How to deal with someone who has bpd

8 Best Tips for How to Cope With a Loved One’s Borderline Personality Disorder – Bridges to Recovery

November 14, 2017, Elisabet KvarnstromBridges to Recovery

Learning how to cope with your loved one’s borderline personality disorder can help you create a stronger relationship while taking steps toward recovery. Learning about the illness, validating their feelings, simplifying your message, encouraging responsibility, setting boundaries, and taking threats of suicide or self-harm seriously can make a significant difference in how you relate to your loved one. Love alone cannot “fix” BPD; it is essential that you help them find treatment while also remembering to find support for yourself as well. Together, you can forge a path to healing and build a future together beyond your loved one’s disorder.

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) can be a seemingly all-consuming condition that weaves itself into emotions, behaviors, and relationships. For loved ones of people with BPD, the illness can appear to be an insurmountable barrier standing between you and the person you care so deeply about. However, by learning how to cope with borderline personality, you can fortify your relationship with your loved one while giving both of you the support you need to heal.

1. Learn About the Illness

Borderline personality disorder can be a confusing diagnosis, and there are many misconceptions about what people with BPD experience. Educating yourself about the condition, its symptoms, and prognosis can help you gain a clearer understanding of what your loved one is going through. You can read about the illness online from reliable sources such as the National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH) or the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), or you can contact a mental health care professional directly for a more personal conversation. Demystifying borderline personality disorder can help you cut through the confusion, more deeply appreciate your loved one’s struggle, and feel better equipped to support them through their healing journey.

2. Validate Their Feelings

People with BPD experience reactions and an intensity of emotion that people without the disorder can often not relate to. It can be tempting to try to talk them out of what they are feeling or write them off as simply irrational. However, those feelings are very real to the person with the disorder. Therefore, dismissing their emotions is not only profoundly painful, it is counterproductive.

You can provide validation without agreeing with them. Often, simply mirroring back what they are telling you can be highly effective. For example, you can say, “I can see that you are hurting, it must be terrible to feel that way,” instead of, “There’s no reason for you to feel this way.” Listen with empathy, compassion, and respect. Validation is so critical for people with BPD that it has become one of the most central components of treatment. Ensuring that your loved one feels heard can go a long way toward helping both your loved one and your relationship.

3. Simplify Your Message

Depending on their current state, people borderline personality disorder may distort what you are saying in order to confirm their own worst suspicions of you or of themselves. A seemingly innocuous statement can easily be twisted into an attack, even if it is the furthest thing from what you meant. It can feel as if you cannot get through to your loved one because the illness stands between you, filtering out your true intentions and making communication impossible. To minimize the risk of this happening, Randi Kreger, author of the renowned Stop Walking on Eggshells, suggests:

When speaking with [a person who has BPD], especially about sensitive issues, remember emotion is likely to be so strong that neither of you can do high-level thinking. Make each sentence short, simple, and direct. Leave no room for misinterpretation.

Of course, this doesn’t guarantee that misinterpretation won’t happen, but it can facilitate communication to help you avoid it as much as possible.

Begin Your Recovery Journey.

Residential Treatment Can Provide Relief


4. Encourage Responsibility

When someone you love has BPD, it can be easy to fall into a caretaking role. After all, it’s natural to want to help someone you care deeply about and restore normalcy as soon as possible. However, encouraging responsibility is sometimes the most loving thing you can do. This doesn’t mean leaving them alone to cope with their illness without support, but it does mean resisting the urge to rescue them from the consequences of their actions.

If they break something while angry, don’t jump in to fix it for them. If they get into credit card debt, don’t bail them out. Allowing them to experience natural consequences can help them understand that they need help. It also allows you to more effectively cope by stepping back and not taking responsibility for things that are not your fault. As counterintuitive as it may initially seem, this can be a deeply empowering experience for both of you.

5. Set Boundaries

Just as encouraging responsibility can initially feel wrong, like you are betraying your loved one in some way, so too can setting boundaries. However, setting and sticking to boundaries can give you both a much-needed sense of structure and agency. It encourages your loved one to be accountable for their choices, keeps you from enduring unacceptable behavior, and can ultimately strengthen your relationship.

