Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD): How can you support your loved one who has it and coping skills to manage it.
People with Borderline Personality Disorder are characterized by having a pattern of instability in interpersonal relationships, self-image and emotions, as well as prominent impulsivity that begins in early adulthood in a variety of situations.
Signs and Symptoms of BPD
1. Fear of abandonment
Those who have BPD are often afraid to be abandoned or left alone. Simple things such as their close one coming home late or going out can inflict extreme anxiety to them. They might even take desperate efforts to keep others close to them.
2. Unstable relationships
People with BPD may have very intense and short-lived relationships. They are quick to fall in love with every new person they meet and very quick to get disappointed by it as well. Family, friends and their loved ones might experience emotional whiplash due to your rapid changes from idealization to devaluation, anger and hatred.
3. Unclear or shifting self-image
Another indication of BPD is an unstable sense of self. Sometimes you may feel self confident and self assured. However, in the next moment you may hate yourself and have a negative perception about yourself. You might be indecisive when it comes to making decisions in your life. This might lead to frequent changes of jobs, friends, lovers, values, goals or even sexual identity.
4. Impulsive and Self-destructive behavior
BPD also can cause a person to engage in risky behavior which may endanger them and those around them. They tend to attempt sensation-seeking behavior impulsively such as binge eating, shoplifting and reckless driving. Although this behavior may give them temporary satisfaction, in the long run it may give negative consequences.
The urge to self-harm is one of the common signs of having BPD. The self harming behavior may include acts that you do with or without the intention of ending your life.
6. Extreme emotional swings
A person with BPD may experience excessive emotional swings. You may experience fluctuation in your emotion between being cheerful at one moment and dispirited the next moment. Unlike bipolar or depression, these emotional swings do not prolong for a long period of time.
7. Chronic feeling of emptiness
People with BPD feel an intense void inside them. They feel extreme emptiness and find that anything they do is not truly satisfying.
8. Explosive anger
Extreme anger and short temperedness is one of the symptoms people with BPD struggle with. They have a hard time managing their anger, consequently resort to yelling, throwing things and being consumed by anger. Most of the time these extreme anger are directed at themselves.
9. Feeling suspicious or out of touch with reality
People with BPD may experience delusions and have suspicious thoughts on people’s motives. They might also experience dissociation which is losing touch with reality, due to extreme stress they face.
Helping a BPD family member or loved one
Communication is an important factor in building a good interpersonal relationship. However, it might be hard to communicate with people who suffer from BPD since they have a hard time understanding body cues and meaningful content behind a conversation. Their insecurity can cause them to overreact to any minor things. Thus, to help people with BPD, it is important to listen to them and acknowledge their feelings.
- Being sympathetic and making sure they know that their voice is being heard.
- Refrain from blaming or criticizing while listening to them.
- Listen to their emotions rather than the words that are being spoken since they need validation for the distress emotion they are experiencing.
- Try not to point out how they are wrong and win an argument with them.
- When your loved one with BPD is acting out, try your best to stay calm.
- Avoid getting defensive when facing criticism and accusation from a BPD family member.
- Walk away and give yourself time off to stabilize your emotions.
- Try to distract your loved ones whenever their emotions become unstable.
- Talk about things with your loved ones other than the disorder.
Coping skills for people with BPD
The experiences of living with Borderline Personality Disorder may vary for each individual. Finding the right coping skills that work for you may take some time. These are some of the coping skills that you may try.
1. Involve yourself in a physical activity
Activities such as boxing, yoga, running and cycling may help you to stabilize your intense emotions and regain control over it.
2. Taking time for yourself to reflect on your emotions
Being away from people for a while will help you to analyze the situation you are in and the emotion you are experiencing. This also will help you to adjust your emotions.
3. Writing emails, messages or letters for people but never sending them
This method will help you to release your intense emotions towards someone or something. However, by not sending them, it will help you to analyze and reflect on your emotions after the initial intense feelings have passed.
4. Taking breaks
Whenever you feel like having an emotional outburst, it’s better to take a short respite from it. Temporarily removing yourself from stress inducing situations will help you alleviate your anger and aggression.
5. Get social support from your family and loved ones
Try not to isolate yourself from people and be open about what you are feeling to your most trusted person.
6. Keep yourself busy
Doing something that keeps you busy may serve as distraction and keep your mind focused on the task at hand.
7. Try grounding exercises
Grounding exercises involving visual, auditory, tactile may help you to divert your attention to the present moment.
8. Listening to meditation apps
9. Essential oils
You may use essential oils with calming scents such as lavender and chamomile to calm your extreme emotional swings and make yourself be present at the moment.
10. Practice self-care and self-love
Try to incorporate activities that you find enjoyable and fun into your life which may help you to manage your BPD.
Pedneault, K., & Block, D. (2021). 9 Symptoms may indicate borderline personality disorder diagnosis. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/borderline-personality-disorder-diagnosis-425174.
Smith, M., & Segal, J. (2021). Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). HelpGuide. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-disorders/borderline-personality-disorder.htm.
Smith, M., Robinson, L., & Segal, J. (2021). Helping Someone with Borderline Personality Disorder. HelpGuide. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-disorders/helping-someone-with-borderline-personality-disorder.htm
Wandler, K. (2021). How to overcome Borderline Personality Disorder. The Recovery Village. https://www.therecoveryvillage.com/mental-health/borderline-personality-disorder/related/how-to-overcome-bpd/
Whitbourne, S. (2017). Abnormal psychology : Clinical perspective on psychological disorders (8th ed.). McGraw-Hill Education.