Loving Someone With Borderline Personality Disorder

borderline personality disorderIn our sophisticated psychiatric society, emotional difficulties are often shared openly.[1] It isn’t unusual for people to tell family and friends that they have an anxiety disorder, depression, phobias, anger management issues, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.1 However, there remains one widespread psychological disorder that many are unaware of—one who’s symptoms are largely interpersonal, causing rifts in relationships.1 It’s unflattering name also keeps it from rolling off the tongue of many: borderline personality disorder.1

Enough stigma, let’s review the major symptoms of borderline personality disorder (BPD):

  • People with BPD have bumpy and unstable relationships, making it difficult to keep a job and maintain close relationships.1
  • They often have emotional outbursts, expressing outrage with verbal abuse, physical attacks, or acts of revenge.1
  • They are sensitive to being abandoned and rejected; therefore, they are harshly critical of those closest to them.1
  • They view others as being either “good” or “bad.” A friend or parent may be idolized one day, yet viewed as a terrible person the next for failing to live up to their expectations.1
  • They act out with self-destructive activities to fend off feelings of unbearable emptiness—for instance, they may drive recklessly, compulsively shop, binge on food or alcohol, use drugs, and engage in promiscuous sex.1

Borderline personalities range from mild to severe.1 Oftentimes, only those who know people with this disorder are aware of the extent of their emotional difficulties.1

Loving someone with BPD can make life seem like an emotional rollercoaster.1 There are a few tips you can follow to make the ebbs and flows even out, while your loved one seeks professional help.1

First, be consistent and predictable.1 Keep your word on whatever you have told your loved one that you will or will not do.1 This will keep you from being the recipient of a violent outburst of accusations.1 However, if you give into the outrage, you are only reinforcing the behavior—and it will get worse.1

Second, encourage responsibility.1 Don’t always come to your loved one’s rescue, and don’t be manipulated into taking responsibility for their irresponsible actions.1 Don’t replace their damaged car and don’t pay for their compulsive shopping.1 The more you rescue your loved one from the consequences of their actions, they will have no incentive to change.1

Third, offer your loved one honest feedback.1 Do not reinforce your loved one’s belief that they have been treated unfairly, unless you know it to be true.1 Oftentimes, people with BPD are not aware of how their behavior affects others.1 Therefore, if they are fired from a job, simply say, “I understand that it isn’t a good feeling when you are fired.”1 Don’t play into your loved one’s reasoning that it is because they worked for awful, mean people.1

Lastly, do not escalate the argument.1 There are many times when your loved one will misinterpret what you mean.1 If you offer constructive criticism, you will be met with a tirade of how despicable you are.1 If you offer a compliment, you are accused of patronizing.1 If you explain your intentions, emotions escalate quickly.1 Instead, just do your best to keep calm and sane, even though you may feel frustrated, powerless, and defeated by your loved one’s behavior.1

Borderline personality disorder can be difficult to deal with; therefore, it is extremely important to get your loved one the help they need.1 A psychiatrist who specializes in BPD who is able to offer specific psychotherapy can help a person with the disorder work through it and make significant positive changes.1

[1] Sapadin, L. (2013). Living with & Loving Someone with Borderline Personality Disorder. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 18, 2013, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2013/11/15/living-with-loving-someone-with-borderline-personality-disorder/

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