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How To Help a Person With Borderline Personality Disorder


Therapy Blog for Counseling in Sacramento - Relationship Therapy Center

How To Help a Person With Borderline Personality Disorder

Nancy Ryan

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Loving someone with borderline personality disorder can be challenging. Here are some tips to help you cope.

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a mental disorder that involves periods of mood instability, self-harming behaviors and feelings of emptiness. A pattern of unstable relationships is one of the hallmark symptoms of this disorder. Most people with borderline personality disorder have difficulty in interpersonal relationships. Their feelings towards family and friends may suddenly shift from idealizing the person to devaluing them. Intense dislike and anger may accompany these shifts.

If you have a loved one recently diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, you might feel at a loss to help them. You probably feel exhausted, overwhelmed and confused. You may not understand how your loved one can go from loving you one minute to raging at you the next.

Fortunately, there are several effective strategies you can use to support your loved one while taking care of yourself in the process.

Learn About The Disorder

The first step in helping a person with BPD is to learn as much about the disorder as possible. One of the core treatments for borderline personality disorder is dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT). It can be helpful to educate yourself about the basics of DBT. Learn the four basic DBT skills — distress tolerance, mindfulness, emotional regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness — so that you can help your family member or friend practice them.

Set Boundaries

Boundaries are important when interacting with a loved one who has borderline PD. Follow through on the limits that you have set. An example of an appropriate boundary might be not tolerating being verbally abused. If your loved one threatens or berates you, then you might leave the house until they are calm and no longer calling you names. It will be hard at first but do this consistently.  Avoid the temptation to try to rescue your loved one to ease their emotional pain. You can't fix things for them. They have to make that choice. 

Manage Conflict

Conflict occurs in any relationship. For a person with borderline personality disorder, a disagreement can generate intense feelings of anxiety, shame, and anger. You can help your loved one recognize that conflict is a normal part of a relationship. Provide perspective to the loved one and stay attached. Let them know that conflict is normal. You can set appropriate limits and reject inappropriate behavior while still accepting the person.   

Encourage Treatment

In the past, it was believed that borderline personality disorder was untreatable. However, new research has found that in the majority of the cases, borderline personality disorder does remit over time. Today, therapists use a variety of modalities to treat the disorder. Psychotherapy is very effective. Various forms of therapy work for borderline PD, including dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) and transference-focused psychotherapy (TFP). Relationship therapy can be very useful in dealing with interpersonal issues. Let your loved one know that there are effective treatments. Stick by their side and offer to attend appointments with them.

With the right interventions and support, borderline personality disorder is treatable. Understand that change is possible. Do not get discouraged. Make sure you take care of yourself also and seek help, as well. Find relationship therapy near me.

Lori Hunter, LMFT

Lori Hunter, LMFT

Lori Hunter, LMFT specializes in working with families, co-parenting and those high conflict couples struggling with relationships. She helps couples build intimacy, teaching effective emotional processing techniques that directly improve thoughts and behaviors.

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