Researcher and "Father" of Borderline Personality Disorder Dies

Dr. John Gunderson, professor of psychiatry at Harvard and famed researcher on borderline personality disorder, died on January 11th at the age of 76.

Dr. Gunderson, trained as a psychoanalyst, authored 12 books, and almost 250 articles, on borderline personality disorder and related topics. He helped to define the features of BPD, and helped to define BPD as a diagnosis included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-III) in 1980. He also developed a borderline personality disorder treatment protocol for nonspecialists working with persons who have BPD.

In he 1930’s and 40’s, borderline personality disorder was thought to be a psychotic condition, on the “borderline” between psychosis and neurosis. Dr. Gunderson was part of a group of researchers who helped change the perception of the central feature of BPD from psychosis to a mood dysfunction. He was among the first to conceptualized the treatment resistance of those with BPD as a feature of the disorder.

Being alone is often intolerable to [those with BPD] because it is associated with a profound sense of being bad... a self-image distortion accompanied by such intense feelings of guilt or shame that the question of worthiness to live often follows.
— Dr. John Gunderson
Tanner Oliver