When setting boundaries, think about what will be both helpful and realistic. Introduce new ideas calmly and with love rather than accusations and shaming. Don’t be surprised if your loved on initially takes the establishment of boundaries as a sign of rejection and things may get worse before they get better. Stick it out through this difficult time; boundaries can be profoundly beneficial to both of you.

6. Don’t Ignore Threats of Suicide or Self-Harm

Threats of suicide or self-harm are common amongst people with BPD and many people see these threats as attention-seeking and manipulative, particularly if their loved one has yet to follow through. However, actual suicide and self-harm are also common amongst people with BPD and threats should never be ignored. About 10% of those living with BPD die by suicide and, contrary to popular belief, 80% of people who plan to attempt suicide signal their intentions to others, including by talking about it.

If your loved one is threatening to take their own life or hurt themselves, don’t argue with them. Don’t accuse them of being manipulative or just wanting attention. Instead, recognize that they are in deep pain and express your concern while maintaining your boundaries. Call their doctor, 911, or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK) and stay with them until they are in the care of a professional. While it is never your fault if a loved one attempts suicide or self-harms, it is vitally important to do what you can to keep them safe.

7. Help Your Loved One Find Treatment

People with BPD are often reluctant to seek treatment for a wide variety of reasons, including believing that their feelings are justified or having had negative experiences with mental health care professionals in the past. However, professional mental health treatment is necessary in order to restore emotional harmony and ensure your loved one has the support they need to make meaningful changes. It may fall to you to find that treatment.

For many people with BPD, residential mental health treatment programs offer the best environments in which to begin the healing process. The immersive milieu and intensity of therapy made possible by these programs allow your loved one to be continuously monitored and make rapid progress toward wellness. Using a personalized curriculum of individual, group, and holistic therapies, they can begin to deeply explore their illness and develop concrete strategies for making emotional and behavioral change. If your loved one has experienced trauma, connecting with a program that offers specialized trauma-focused therapies can be paramount to the healing process.

8. Find Support for Yourself

Learning how to cope with borderline personality disorder is not easy, either for you or your loved one. Many family members of people with BPD experience profound isolation, fear, and shame as they struggle to navigate the illness and it is important to make sure your own needs and feelings do not get lost in your quest to support your loved one. Remember to take time for yourself and nourish yourself, mind, body, and spirit. By seeking your own individual therapy and/or connecting with support groups for loved ones of people with BPD, you can get the guidance you need to cope. The family programming offered at Bridges to Recovery is often an invaluable source of support and designed specifically for people like you.

Call for a Free Confidential Assessment.

Effective BPD Treatment is Available

How We Treat BPD

Life Beyond Borderline Disorder

Loving someone with BPD can be a difficult journey, but also a deeply rewarding one. Always remember that they are more than their illness and, with the right care, recovery is possible. Remind them of their strengths, appreciate their efforts, and make sure they know you support them. Don’t lose sight of the potential they hold or underestimate their ability to create a more emotionally harmonious, stable, and joyful life.

Treatment at Bridges to Recovery

At Bridges to Recovery, we specialize in diagnosing and treating psychiatric and emotional issues such as bipolar disorder. We provide compassionate and effective care in a serene residential setting so clients can focus on their BPD treatment and recovery without the worries of external pressures and stressors.

Contact us to learn more about our renowned Los Angeles programs. We can help you or your loved one start on the path to healing.

Helping Someone with Borderline Personality Disorder

personality disorders

Have a loved one who's been diagnosed with BPD? While you can’t force them to seek treatment, you can take steps to improve communication, set healthy boundaries, and stabilize your relationship.

What you need to know about BPD

People with borderline personality disorder (BPD) tend to have major difficulties with relationships, especially with those closest to them. Their wild mood swings, angry outbursts, chronic abandonment fears, and impulsive and irrational behaviors can leave loved ones feeling helpless, abused, and off balance. Partners and family members of people with BPD often describe the relationship as an emotional roller coaster with no end in sight. You may feel like you're at the mercy of your loved one's BPD symptoms—trapped unless you leave the relationship or the person takes steps to get treatment. But you have more power than you think.

