Six Steps that Help When Living with Someone with Borderline Personality Disorder

In the mental health community, the diagnosis of borderline personality disorder may cause some professionals to quickly refer the individual to someone else “more qualified. Working with someone with BPD requires patience, empathy and a clear ability to set and maintain firm boundaries. So, if it is difficult for the trained professional, it is certainly challenging for the family members and loved ones to live with.  Here are some important things you can do at home as you interact together on a daily basis:

1. “The first step is to educate yourself on borderline personality disorder. This illness is characterized by efforts to avoid being abandoned, suicidal statements and gestures, an unstable sense of self, black and white thinking, anger management issues, chronic feelings of emptiness and impulsivity. For a fuller list of symptoms see Do You or Your Loved Once Suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder?”   (in place of the two that you have there now. )

2.  After you and a professional mental health practitioner have evaluated your loved one and decided they may truly fit this profile, you need to seek on-going support. Families of persons with BPD can be torn apart by the individual’s behavior. It is imperative to have assistance and encouragement from those who understand and can guide you.

3. Let the person with BPD know your feelings about their behavior (be specific) and reflect back to them their feelings. If you attempt to placate them and fix their issue when they are in an emotional storm, you will fail and run the risk of being burned out and involved in unnecessary and ineffective drama. The BPD person will move on to the next issue, but you may take much longer to recover.

4. Set limits and keep them. For instance, if they verbally abuse you and you have warned them that you would not talk to them under those conditions, then you must keep that promise.

5. Along with setting and keeping the limits, reassure your loved one that you will still be there. For instance you could say something like “I will not talk to you when you are yelling, I am leaving, but we will talk later”. Since BPD individuals struggle with real and perceived abandonment issues and black and white thinking, they need constant assurance that you will continue to be steady and present.

6. Do not focus on the person’s feelings; instead, discuss behavior. Observe their actions and effects on you and ask them to change whatever it is that is disruptive to you. Give them specific and measurable suggestions, but do not attempt to change how they feel about it. This will backfire on you. The more matter of fact and concrete you are, the more successful your communication will be.

I hope this information and these resources are helpful to you and please feel free to contact me if you have questions or concerns about this challenging condition. Finally there are several ways to help live with loved ones who struggle with borderline personality disorders.

Adapted from an article by  Ellen Topness, eHow Contributor