'Trust Game' May Shed Light On Common Mental Illness

"I don't want to minimize the importance either, because BPD…is a brain disorder and probably has a genetic basis as well," he said. "A lot of psychiatrists and researchers tend to trivialize it, but it's widespread and pretty disabling.

"We need better ways to treat these patients. I think this study is consistent with that viewpoint and may spur additional research."

A Common Illness, Commonly Ignored

Much of the difficulty in getting doctors to treat BPD, according to Black, lies in the fact that there is no specific pill or course of treatment.

"That tends to make doctors uncomfortable," he said. "They often prefer diagnoses that are associated with specific treatments."

Also, said Black, because of the constellation of symptoms that can affect patients with BPD, the doctor may diagnose it as something else, like bipolar disorder or major depression.

"I think because of the constellation of symptoms that it has, to some doctors, suggests other conditions," he said. "From my perspective, those doctors are certainly picking out the various pieces of the puzzle, but they're not assembling the puzzle. They're seeing various pieces, not the whole thing."

Black said that while the origins of BPD are unknown, there is likely a strong genetic component. The Baylor study, he said, is only the most recent of a series of studies that show BPD to have a biological explanation.

And Montague is hopeful that people will quickly understand that BPD is not the fault of the patient.

"The content of what we found was remarkable and very clear," he said.

"It's a real problem. It's just like…schizophrenia. You wouldn't blame someone who is schizophrenic for acting paranoid.

"I think it would be hard to say that they're being willfully difficult at this point."

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