You can change the relationship by managing your own reactions, establishing firm limits, and improving communication between you and your loved one. There's no magic cure but with the right treatment and support, many people with BPD can and do get better and their relationships can become more stable and rewarding. In fact, patients with the most support and stability at home tend to show improvements sooner than those whose relationships are more chaotic and insecure.

Whether it's your partner, parent, child, sibling, friend, or other loved one with BPD, you can improve both the relationship and your own quality of life, even if the person with BPD isn't ready to acknowledge the problem or seek treatment.

Learning all you can

If your loved one has borderline personality disorder, it's important to recognize that he or she is suffering. The destructive and hurtful behaviors are a reaction to deep emotional pain. In other words, they're not about you. When your loved one does or says something hurtful towards you, understand that the behavior is motivated by the desire to stop the pain they are experiencing; it's rarely deliberate.

Learning about BPD won't automatically solve your relationship problems, but it will help you understand what you're dealing with and handle difficulties in more constructive ways.

Affordable Online Therapy

Get professional help from BetterHelp's network of licensed therapists.


HelpGuide is reader supported. We may receive a commission if you sign up for BetterHelp through the provided link. Learn more.

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of borderline personality disorder is not always easy. BPD is rarely diagnosed on its own, but often in conjunction with co-occurring disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, an eating disorder, or substance abuse. Your family member or loved one with BPD may be extremely sensitive, so small things can often trigger intense reactions.

Once upset, borderline people are often unable to think straight or calm themselves in a healthy way. They may say hurtful things or act out in dangerous or inappropriate ways. This emotional volatility can cause turmoil in their relationships and stress for family members, partners, and friends.

Many people in a close relationship with someone who suffers from BPD often know that there’s something wrong with their loved one, but have no idea what it is or if there is even a name for it. Learning a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder can come as a source of both relief and hope.

Does your loved one have borderline personality disorder?

In your relationship:

  1. Do you feel like you have to tiptoe around your loved one, watching every little thing you say or do for fear of setting them off? Do you often hide what you think or feel in order to avoid fights and hurt feelings?
  2. Does your loved one shift almost instantaneously between emotional extremes? For example, are they calm one moment, raging the next, then suddenly despondent? Are these rapid mood swings unpredictable and seemingly irrational?
  3. Does your loved one tend to view you as all good or bad, with no middle ground? For example, either you're “perfect,” and the only one they can count on, or you're “selfish” and “unfeeling” and never truly loved them.
  4. Do you feel like you can't win: that anything you say or do will be twisted and used against you? Does it feel as if your loved one's expectations are constantly changing, so you're never sure how to keep the peace?
  5. Is everything always your fault? Do you feel constantly criticized and blamed for things that don't even make sense? Does the person accuse you of doing and saying things you never did? Do you feel misunderstood whenever you try to explain or reassure your partner?
  6. Do you feel manipulated by fear, guilt, or outrageous behavior? Does your loved one make threats, fly into violent rages, make dramatic declarations, or do dangerous things when they think you're unhappy or may leave?

If you answer “yes” to most of these questions, your partner or family member might have borderline personality disorder.

To help someone with BPD, first take care of yourself

When a family member or partner has borderline personality disorder, it's all too easy to get caught up in heroic efforts to please and appease him or her. You may find yourself putting most of your energy into the person with BPD at the expense of your own emotional needs. But this is a recipe for resentment, depression, burnout, and even physical illness.

You can't help someone else or enjoy sustainable, satisfying relationships when you're run down and overwhelmed by stress. As in the event of an in-flight emergency, you must “put on your own oxygen mask first.”

Avoid the temptation to isolate. Make it a priority to stay in touch with family and friends who make you feel good. You need the support of people who will listen to you, make you feel cared for, and offer reality checks when needed.

You're allowed (and encouraged) to have a life! Give yourself permission to have a life outside of your relationship with the person with BPD. It's not selfish to carve out time for yourself to relax and have fun. In fact, when you return to your BPD relationship, you'll both benefit from your improved perspective.

