How to Help Someone with Borderline Personality Disorder
Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a difficult disorder for that person who lives with it and those who love that person. This destructive disorder causes relationships to fester with anger and distrust. If someone you love has BPD, you may feel like you’re always tip-toeing around their emotions and worrying about emotional outbursts.
Loving someone with BPD can be trying for both parties. However, creating a healthy relationship is possible. Help support your loved one with BPD as they go through treatment by learning more about the disorder, setting boundaries, communicating well, and taking time for self-care.
Learn More About Borderline Personality Disorder
BPD is a complicated disorder with symptoms unlike most other behavioral health disorders. As such, it’s important for you to take time to learn about BPD, its symptoms, and what it feels like to live with it. Knowing the symptoms can help heal your relationship by helping you take behaviors less personally and helping the other person feel understood.
Common symptoms of BPD include:
- Intense fear of rejection, abandonment, and loneliness
- Rapid shifts in the ways a person perceives their worth
- Inappropriate anger
- A pattern of intense but unstable relationships (either romantic or not)
- Severe mood swings from day to day
- Threats of suicide or self-harm, especially when they believe they are being rejected
If your loved one threatens self-harm or suicide, get help right away–even if you think it is an empty threat. Take them to the nearest emergency room or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
Practice Effective Communication
Communication is important in any relationship, especially when one part lives with BPD. When you learn how best to communicate with your loved one, you can worry less about stepping on their toes and they can feel more secure in your relationship. Some important communication tools for talking to people with BPD include:
Even when the other person blows up, calls you names, and questions your love for them, remain calm. That doesn’t mean that you should allow them to say anything. But if it becomes too much, opt to leave the situation or end the conversation, rather than yell back.
Focus fully on the conversation
Make sure electronics are put away and you give them your full attention whenever possible. This helps them feel heard and cared for, which can lessen symptoms.
Try to understand the emotions behind the words
People with BPD often speak in hyperbole as if it were real. Try to see the real emotion behind the exaggerated statement. This will make them feel understood.
Sometimes all the listening in the world cannot help. Try to distract your loved one from their intense emotions by watching a movie together, playing a game, or doing another engaging activity.
Set and Keep Healthy Boundaries
Setting boundaries for your relationship is important for you and the person with BPD. However, you should not expect your limits to fix the relationship quickly. The person with BPD may feel like these boundaries are a form of rejection, which may cause them to lash out. However, it’s important to stick to your boundaries, which can include:
- Waiting at least 15 minutes to respond to texts
- Not answering your phone during your work or sleep hours
- Not putting your life on hold to help them with ever perceived crisis
- Walking away from conversations when they start to yell or act out
While this may be difficult at first, you can both reap benefits if you stay the course. You can gain a sense of control and stability. Your loved one can learn new coping mechanisms that can help them with work, school, and social situations. In the end, you can build a healthier relationship for you both.
Don’t Forget to Care for Yourself
Relationships with people who have BPD can be exhausting on the worst days. Make sure to take time to recharge your emotional batteries. That may mean creating space between yourself and that person. It could also mean practicing self-care in other ways.
Sometimes, the damage that the person with BPD has caused can be too much to handle alone. The therapists at FLBH can help you cope with any emotions you may have about this situation and give you tips for creating a healthy relationship.