Does Tamra Barney Suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder?
In my unprofessional opinion, yes.
The main feature of borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a pervasive pattern of instability in interpersonal relationships, self-image and emotions. People with borderline personality disorder are also usually very impulsive.
This fits Tamra to a T. As other cast members have pointed out, she seems to cycle her friends and can only have one close friend at a time.
We see this in her relationships with many of the women and men on this show, including Vicky, Gretchen, Alexis, Simon (her ex-husband) and even Slade, Gretchen’s boyfriend.
A person with this disorder will also often exhibit impulsive behaviors and have a majority of the following symptoms:
- Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment
Tamra appears to be likable and charismatic enough to people so that they are usually drawn to her and thus, she is usually the one to abandon them, instead of them abandoning her. That being said, her freaking out over Vicky and Eddie’s playful banter was very telling.
- A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation
Yes (see above).
- Identity disturbance, such as a significant and persistent unstable self-image or sense of self
Check. She was married to a very conservative man, in a very conservative marriage for a number of years, then suddenly backed out and decided that was not what she wanted (although, to be fair, Simon was very controlling and clingy, so I can see what drove her away).
I also think she is going through a mid-life crisis, and tends to act younger than she is.
- Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating)
- Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behavior
- Emotional instability due to significant reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability, or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days)
Check. On Season 5, she kept going back and forth about whether or not she wanted a divorce, telling everyone but her husband (including Vicky, her mother and anyone else who would listen). In fact, when the episodes aired months later, she was still married to him, and he only found out she’d even considered a divorce when watching the episodes when they aired. They filed for divorce a few days after the episode of Tamra confiding in someone about her wish to divorce Simon. If it weren’t for Simon seeing the episodes on TV, she would likely still be married to him.
- Chronic feelings of emptiness
- Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights)
Check, as indicated by many of her inappropriate reactions to several cast members, most notably Jeana, who she threw a drink on at a party at the end of Season 6.
- Transient, stress-related paranoid thoughts or severe dissociative symptoms
Don’t know, although she does appear to distort events in her mind. For example, she claimed that she only threw a drink at Jeana because Jeana became violent with her, which, as we see from the footage, is not true.
I also notice that she tends to come between a lot of other people’s close friendships once she is their close friend. For example, Jeana and Vicky were close friends for a number of years until Tamra got into an altercation with her, and Vicky chose to side with Tamra, which no doubt put a strain on Vicky and Jeana’s relationship.
We see the same thing happening with Gretchen and Alexis.
She also dragged Vicky into her rocky marriage with Simon, constantly turning to Vicky in a state of misery and confiding that she wanted out of their marriage, that she didn’t think she could do this anymore.
Vicky responded like most normal, supportive friends would: If you are unhappy, then leave, he is making you miserable.
When Simon realized this, he blamed Vicky for Tamra’s pulling away from him, which caused a lot of conflict between the two, while Tamra pulled back and played innocent, and even went so far as to tell Vicky that she should not meddle in her and Simon’s business, even though she is the one who confided in Vicky about her business in the first place.
Don’t turn your back away from this woman, she will stab it.