Helping Someone with Borderline Personality Disorder

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Have a loved one who has received a BPD diagnosis? You may take efforts to enhance communication, establish appropriate boundaries, and maintain your relationship even while you can’t make them get help.

Relationships are notoriously challenging for persons with borderline personality disorder (BPD), especially with those closest to them. Loved ones may experience feelings of helplessness, abuse, and instability as a result of their erratic mood swings, explosive tempers, persistent abandonment anxieties, and impulsive and illogical actions.

People with BPD frequently describe their relationships with their partners and families as an emotional roller coaster with no clear end in sight. If you stay in the relationship or the individual makes efforts to obtain treatment, you could feel imprisoned by your loved one’s BPD symptoms. However, you are more powerful than you realize.

By controlling your own responses, setting clear boundaries, and enhancing communication with your loved one, you may shift the dynamic of the relationship. Although there is no miraculous therapy for BPD, many people with the disorder may and do improve, and their relationships can become more secure and fulfilling. In fact, patients who have the most stability and support at home tend to make progress more quickly than those whose relationships are less orderly and safe.

Even if the person with BPD isn’t ready to admit the issue or seek therapy, you can enhance the connection and your own quality of life, regardless of whether it’s your spouse, parent, child, sibling, friend, or another loved one.

Learn Everything You Can

It’s critical to acknowledge your loved one’s suffering if they have a borderline personality disorder. The harmful and destructive activities are a response to intense emotional suffering. Therefore, they don’t concern you. Understand that when a loved one hurts you, their actions or words are usually driven by a desire to ease their suffering rather than by conscious thought.

Although learning about BPD won’t instantaneously fix your relationship issues, it will help you comprehend what you’re going through and cope with challenges in a more positive manner.

Identifying The Symptoms And Indicators Of BPD

It might be challenging to identify the warning signs and symptoms of borderline personality disorder. Rarely diagnosed alone, BPD is frequently identified alongside co-occurring conditions such as depression, bipolar illness, anxiety, an eating disorder, or drug misuse. Because your BPD family member or loved one may be very sensitive, even seemingly insignificant events can result in strong emotions.

When agitated, borderline individuals frequently struggle to remain rational or find a good approach to cool down. They could make nasty comments or behave inappropriately or dangerously. This emotional instability can strain their connections and their interactions with friends, lovers, and family.

Many people who are in close relationships with BPD patients frequently recognize that something is amiss with their loved ones but are unsure of what it is or even whether it has a name. Finding out you have borderline personality disorder might bring both comfort and optimism.

Borderline Personality Disorder In The Person You Love

Your partnership:

  • Do you feel like you must approach your loved one on tiptoe, monitoring everything you say and do for fear of provoking them? Do you frequently hold down your opinions or emotions to prevent arguments or upset feelings?
  • Does the person you care about experience strong mood swings practically instantly? Are they, for instance, composed one second, furious the next, and then unexpectedly dejected? Are these sudden, seemingly unreasonable mood fluctuations unpredictable?
  • Does your loved one often have an all-or-nothing attitude toward you? For instance, you are either “perfect” and the one person they can rely on, or you are “selfish” and “unfeeling” and have never genuinely loved them.
  • Do you believe like nothing you say or do will be taken positively and exploited against you? Do you feel like your loved one’s expectations are always shifting, and you’re never sure how to maintain harmony?
  • Do you constantly bear the blame? Do you frequently experience criticism and guilt for actions that have no logical justification? Are you being accused of saying and doing things you have never done? When you try to reassure or explain anything to your partner, do you ever feel misunderstood?
  • Do you believe that guilt, fear, or extreme conduct are manipulating you? When they believe you’re unhappy or about to leave, does your loved one act dangerously, make threats, go into violent rages, make dramatic announcements, or otherwise behave dangerously?
  • Your spouse or a member of your family may suffer from borderline personality disorder if you select “yes” to the majority of these inquiries.

Prior To Assisting Someone With BPD, Look After Yourself.

It’s all too simple to get caught up in valiant attempts to satisfy and placate a family member or spouse who suffers from a borderline personality disorder. You could realize that you are devoting most of your attention to the BPD sufferer at the expense of your own emotional needs. However, this can lead to physical sickness, sadness, burnout, and resentment.