Join a support group for BPD family members. Meeting with others who understand what you're going through can go a long way. If you can't find an in-person support group in your area, you may want to consider joining an online BPD community.

Don't neglect your physical health. Eating healthfully, exercising, and getting quality sleep can easily fall by the wayside when you're caught up in relationship drama. Try to avoid this pitfall. When you're healthy and well rested, you're better able to handle stress and control your own emotions and behaviors.

Learn to manage stress. Getting anxious or upset in response to problem behavior will only increase your loved one's anger or agitation. By practicing with sensory input, you can learn to relieve stress as it's happening and stay calm and relaxed when the pressure builds.

Communicating with someone who has BPD

Communication is a key part of any relationship but communicating with a borderline person can be especially challenging. People in a close relationship with a borderline adult often liken talking with their loved one to arguing with a small child. People with BPD have trouble reading body language or understanding the nonverbal content of a conversation. They may say things that are cruel, unfair, or irrational. Their fear of abandonment can cause them to overreact to any perceived slight, no matter how small, and their aggression can result in impulsive fits of rage, verbal abuse, or even violence.

The problem for people with BPD is that the disorder distorts both the messages they hear and those they try to express. BPD expert and author, Randi Kreger, likens it to “having ‘aural dyslexia,' in which they hear words and sentences backwards, inside out, sideways, and devoid of context.”

Listening to your loved one and acknowledging their feelings is one of the best ways to help someone with BPD calm down. When you appreciate how a borderline person hears you and adjust how you communicate with them, you can help diffuse the attacks and rages and build a stronger, closer relationship.

Communication tips

It's important to recognize when it's safe to start a conversation. If your loved one is raging, verbally abusive, or making physical threats, now is not the time to talk. Better to calmly postpone the conversation by saying something like, “Let's talk later when we're both calm. I want to give you my full attention but that's too hard for me to do right now.”

When things are calmer:

Listen actively and be sympathetic. Avoid distractions such as the TV, computer, or cell phone. Try not to interrupt or redirect the conversation to your concerns. Set aside your judgment, withhold blame and criticism, and show your interest in what's being said by nodding occasionally or making small verbal comments like “yes” or “uh huh.” You don't have to agree with what the person is saying to make it clear that you're listening and sympathetic.

Focus on the emotions, not the words. The feelings of the person with BPD communicate much more than what the words he or she is using. People with BPD need validation and acknowledgement of the pain they're struggling with. Listen to the emotion your loved one is trying to communicate without getting bogged down in attempting to reconcile the words being used.

Try to make the person with BPD feel heard. Don't point out how you feel that they're wrong, try to win the argument, or invalidate their feelings, even when what they're saying is totally irrational.

Do your best to stay calm, even when the person with BPD is acting out. Avoid getting defensive in the face of accusations and criticisms, no matter how unfair you feel they are. Defending yourself will only make your loved one angrier. Walk away if you need to give yourself time and space to cool down.

Seek to distract your loved one when emotions rise. Anything that draws your loved one's attention can work, but distraction is most effective when the activity is also soothing. Try exercising, sipping hot tea, listening to music, grooming a pet, painting, gardening, or completing household chores.

Talk about things other than the disorder. You and your loved one's lives aren't solely defined by the disorder, so make the time to explore and discuss other interests. Discussions about light subjects can help to diffuse the conflict between you and may encourage your loved one to discover new interests or resume old hobbies.

Don't ignore self-destructive behaviors and suicidal threats

If you believe your loved one is at an immediate risk for suicide Do NOT leave the person alone. Call your loved one's therapist or:

  • In the U.S., dial 911 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.
  • In other countries, call your country's emergency services number or visit IASP to find a suicide prevention helpline.

Setting healthy boundaries with a borderline loved one

One of the most effective ways to help a loved one with BPD gain control over their behavior is to set and enforce healthy limits or boundaries. Setting limits can help your loved one better handle the demands of the outside world, where schools, work, and the legal system, for example, all set and enforce strict limits on what constitutes acceptable behavior.

