Shining a light on personality disorders

Melbourne woman Erica Williams wants to bring borderline personality disorder out of the shadows. (AAP)

A Victorian woman wants to change how Australians think about borderline personality disorder and has spoken out at a public hearing.

Melbourne woman Erica Williams wants to bring borderline personality disorder out of the shadows.

The 22-year-old has told Victoria's mental health royal commission the condition is seen as frightening, with doctors reluctant to diagnose or offer treatment.

"It's not untreatable. It's understandable and very treatable," Ms Williams - who has the disorder, anxiety, depression and is also recovering from anorexia - told a public hearing on Monday.

She became unwell at the age of 17 and was initially misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder.

She and her partner were forced to cobble together money for a private psychiatrist because there was nothing publicly available.

Ms Williams said her situation was dire, noting "I was self-injuring".

But doctors didn't always take her distress seriously because she dressed and appeared "very well".

She deteriorated and ended up in hospital more than once, including for anorexia, but could not get a bed in a specialised eating disorder unit.

At one point she was placed on a compulsory treatment order but escaped hospital four times by climbing a fence.

Being hauled back by police in handcuffs was frightening, but Ms Williams said she's grateful because it saved her life.

When a relapse sent her back to hospital, this time to a secure ward in the public system, the experience was so traumatic she emerged worse than when she went in.

Ms Williams was one of two women in the high-dependency unit and there was no female bathroom.

She was forced to ask a male nurse for tampons because patients were not allowed more than one at a time.

Ms Williams also said she was belittled when requesting anxiety medication, with a nurse asking "why on earth" she needed it.

"There needs to be more understanding in how to treat (borderline personality disorder), and a lot of empathy and kindness towards it, not so much rejection and fear," she said.

Ms Williams is doing better with medication and specialised treatment through the mental health service, Orygen Youth Health.

"You can be brilliant and shit at the same time and I feel that that is what recovery looks like for a lot of us," she said.

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