People 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
- 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.