Establishing boundaries in your relationship can replace the chaos and instability of your current situation with an important sense of structure and provide you with more choices about how to react when confronted by negative behavior. When both parties honor the boundaries, you'll be able to build a sense of trust and respect between you, which are key ingredients for any meaningful relationship.

Setting boundaries is not a magic fix for a relationship, though. In fact, things may initially get worse before they get better. The person with BPD fears rejection and is sensitive to any perceived slight. This means that if you've never set boundaries in your relationship before, your loved one is likely to react badly when you start. If you back down in the face of your loved one's rage or abuse, you'll only be reinforcing their negative behavior and the cycle will continue. But, remaining firm and standing by your decisions can be empowering to you, benefit your loved one, and ultimately transform your relationship.

How to set and reinforce healthy boundaries

Talk to your loved one about boundaries at a time when you're both calm, not in the heat of an argument. Decide what behavior you will and will not tolerate from the person and make those expectations clear. For example, you may tell your loved one, “If you can't talk to me without screaming abuse at me, I will walk out.”


  • Calmly reassure the person with BPD when setting limits. Say something like, “I love you and I want our relationship to work, but I can't handle the stress caused by your behavior. I need you to make this change for me.”
  • Make sure everyone in the family agrees on the boundaries—and how to enforce the consequences if they're ignored.
  • Think of setting boundaries as a process rather than a single event. Instead of hitting your loved one with a long list of boundaries all at once, introduce them gradually, one or two at a time.


  • Make threats and ultimatums that you can't carry out. As is human nature, your loved one will inevitably test the limits you set. If you relent and don't enforce the consequences, your loved one will know the boundary is meaningless and the negative behavior will continue. Ultimatums are a last resort (and again, you must be prepared to follow through).
  • Tolerate abusive behavior. No one should have to put up with verbal abuse or physical violence. Just because your loved one's behavior is the result of a personality disorder, it doesn't make the behavior any less real or any less damaging to you or other family members.
  • Enable the person with BPD by protecting them from the consequences of their actions. If your loved one won't respect your boundaries and continues to make you feel unsafe, then you may need to leave. It doesn't mean you don't love them, but your self-care should always take priority.

Supporting your loved one's BPD treatment

Borderline personality disorder is highly treatable, yet it's common for people with BPD to avoid treatment or deny that they have a problem. Even if this is the case with your loved one, you can still offer support, improve communication, and set boundaries while continuing to encourage your friend or family member to seek professional help.

While medication options are limited, the guidance of a qualified therapist can make a huge difference to your loved one's recovery. BPD therapies, such as Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and schema-focused therapy, can help your loved one work through their relationship and trust issues and explore new coping techniques. In therapy, they can learn how to calm the emotional storm and self-soothe in healthy ways.

How to support treatment

If your loved one won't acknowledge that they have a problem with BPD, you may want to consider couple's therapy. Here, the focus is on the relationship and promoting better communication, rather than on your loved one's disorder. Your partner may more readily agree to this and eventually consider pursuing BPD therapy in the future.

Encourage your loved one to explore healthy ways of handling stress and emotions by practicing mindfulness and employing relaxation techniques such as yoga, deep breathing, or meditation. Sensory-based stimulation can also help them to relieve stress in the moment. Again, you can participate in any of these therapies with your loved one, which can strengthen your bond and may encourage them to pursue other avenues of treatment as well.

By developing an ability to tolerate distress, your loved one can learn how to press pause when the urge to act out or behave impulsively strikes. HelpGuide's free Emotional Intelligence Toolkit offers a step-by-step, self-guided program to teach your loved one how to ride the “wild horse” of overwhelming feelings while staying calm and focused.

Authors: Melinda Smith, M.A, Lawrence Robinson, and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D.

      • References

        Personality Disorders. (2013). In Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. American Psychiatric Association.

        Choi-Kain, Lois W., Ellen F. Finch, Sara R. Masland, James A. Jenkins, and Brandon T. Unruh. “What Works in the Treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder.” Current Behavioral Neuroscience Reports 4, no. 1 (March 1, 2017): 21–30.

