personality, was well into his football career when he received his diagnosis of borderline personality disorder (BPD).

Brandon Marshall had played for several different NFL teams, including the Denver Broncos, the Miami Dolphins, and the Chicago Bears, but he had trouble overcoming a reputation of being “difficult.” On July 31, 2011, he publicly announced his diagnosis of BPD, while simultaneously pledging to be a mental health advocate.

“It wasn’t until I was on the campus of McLean Hospital that I knew what borderline personality disorder was, or that I was experiencing any of the symptoms,” Marshall says. “I had no clue I had it, and it went undiagnosed for around four years.”

Diagnosing BPD

Borderline personality disorder is largely defined as a condition marked by insufficient regulation of emotions, which can lead to unpredictable mood swings, unstable emotional responses, poor self-image, and depression, among other symptoms. An estimated 1.4 percent of the United States population has BPD, but research suggests that the number could be much larger, as BPD is notoriously difficult to diagnose.

Marshall says his diagnosis was the first step in changing his life for the better. “When I first received the diagnosis of borderline personality disorder, I felt like I was already 50 percent better because now I knew that there were others like me,” he says. “Being able to go to [a therapy] program for three months radically changed my life.”

Eliminating the stigma

Marshall received treatment and mental health support, and with time he was able to learn how to process, cope, and manage stressors in his life.

“I picked up tools and skills to self-regulate,” he says. With these tools, Marshall now is turning his focus towards advocacy. A large part of advocating for people suffering from BPD involves destigmatizing mental illness.

“The most important thing we can do right now for the mental health community is to eradicate the stigma,” Marshall stresses. “Storytelling and vulnerability in this space is crucial.”

Diagnosis gender gap

Marshall’s story is especially crucial to tell, as men are less likely to get the mental health support that they may need. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), nearly 75 percent of those diagnosed with BPD are women, but recent studies suggest that there may be just as many men suffering from the condition. However, men are more often diagnosed with PTSD or depression rather than a personality disorder.

“NAMI is a great starting point for people seeking information and seeking help,” Marshall says. “They have resources and can help you navigate through what’s out there for assistance in your mental health journey.”

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