When someone you love has borderline personality disorder (BPD), their behavior and reactions may be unpredictable and may include emotional volatility, impulsivity, a fragile sense of self and difficulty in relationships. They have trouble managing their emotions and an intense fear of abandonment. Many people with BPD resort to suicidal threats or self-injury.
For those who care about a person with this condition, it can be difficult to avoid getting caught up in the displays of emotional intensity, inappropriate anger and self-sabotage. BPD is a serious form of mental illness, but it is treatable. Some people with personality disorders don’t recognize that their emotional reactions are quite a bit different than the experiences of most people. How can you support a loved one who has BPD?
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Encouraging Your Loved One with BPD to Get Help
The symptoms of BPD can be intense and can interfere with not only the daily life of the person with the disorder but also the lives of those closest to them. When symptoms of BPD such as impulsivity, fear of abandonment and wide mood swings become apparent, it’s important for your loved one to get help from a mental health provider.
The more you learn about this disorder, the easier it will be for you to understand the behavior of a person with BPD. To be supportive of your loved one, try to avoid getting caught up in emotional conflict. Let them know they are loved and validate the thoughts and feelings they try to share with you. Be prepared that they may give you mixed messages such as hating you one minute and loving you the next.
It’s common for people with this condition to deny they have a problem and try to avoid getting help. They may consider a suggestion that you go together to family therapy or couples therapy. If they continue to refuse to get help, you may need to set boundaries in your relationship while continuing to encourage them to seek treatment from a mental health professional. Communicate to them the behavior you will not tolerate and encourage other family members to participate in trying to get the individual with BPD to get help.
Intervening in a Mental Health Crisis
There are times when a crisis escalates and an individual with BPD threatens suicide or self-harm. They may show subtle signs of self-harm such as scratching their skin, cutting off their hair, or avoiding others.
Threats of suicide should always be taken seriously, and your loved one shouldn’t be left alone if they’re threatening suicide. You may need to call 911 if you believe they’re in danger of harming themselves or if their behavior becomes violent. In some cases, you may be able to deescalate a crisis by talking calmly and encouraging them to accompany you to the emergency room or call a mental health professional.
Taking Care of Your Own Mental Health When Living with BPD
When you care for a person with BPD, it’s easy to get caught up in their actions and negative emotions, but whether or not your loved one agrees to get help, you’ll need to take care of yourself and your own mental health. If you’re dealing with one crisis after another, it can be tempting to isolate, but you’ll need the support of loved ones or a support group for family members of people with BPD to help you feel less overwhelmed.
Taking care of yourself includes getting enough sleep along with regular exercise and choosing healthy foods. Learn techniques to manage stress and practice staying calm in a crisis. Be as supportive as you can of your loved one, but also give yourself permission to participate in other activities you enjoy rather than making the person with BPD the complete focus of your life.
If you or a loved one are struggling with a borderline personality disorder or another mental health disorder, please contact us at (855) 409-0204 or submit the form below and a treatment specialist will contact you.