When you’re exhausted and stressed out, it’s impossible to help someone else or have long-lasting, fulfilling connections. You must “put on your own oxygen mask first,” much like in the case of an emergency during a flight.

Resist the need to isolate. Maintaining relationships with loved ones and people who lift your spirits should be a top concern. People that will listen to you, make you feel cared for, and provide reality checks as necessary are necessary for your support.

You’re welcome to live a life and encouraged to do so. Give yourself permission to live a life apart from the BPD person with whom you are in a relationship. Making time for yourself to unwind and have fun is not selfish. In fact, your new outlook will help both of you when you return to your BPD relationship.

Become a part of a family BPD support group. Meeting with others who can relate to what you’re going through might be really helpful. If there aren’t any local in-person support groups available, you might want to think about joining an online BPD group.

Don’t disregard your bodily well-being. When you’re involved in the romantic drama, it’s easy to put off exercising, eating healthfully, and getting enough sleep. Try to stay away from this trap. You can manage stress and better control your own emotions and actions when you’re healthy and well-rested.

Master stress management. Anxiety or agitation in reaction to problematic conduct will simply make your loved one more enraged or agitated. You may learn to cope with stress when it arises and maintain your composure as pressure mounts by practicing with sensory input.

Communicating With A BPD Sufferer

Any relationship has to have open communication, but doing so with someone who is borderline can be particularly difficult. People who are in close contact with a borderline adult frequently compare conversing to fighting with a little kid. Reading body language and comprehending a conversation’s nonverbal substance are challenges for people with BPD.

They could make nasty, unjust, or unreasonable comments. Their anxiety over being abandoned can make them overreact to even the smallest perceived wrong, and their hostility can lead to irrational outbursts of wrath, verbal abuse, or even physical harm.

BPD is a challenge for those who have it since it distorts both the messages that are heard and those that are attempted to be spoken. Randi Kreger, a BPD expert and author compares it to “having ‘aural dyslexia,'” in which people hear words and sentences backward, inside out, sideways, and without context.

One of the finest methods to calm down a loved one with BPD is to listen to them and acknowledge their emotions. You may lessen outbursts of wrath and develop a deeper, tighter bond with a borderline person by understanding how they hear you and modifying your communication style.

Tips for Communication

It’s critical to know when to strike up a discussion. The time to communicate is not now if your loved one is irate, verbally aggressive, or making bodily threats. It is preferable to politely put off the topic by stating, “Let’s chat later when we’re both calm. I want to offer you my attention, but it’s difficult for me to do at the moment.

If Everything Settles Down:

Actively listen while displaying sympathy. Avoid being distracted by devices like the TV, computer, or phone. Don’t interrupt or bring up your issues throughout the conversation. Set aside your opinions, avoid assigning blame or criticism, and occasionally nod or utter a brief vocal response like “yeah” or “oh huh” to demonstrate that you are paying attention to what is being stated. 

You may demonstrate that you’re listening and empathetic even if you don’t agree with what they’re saying. Think about your feelings instead of your words. The BPD sufferer’s sentiments convey a lot more than what is spoken in words. People with BPD want affirmation and recognition of the suffering they are experiencing. 

Without getting caught down in trying to make sense of the words being used, pay attention to the feeling that your loved one is seeking to express. Make an effort to make the BPD sufferer feel heard. Even if what they’re saying is completely illogical, avoid criticizing them, trying to win the conversation, or invalidating their sentiments.

Try your best to maintain composure even when the BPD sufferer is acting out. No matter how harsh you may believe the charges and critiques are, try not to become defensive in the face of them. Your loved one won’t feel any better about you defending yourself. If you need to give yourself some time and space to calm down, move away.

When emotions are running high, try to divert your loved one. Any activity that grabs your loved one’s attention will do, but distraction is most successful when it also provides comfort. Try working out, drinking hot tea, enjoying music, taking care of a pet, painting, gardening, or finishing up domestic tasks.

Discuss topics besides the illness. Make the time to investigate and share other hobbies because the condition does not define you or your loved one’s existence entirely. Lighthearted conversations can ease tensions between you and inspire your loved one to pursue new interests or pick up old pastimes.

