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Amidst all the public attention to the $50 million lawsuit that actor Johnny Depp filed against his ex-wife Amber Heard, two psychological terms have successfully made it to the public’s lexicon: borderline personality disorder and histrionic personality disorder. With Amber Heard diagnosed with these mental health disorders, the public is curious to know what they are and how they affect different people.

As reported, the legal team of Johnny Depp claimed that Amber Heard is currently suffering from two different types of personality disorders: borderline personality disorder and histrionic personality disorder.

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

One of the two personality disorders Amber Heard is speculated to be suffering from is borderline personality disorder (BPD). People with this type of personality disorder experience intense mood swings and often feel uncertain about themselves. These symptoms often lead to poor self-image and instability in relationships.

For someone to be labeled as a patient of borderline personality disorder, look out for the following signs and symptoms:

  • Feelings of abandonment from family and friends leading to frantic attempts to avoid being left alone
  • An unstable and distorted self-image
  • A pattern of intense connections with friends, family members, and loved ones that rapidly progress toward devaluation
  • Threats of self-harm and suicide attempts
  • Engaging in impulsive behaviors, like unsafe sex, reckless driving, and extravagant spending sprees
  • Increased anger outbursts followed by feelings of guilt
  • Dissociative feelings, such as examining oneself from outside of one’s body

Histrionic Personality Disorder (HPD)

Histrionic personality is a cousin of borderline personality disorder and antisocial personality disorders, all characterized by erratic, dramatic, volatile, and dramatic behaviors. Histrionic personality disorder specifically includes attention-seeking behaviors and exaggerated emotions along with at least five of the following criteria: 

  • Feeling uncomfortable when not getting attention
  • Shallow, shifting emotions
  • Provocative or seductive behaviors
  • Vague and impressionistic speech
  • Using appearance to draw attention
  • Exaggerated or dramatic emotions
  • Suggestible
  • Considering relationships more intimate than they truly are

The symptoms mentioned above need to be pervasive and intense enough to affect an individual’s daily functioning for a positive diagnosis. People with histrionic personalities usually have other peculiar characteristics, such as dressing flamboyantly, being too engaging, and becoming entertaining at times. Some of these people have extremely interesting stories with emotional tones that others thoroughly enjoy.

The allegations of Amber Heard suffering from BPD and HPD come from Shannon Curry, a forensic psychologist that Depp’s legal team hired. She based her option on a 12-hour assessment that she conducted in a one-on-one session with Heard, along with information taken from her health records, audio recordings, videos, photos, and other documents. While it’s true that both types of personality disorders do not have a specific time frame for forming a diagnosis, it is pretty rare to jump to conclusions as quickly as Curry did. Many forensic psychologists have come forward with their two cents in response to these allegations. Many believe that the diagnostic procedures for these personality disorders are fundamentally flawed.

Because of the controversial nature of this diagnosis, mental health experts worry that the trial details can encourage many people to self-diagnose themselves with these personality disorders. Keep in mind that personality disorders are quite serious, and no one should look to social media to get guidance about their diagnoses. Instead, anyone with even a speck of doubt regarding their diagnosis must contact a mental health professional for professional help and assistance.

As per the 2020 statistics posted on the NIH’s official website, one in five people is currently living with a mental illness. The statistics are even higher now, primarily due to the current uncertainty in the world. Different factors, like the COVID-19 pandemic, mass shootings, rising inflation, climate change, etc., are constantly giving rise to depression and anxiety in populations across the world. Such instabilities are much more likely to exacerbate challenges in people facing personal difficulties.

In such a world, the recent Depp vs. Heard trial has successfully given the mental illness a stage that could potentially benefit it. The level of awareness is currently on the rise as both amber heard mental illness types are now more widely known as discussed. At the same time, some experts have raised a concern about how the Defense team of Depp has used these diagnoses as a weapon to win the legal proceeding.

The contribution of the media in raising awareness about mental health is undoubtedly commendable. All platforms and mediums that media uses serve as the very first point of knowledge source for most people to educate themselves about mental health issues. At the same time, it is the responsibility of both the media and its consumers to talk about these disorders and terms in specific contexts only.

The legal teams of both Heard and Depp have accused each patterner of portraying disturbing behavior. What’s problematic in this context is that the general public may view these behaviors as a consequence of mental health issues and may believe that everyone with these disorders will behave similarly. For instance, many podcasts that later discussed the case labeled Amber Heard as “crazy,” which only adds to the stigma for people fighting mental health illnesses. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that the media has only added to the shame that people with poor mental health experience, making them more uncomfortable about revealing their mental health challenges and seeking help for it.

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