Maintaining Friendships with Someone with BPD

friends with BPDPeople with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) often have a difficult time maintaining friendships because of their tumultuous personalities. But these friendships can offer a source of stability in the midst of emotional turmoil.

Friendships with someone with Borderline Personality Disorder can be emotionally trying on you, so knowing how to handle a friend who has BPD is vital to maintaining an important relationship.

Signs Your Friend Has BPD

If you are trying to determine whether your friend might have Borderline Personality Disorder, here are some BPD symptoms the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) suggests looking for:

  • Inappropriate, intense, or uncontrolled anger
  • Mood swings with periods of intense depression, irritability, and/or anxiety lasting a few hours to a few days
  • Impulsiveness
  • Recurring suicidal threats or self-injurious behavior
  • Unstable, intense personal relationships with extreme, black-and-white views of people and experiences
  • Marked, persistent uncertainty about self-image, long-term goals, friendships, and values
  • Frantic efforts to avoid abandonment, either real or imagined

Because of their tendency to see things in black and white, people with Borderline Personality Disorder can develop strong and emotional attachments with friends that can shift without warning from idealization to intense dislike. Your friend with BPD may be highly sensitive to rejection and even a sudden change of plans or vacation without including them can make them feel abandoned and cause an extreme reaction.

According to NAMI, your friend with Borderline Personality Disorder’s symptoms are worst when they feel isolated and lacking in social support, and may result in desperate attempts to avoid being alone by acting out through impulsive behavior or suicide attempts.

How to Make Your Friendship Last

Being friends with someone with Borderline Personality Disorder can be a challenge and emotionally draining. But understanding the disorder and setting limits can help create a balanced, long-lasting friendship.

Here are some tips for making the friendship work:

  • Set limits up front and be consistent with them. Be sure to balance your own needs with the needs of your friend so that you take care of yourself.
  • As the friendship grows, communicate how you both can use your strengths to preserve the friendship. Create boundaries so that you can get your needs fulfilled.
  • Be there to listen and sympathize with your friend’s feelings. Even if you disagree you can let them know you understand their feelings. Your friend may be used to people telling them that they are overreacting, so having someone care how they feel without discrediting them can be powerful.
  • Find out as much as you can about Borderline Personality Disorder. These friendships can be rocky, so you need to know what to expect and how to understand that their behavior is not intended to harm you.
  • Be supportive of your friend if they decide to seek BPD treatment.
  • Take threats of self-harm seriously. About 10 percent of people with BPD commit suicide, so take note if you see signs of suicidal behavior. 

Maintaining a friendship with someone who has Borderline Personality Disorder can be challenging, but it isn’t impossible.

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5 Responses to “Maintaining Friendships with Someone with BPD”

  1. G.T.O 14. Dec, 2012 at 9:56 pm #

    I have a best friend, that I’ve known for what seems like forever. She just found out she has BPD two or three weeks ago. She gave me a video on what it was, and I didn’t know what to think. She’s my best friend, no, more like a sister. But it hurts me to have her like this. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to console her. Every time I try it seems to have gotten worse. I didn’t look more into it, at first, and after I did, I felt terrible. How could I have been so selfish as to not have looked into it more??? But I’m just so happy to finally understand and know how to stay friends with her (of course I never even thought of not being her friend). But emotionally I’m beginning to feel very drained, and I just wish I could help, but I can’t. I can do what I can do. I just wish it was more.

  2. Caring Friend 07. Feb, 2013 at 10:29 am #

    My best friend was just diagnosed with BPD a couple of weeks ago… and the way it came about was very hard and very scary for both of us. Now we are trying to recover from the crisis, and it’s tough. But I’m doing my part… reading up on BPD. Now that I know that her reactions are part of the disease…. and not HER… I can actually be a better friend. I have been missing important opportunities to help, and by help I mean listening, by trying to “fix” the problems. But I am making a committment to be the right friend to her by supporting, listening, but also creating boundaries for myself.

  3. stella 29. Dec, 2013 at 10:05 pm #

    My 20-year-old daughter has had extreme BPD her whole life. Her father has it as well. She either likes a person or hates them – there’s no ambivalence or neutral opinions of people. It doesn’t help when another BPD is around to validate her belief that everyone she knows fits into the category of either being demonized or revered. She has extreme, manic rages towards me over the least little thing, especially sudden changes in our scheduled plans. I am tired of walking on eggshells with her and wish I had more information on how to deal with this disturbing and heartbreaking personality disorder. She has been in and out of psych wards for several years, has been treated for bulimia as well as suicide attempts. I doubt a person ever outgrows this problem — her dad’s 72 and is worse then she is.

  4. BorderlineInfo 10. Jan, 2014 at 3:50 pm #

    The National Education Alliance for Borderline Personality Disorder (NEABPD) offers some great resources for people who have family members with BPD. You can find them at http://www.borderlinepersonalitydisorder.com/.

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