By Dr. David Woo - June 26, 2023
Living with borderline personality disorder (BPD) can be difficult, and that also goes for the friends and family of the affected individual. Nonetheless, there are many things a loved one can do to support a person with BPD and make a positive impact on their recovery(1). If you’re wondering how to help someone with BPD, then our guide can give you some pointers on how to have a healthy relationship with a BPD individual.
BPD And Relationships
BPD is a mental health condition characterized by unstable self-image, emotional instability, impulsive self-destructive behavior, and difficulty in maintaining stable relationships(2). All of the symptoms of BPD can make it difficult to be around a person with BPD and provide the support they need.
In relationships, the BPD sufferer may alternate between extremes of ideation (thinking that the relationship is or has to be perfect) and devaluation (being convinced that the relationship is terrible and doomed). These unrealistic expectations may strain their ties with family, friends, or romantic partners. Plus, impulsive or aggressive behavior can make you worry for your loved one’s safety. Here’s what you can do to support someone with BPD.
Living with BPD is challenging, but the condition is treatable, and the best help you can give to a loved one is encouraging them to seek treatment and supporting their recovery(3). BPD is usually treated with talk therapy and/or medications. There are also drug-free alternatives such as Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), a non-invasive treatment for depression, anxiety, and BPD that uses tiny magnetic pulses to stimulate the areas of the brain associated with BPD symptoms.
Be Calm And Patient
If your loved one is having an emotional outburst, resist the urge to respond in kind, or engage in name-calling or blame. Try not to get drawn into an argument, as tempting as it may be in the heat of the moment. It is usually better to be patient and wait until both of you have calmed down to talk through the issue.
Validate, Don’t Judge
People with BPD can seem irrational or unreasonable, but you cannot always understand what is going through their minds. Listen to their side of the story and do not judge. Instead, acknowledge and validate their feelings–which doesn’t necessarily mean agreeing with them. This approach helps the BPD sufferer feel listened to and has been shown to positively impact long-term health outcomes(4).
Learn Their Triggers And Plan Ahead
Talk with your loved one about their triggers and work out strategies to use when an outburst occurs so that you are prepared when they happen.
Set Clear And Consistent Boundaries
BPD can make someone fearful of rejection or abandonment, but you can help alleviate this and provide a sense of security by communicating what you can expect from each other and sticking to these boundaries.
Affirm Their Worth
It can be easy for BPD sufferers to slip into self-hatred. Reassure them by reminding them of all the positive traits they have and what you value about your relationship.
Distract And Divert Attention
Sometimes it helps to have something to take one’s mind off disturbing feelings. Try suggesting activities or tasks, which can be as simple as watching TV, playing a game, taking a walk, or doing chores.
Don’t Forget To Take Care Of Yourself
Taking care of someone with BPD can be stressful. Make time for relaxing activities and don’t be too hard on yourself. Reach out to your own support network. Finally, remember that it is no one’s responsibility to stay in an abusive relationship or ‘fix’ anyone–BPD is a serious mental condition that needs professional help.
TMS For BPD In NYC
Madison Avenue TMS & Psychiatry offers talk therapy and TMS for BPD in NYC. To make an appointment, contact us online or call (212) 731-2033.
- Borderline personality disorder (BPD) for friends and family. Mind. https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/borderline-personality-disorder-bpd/for-friends-and-family/. Accessed May 11, 2023.
- Symptoms – Borderline personality disorder. NHS. November 7, 2022. https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/borderline-personality-disorder/symptoms/. Accessed May 7, 2023.
- Ng FY, Bourke ME, Grenyer BF. Recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder: A Systematic Review of the Perspectives of Consumers, Clinicians, Family and Carers. PLoS One. 2016;11(8). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0160515. Accessed May 7, 2023.
- Mehlum L. Mechanisms of change in dialectical behaviour therapy for people with borderline personality disorder. Current Opinion in Psychology. 2021;37:89-93. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2020.08.017. Accessed May 7, 2023.