April 17, 2014

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Notes from Professionals – Marianne S. Goodman, M.D.

Marianne S. Goodman, M.D. is an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at The Mount Sinai School of Medicine. She is involved in treatment research on borderline personality disorder, clinical work and coordinates the medical student education program for the department of Psychiatry at the Bronx VA Medical Center. Her research focuses on Dialectical Behavioral Therapy treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder and childhood trauma antecedents.

Recent Publications: Goodman M, Yehuda R: The relationship between psychological trauma and borderline personality disorder. Psychiatric Annals, 32, (6): 2002, 337-346.

When I was asked by Dr. Perry Hoffman to facilitate a “break-out” lunch session at the NEA-BPD Family Perspectives Conference, I had no idea that the conference was going to catalyze and propel me on a new journey. I was looking forward to the conference because of my clinical work and research interests in the underlying neurobiology of BPD. When I arrived at the conference at 10:15 a.m. on the Saturday morning, I was overwhelmed by the size of the room and struck by the attention, concern, and focus on the faces of the conference participants. I looked around to try and find a seat, and managed to find one open space in the back of the room.

Usually at the scientific conferences I attend, the back of the auditorium houses individuals who want to sleep and escape attention. But this was not the case at the NEA-BPD conference. Everyone was listening intently, taking notes, absorbed in the words from consumers and family members discussing their personal involvement with the disorder. The woman next to me was tearful, as was a young woman in the next row. A husband leaned over and comforted his wife as she too was stirred by what was being spoken. The emotions and feeling generated in this giant ballroom were compelling and emotionally moving. I fished through my bag looking for tissues to wipe the tears forming in my eyes, realizing I had left them in the diaper bag at home.

This disorder causes tremendous strife not just to those struggling with the intolerable mood states, anger, self-hatred, and well intentioned but harming ways to help themselves, but to those who interact with, care for, and are cared by these individuals. The effects on mothers, fathers, siblings, and children are something I was intellectually aware of, but not fully appreciative of the depths and power of these effects. This was surprising to me as I have a sister with an autistic child, whose life has been turned upside down as a result. She has conducted an exhaustive search for cures, treatment programs, and strategies to help in any little way. I have watched the process of transformation in her life and development of a mission to advocacy work for her son and others who suffer with this devastating brain disorder. Her passion and determination are inspiring.

To be in a ballroom full of equally passioned and determined individuals was uplifting and energizing to me. The union of families, consumers, clinicians, researchers, and political advocates joining in the service of helping individuals with BPD offers tremendous promise and hope to a disease that some believe is “ not changeable”.

In the Breakout Session, my new journey was initiated. I found that my ability to discuss, explain, and educate about the biological basis of the disorder was extremely valued and immensely helpful to others, and that this information was previously either inaccessible or not understandable. It was relieving and destigmitizing for one young woman to consider that there may be regions of the brain where faulty wiring may be potentiating emotional reactions and that she is not just being “manipulative”. Here was an audience hungry for information but needing help with translating scientific language and findings. That science may offer possibilities of help is promising.

My colleague Antonia New and I have discussed with Perry Hoffman a mechanism to continue the process of education and translation of current scientific information to benefit consumers and families and have decided to embark on a written column titled “ The Journal “on this borderline personality disorder website. This column will provide education on various research perspectives and current developments with a focus on the implications for treatment and on achieving a better understanding of the disorder. We welcome comments and questions from our readers. Please contact us at marianne.goodman@med.va.gov  and antonia.new@med.va.gov.

We look forward to hearing from you!