Date of Award


First Advisor

Eden-Renee Hayes

Second Advisor

Anne O'Dwyer


This thesis explores the limits of psychiatry by first understanding borderline personality disorder as a psychiatric object, then questioning the mechanisms of its construction. The underlying structures of psychiatry are exposed through the lens of the historical treatment of mental disorders starting in the Middle Ages. This history then leads us to modern structures of psychiatry that incorporate and focus on neurobiological correlations as a means of explaining disorder. A close examination of these structures is integral to understanding contemporary psychiatry’s construction of borderline personality disorder as a distinct clinical entity. Despite its relatively short history compared to other classifications of mental disorders, the diagnostic category of borderline personality disorder has a revealing story of its own - one which exposes the flaws in psychiatric logic. Thus while psychological theories of etiology are important to consider, credence is given to understanding borderline personality disorder as a construction of psychiatric logic. This understanding reveals the boundaries of such a logic. In recognizing the limits of psychiatry, a door is opened, allowing for a thoughtful reconstruction of the treatment of “disorder,” particularly as it is related to borderline personality disorder.

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