        Stoffers-Winterling, Jutta M., Birgit A. Völlm, Gerta Rücker, Antje Timmer, Nick Huband, and Klaus Lieb. “Psychological Therapies for People with Borderline Personality Disorder.” Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, no. 8 (2012).

        Kulacaoglu, Filiz, and Samet Kose. “Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD): In the Midst of Vulnerability, Chaos, and Awe.” Brain Sciences 8, no. 11 (November 18, 2018): 201.

        Bozzatello, Paola, Silvio Bellino, Marco Bosia, and Paola Rocca. “Early Detection and Outcome in Borderline Personality Disorder.” Frontiers in Psychiatry 10 (2019): 710.

        Ripoll, Luis H. “Psychopharmacologic Treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder.” Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience 15, no. 2 (June 2013): 213–24. https://www.ncbi.

        Ng, Fiona Y. Y., Marianne E. Bourke, and Brin F. S. Grenyer. “Recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder: A Systematic Review of the Perspectives of Consumers, Clinicians, Family and Carers.” PLOS ONE 11, no. 8 (August 9, 2016): e0160515.

        Sutherland, Ruth, John Baker, and Sharon Prince. “Support, Interventions and Outcomes for Families/Carers of People with Borderline Personality Disorder: A Systematic Review.” Personality and Mental Health 14, no. 2 (2020): 199–214.

        Angstman, Kurt, and Norman H. Rasmussen. “Personality Disorders: Review and Clinical Application in Daily Practice.” American Family Physician 84, no. 11 (December 1, 2011): 1253–60.

      Borderline Personality Disorder – Overview of symptoms, causes, and treatment. (National Institute of Mental Health)

      Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) –Explains borderline personality disorder (BPD) including possible causes, how you can access treatment and support, and tips for helping yourself. (Mind)

      What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)? – A comprehensive article with ten shot videos. (Behavioral Tech)

      Last updated: October 7, 2022

      How to communicate with people with mental disorders. Borderline personality disorder

      In people with borderline disorder, emotions often take precedence over reason. We figure out how to behave if a loved one has BPD.

      This is part of the interactive lessons prepared by the Level One educational platform in collaboration with the largest Russian experts.

      Another 500 lessons in 15 areas, from history and architecture to health and cooking at

      see all lessons

      Author of the lesson

      Konstantin Kunakh

      Practicing counselor

      Let's talk about communicating with people with borderline personality disorder (BPD).

      📝 Most often, borderline disorder manifests itself as follows:

      ▫️ Severe mood swings.
      ▫️ Unstable self-esteem.
      ▫️ Impulsivity.
      ▫️ Hypersensitivity.

      🧠 In people with borderline personality disorder, emotions prevail over the mind, even on a physical level - they have increased activity in the amygdala, the part of the brain that is responsible for emotions.

      🔲 The world for such a person usually consists of bright contrasts - there is either black or white. This is expressed both in his self-esteem and in his relations with others.

      ⏱ For example, he can instantly and strongly fall in love, but just as quickly be disappointed in a partner.

      For people with borderline personality disorder, it is important to have a psychologically more stable person nearby so that they can see themselves through their eyes. Therefore, if you yourself suffer from frequent mood swings, it will be difficult to build relationships.

      What is important to do if your loved one has borderline personality disorder 👇

      👂 Accept and acknowledge the reality of experiences. Even if a person's emotions seem absurd, for him at this moment they are absolutely real. Therefore, it is very important for a person with BPD that loved ones treat feelings with understanding.

      🗣 Show how to manage your emotions. When conflict situations arise, speak calmly and explain them. The development of emotional control and logical thinking is one of the main methods of dealing with borderline personality disorder.

      ❗️ People with BPD are prone to alcohol abuse, psychoactive substances and self-harm - causing physical harm to themselves. Therefore, relatives should keep these predispositions under control.

      Telegram channel
      Level One

      Inspirational posts, new launches and subscriber-only gifts


      What not to do if your loved one has borderline personality disorder.