Establishing Sound Limits With A Loved One Who Is Struggling

Setting and enforcing appropriate limits or boundaries is one of the best methods to assist a family member or friend with BPD in taking control of their behavior. Setting boundaries can help your loved one cope with the demands of the outside world, where, for instance, rigorous boundaries on what is acceptable conduct are set and enforced by workplaces, schools, and the judicial system.

Setting boundaries in your relationship can provide your scenario the crucial feeling of structure it needs and give you more options for how to respond when faced with unfavorable conduct, replacing the confusion and instability of your current circumstances. You’ll be able to develop a sense of trust and respect between you when both sides respect the limits, which are essential components of any lasting relationship.

However, establishing limits won’t instantly save a relationship. In fact, circumstances may initially deteriorate before improving. The BPD sufferer is sensitive to any perceived insult and fears rejection. This implies that your loved one is likely to respond negatively when you start setting limits in your relationship if you have never done so before. 

If you give in to your loved one’s fury or abuse, the cycle will continue since you’ll just be encouraging their bad conduct. But establishing your ground and sticking to your convictions may empower you, be good for your loved one, and eventually change your relationship.

How To Establish And Sustain Sound Boundaries

When both of you are calm and not in the midst of a heated disagreement, talk to your loved one about limits. Make it plain to the person what actions you will and will not tolerate from them. Say to your loved one, for instance, “I’ll go if you can’t talk to me without yelling abuse at me.”


  • When imposing boundaries, reassure the BPD sufferer in a calm manner. Say something along the lines of, “I love you, and I want our relationship to succeed, but the stress produced by your conduct is too much for me to take. Please effect this modification for me.
  • Make sure that everyone in the household understands the rules and how they will be enforced if they are broken.
  • Consider establishing limits as a procedure rather than a one-time occurrence. Introduce the limits gradually, one or two at a time, as opposed to imposing a lengthy list of them all at once on your loved one.


  • Make obscene threats and demands that you cannot fulfill. Because it’s in everyone’s instinct to push boundaries, your loved one will unavoidably do so. Your loved one will understand the barrier is useless if you give in and don’t enforce the penalties, and the bad conduct will persist. As a last resort, ultimatums (and again, you must be prepared to follow through).
  • Accept abusive conduct. Nobody should be forced to put up with verbal or physical abuse. The fact that your loved one’s behavior is caused by a personality disorder does not make it any less harmful to you or other family members.
  • Protecting the BPD sufferer from the repercussions of their conduct will enable them. You might need to leave if your loved one won’t respect your limits and keeps making you feel insecure. It doesn’t imply you don’t care about them, but you should always put your needs first.

Supporting The BPD Therapy Of A Loved One

Although borderline personality disorder (BPD) is very curable, many BPD sufferers choose to forego care or downplay their condition. Even if this is the case with a loved one of yours, you may still support them, enhance communication, and establish boundaries while still urging them to get treatment from a professional.

The assistance of a licensed therapist can significantly impact your loved one’s recovery even when there are few pharmacological treatments available. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and schema-focused therapy are two BPD therapies that can assist your loved one in resolving relationship and trust difficulties and in discovering new coping mechanisms. In therapy, kids can discover healthy strategies to comfort themselves and control their emotions.

Ways To Encourage Treatment

If your loved one doesn’t admit they have a BPD issue, you might want to think about the couple’s treatment. Here, rather than on your loved one’s disease, the emphasis is on the connection and encouraging improved communication. Your spouse could more quickly accept this and afterward think about going to BPD counseling.

Encourage your loved one to use mindfulness practices and relaxation techniques like yoga, deep breathing, or meditation to explore healthy ways of managing stress and emotions. Their immediate stress relief can also be aided by sensory-based stimulation. Again, you may engage in any of these therapies alongside your loved one, which can deepen your relationship and even inspire them to seek out more forms of therapy.

Your loved one can learn how to stop when the impulse to act out or behave impulsively arises by learning to tolerate suffering. With the help of the free Emotional Intelligence Toolkit from HelpGuide, your loved one may learn how to ride the “wild horse” of intense emotions while remaining composed and focused.

If you are interested in more articles like this, here’s one about living with bipolar disorder.