Supporting a Family Member Who Has Borderline Personality Disorder

When a family member is diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), the news can be frightening and disorienting for both the person with the disorder and the people who love them. BPD doesn’t just affect the person suffering from the disorder — it affects everyone in that person’s orbit, especially those closest to the person, including their spouses, family members, and close friends.

Supporting a loved one who has been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder will mean helping them learn more effective communication styles and amend negative patterns of behavior. It will inevitably be difficult to do so at times, but it will be easier if you can learn to change your own reactions and adopt new communication strategies.

Better Communication

When conflicts arise between yourself and your loved one with Borderline Personality Disorder, there are a few simple communication skills that may help deescalate the situation.

People with BPD are highly sensitive and can feel slighted or rejected quite easily. Sometimes those feelings of insecurity are expressed in anger. When trying to diffuse conflicts that arise, stay away from phrases like “You always overreact!” or “You shouldn’t feel that way.” Instead, try asking for clarification: “I want to understand what you’re feeling, can you help explain to me why you feel this way?” Then try repeating what you hear: “You feel upset when I don’t call you all day because it makes you feel unloved.” In doing this, you may be able to deescalate a tense situation simply by demonstrating that you hear what they are saying.

It’s not easy to change our own reactions overnight when we have developed ingrained responses to common areas of conflict, but over time changes in how you communicate with your loved one with Borderline Personality Disorder can truly make a profound difference.

Remember to be patient with yourself as well as your loved one. Progress may be slow, but the rewards are well worth the effort.

Establish Healthy Boundaries

Another way to better support a loved one with Borderline Personality Disorder is to establish healthy boundaries and not allow your buttons to be pushed. People with BPD respond well to consistency in behavior from others, so it’s important to take responsibility for your own actions and responses and to remain steadfast.

For example, if you have set a boundary by stating that you will not tolerate being screamed at, then you must back that up on a regular basis by leaving the room, hanging up the phone, or otherwise ending the conversation until the person with BPD can rationally communicate with you. Tell them, “We can discuss this when you can speak to me without yelling.”

In time, you will see that changing your own reactions will have a profound effect on how the person with BPD communicates with you.

Don’t Forget About You

Last, but far from least, don’t forget to take care of yourself. We cannot provide love and support to others if we don’t give ourselves what we need to be whole and healthy as well.

Many times, the difficulties and stresses of living with a person with Borderline Personality Disorder can feel all-consuming. You may spend much of your time and energy worrying about their behavior, covering up your own feelings, or just trying to avoid conflict. It can be exhausting both physically and emotionally.

Supporting a loved one with BPD effectively can only happen when we become proactive in regards to our own healing process. There are support groups for family members both online and in person. Develop relationships with those who understand what you’re going through.

Also be sure to take time out to decompress. Whether it’s a cup of tea, a few quiet moments of meditation, or a brisk walk, we all need time to replenish our reserves.

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