      🙉 Ignore. If you leave a person with BPD alone with his feelings, he may perceive this as the fact that you do not need him and you are gone forever. This will only increase his feelings, and may lead to a suicide attempt.

      😡 Take everything personally. When in a state of hysterics, a person with BPD may accuse you of something, but do not take it personally. When a person calms down, he will most likely forget about it altogether.

      🤜 Provoke. If you force your opinion or argue aggressively, then any minor conflict can turn into a serious scandal.

      Level One course

      Communicate, make friends, love: how to build relationships

      A hands-on course to help build or strengthen relationships. We will understand how to talk about difficult topics: from sex and infidelity to parenting. A team of psychologists will answer questions in the chat, and tests and small tasks will help you put your knowledge into practice.

      Today you can buy with a 50% discount
      5900₽ 2950₽

      more about the course

      Distant loved ones: how to deal with people with borderline personality disorder

      Definition of BPD

      The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition ( Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - DSM-5 ), published in 2013, provides a modern and generally accepted definition of borderline personality disorder. This definition has been subject to only minor changes from the third edition of this manual, published on 1980, and is based on specific symptoms. The categorical definition includes nine criteria, the presence of five or more of which gives grounds for the diagnosis of "borderline personality disorder" :

      • Desperate attempts to avoid real or imagined rejection;
      • unstable and vivid experiences during relationships with another person, ranging from complete idealization to maximum devaluation;
      • lack of a clear and conscious sense of one's own identity and ideas about oneself;
      • impulsive and potentially self-destructive behavior, such as drug addiction, squandering, excessive sexual indulgence, compulsive overeating, risky driving;
      • repeated suicidal behavior, appropriate gestures, threats or self-harm;
      • Severe mood swings and extreme reactivity in response to stressful situations;
      • Chronic feeling of emotional emptiness;
      • constant, inadequate, uncontrollable outbursts of rage;
      • Brief, stress-induced feelings of unreality or paranoia.

      See also: “I always feel like something is going to happen”: how to recognize borderline personality disorder

      There will be no winners

      One of the biggest barriers to communicating with a loved one with BPD is a no-win situation. For example, how would you answer the question: “Does this dress make me slim?” If you answer: "Yes, you're slimmer in it" - most likely, in response you will hear: "Oh, so, then you still think that I'm fat?" If you say: “No, you look fine” - the reaction will be something like this: “So you don’t give a damn about how I look!”

      In this chapter, we will learn what to do when there is disagreement on the principle that I put it this way: "Damned if you do, and damned if you don't."

      The no-win situation is one of the most frustrating paradoxes that can arise when dealing with a person suffering from borderline personality disorder.

      Kobayashi Maru situation from which one cannot emerge victorious

      Since a person with BPD has a very unstable sense of identity, he is constantly torn apart by contradictions. He suffers, not understanding what he needs, and even shifting the burden of responsibility for satisfying his desires to you, he can resist the very intervention that he needs so much. Such contradictions look something like this:

      • At the family therapist's appointment, Mary turned to Ray, her husband, in tears, and exclaimed, “You never have feelings for me! I need to be hugged." And when he got up and hugged her, the woman recoiled with a cry: “Ai! You hug too hard!"
      • After a few minutes of the phone call, Marcellus noticed that Angela was slurring her words. To his concern, she replied that she had taken a few extra sleeping pills. Alarmed, Marsellus announced that he was calling an ambulance for her and would come immediately. Angela was furious and stated that she just wanted to sleep, and if he showed up to her or called the doctors, she would never talk to him again.

      Dealing with a loved one's conflicting emotions can make you feel like you're in a competition where you can't win. I have already mentioned this phenomenon under the motto "Damned if you do, and be damned if you do not": it can be called "Kobayashi Maru's paradigm" , which refers us to the famous TV series "Star Trek" ( Star Trek ). In a military simulation computer program designed to test recruits to determine if they were suitable for promotion, actions were programmed so that any of them would fail, no matter what answer was entered into the system. (Captain Kirk was the first admiral to successfully operate in it, as he surreptitiously logged into the simulator's system and reprogrammed it before proceeding with the test.)

      Black and white world PRL

      Helplessness, anger, and a betrayal of abandonment can lead to behaviors that are characteristic of borderline personality disorder. The black-and-white view of the world that a person with BPD has is preventing them from following a coherent course of action. A worldview based on extremes becomes an obstacle for your loved one in choosing a certain side, because any of them has contradictory elements in its composition. If the overall impression of something is not perfect, it's terrible. The beautiful can easily turn into the ugly. Words contradict actions; actions contradict words; one contradicts the other. A person can reject any solutions offered to him. A person with BPD can sometimes switch sides and take the opposite position in order to resist your interference. He strives for simple solutions, and this can damage your relationship.

      Because of their resentment and dissatisfaction, a person with BPD tends to cast a negative connotation on what they believe you are responsible for in your relationship.

      Thus, he considers you to be bad, not himself. This process, often subconscious, is an example of projective identification. This defense mechanism arises from the tendency of a person with BPD to perceive people and circumstances in two extremes: either as excellent or as disgusting. In projective identification, a person with BPD denies their own dissatisfaction and projects that feeling onto you, and then manipulates your comments, manipulating them in such a way as to exacerbate the relationship they consider to be hostile. And when you, in even greater irritation, raise your voice at him, such a person, denying his own irritation, may declare: “You see! I knew you were mad at me!" Thus, the situation still looks like the problem is with you, and he is not to blame for anything.

      Many of us have a hard time dealing with the complexities that are mostly tinged with vague grays and that our lives are full of. Against this backdrop, all-or-nothing extremes are generally much more attractive. In books for children there is no place for uncertainty: the good characters are dressed in white, the villains in black. We love it when on a TV family show an expert solves the problems of a couple in just an hour, or when on a reality show where people go to find a mate, true love develops between them by the end of the season. Growing up, most of us adjust to a world in which more than the color of the hero's hat determines the situation. It is much more difficult for a person with BPD to make such a transition from a simple childish perception of the world to an adult.

      How to deal with a difficult situation without winning

      The most important thing to do in order to adequately get out of such a situation is, first of all, to catch the moment when you are being pulled into it. Part of the communication strategy UP (Understanding - understanding and Perseverance - perseverance) will be useful for building interaction with another person. When you realize what is happening, you will realize that no response will be perfect and no answer will bring complete satisfaction. Unlike Captain Kirk, who told Spock, "I don't believe in a scenario without a win!" - and managed to influence the system, you may not be able to achieve such success.

      If the obvious answers only escalate the conversation, you need to back off. If you catch yourself on the fact that you have already stated the same arguments several times, and in response you received the same resistance each time, give up this tactic. If your uncensored truth statements elicit a no-win response, you should use a different tactic.

      1. You can avoid being drawn into a dangerous conversation by letting the person with BPD speak first: “I don't even know what to think about this. And what do you think about it?
      2. You can pull with the answer. “I’m sorry, I’m very busy with work (I have a lot of fuss with the project right now). I'll talk to you later."
      3. By seasoning your speech generously with an expression of support and sympathy, you can not only convey your truth to the interlocutor, but also intelligibly state to him the essence of the dilemma “damn if you do, and be damned if you don’t”, and also offer him solution - albeit imperfect, but effective: “Darling, I understand how important relationships with relatives are for you ( sympathy ). And I want to support you with everything I can ( support ). But almost every time your sister comes to visit us, she criticizes you very much. And when I began to protect you, you got angry with me; although last time you were angry because I just sat there and said nothing. I'm afraid that you will be dissatisfied with me in any situation, no matter what happens, and therefore, I think it will be better if I just retire with apologies somewhere after a couple of greeting words ( true ). Deal?"
      4. Finally, you must come to terms with the fact that sometimes a person with BPD needs to get angry and hurt, and you will be the most convenient target for dumping all these feelings on you. In such a situation, try to remain patient and resist the temptation to explain something to him or deny accusations and exaggerations. You need to do your best not to fall into the trap of projective identification, where you have to reflect his outrage with your own. Maybe it's better to endure these troubles without trying to defend yourself.

        Learn more