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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17 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/.

  5. michael 07. Dec, 2015 at 9:49 pm #

    I had to leave my friend of 10 years. She has BPD, stopped treatment, and the cycle of idealization/devaluation became unbearable for me. Terrible examples of cruelty to me. I tried and tried but at the end of the day, I needed to put myself first.

  6. Karen 30. Mar, 2017 at 11:11 pm #

    Yes, BPD sufferers have abandonment issues. But those of us not suffering from it, whom have done all we can do for someone who has BPD, have to take care of ourselves, too. Human beings should not be guilted into staying in exhausting, abusive friendships and relationships involving someone with BPD simply because we’d feel guilty in acknowledging our own needs. Trying desperately to maintain those relationships where the person with BPD refuses to honor boundaries and continue therapies and/or treatment is a form of self-harming behavior, too.

  7. karen lee 06. May, 2017 at 8:18 pm #

    I just learned a friend has bpd. I run into people who are “a mess” and in the past have stayed by their side and been a devoted friend. Not any more. My attitude now is people who are messed up from bipolar or various other things can get away with a lot if people put up with this crap.

    Once I laid down the law with my bpd friend and told her that she was not allowed to incessantly whine and complain to me and use me as her personal dumpster she tested me a few times. I hung up on her as I said I would. Now she doesn’t do that anymore.

    Now I have to get her to stop telling me the same thing five times in one conversation. She is doing this in order to micro-understand someone’s inconsequential behavior toward her and wants me to play that game. Not gonna let her do it. I call her on it and she stopped.

    She is now seeking out other friends (she told me so) who will listen to her “stuff.” GOOD!!

  8. Michael 19. May, 2017 at 11:39 am #

    Karen Lee what a disgusting post.

  9. Marcella 27. May, 2017 at 12:13 am #

    About one year ago, I was diagnosed with BPD which resulted from the abuse I suffered as a child.

    I have a dear friend who has helped me through so much on my journey to wholeness, these past two years.

    I just recently released her from being my friend because our friendship had become a very unhealthy relationship. I love her dearly and I believe she loves me, but until I get healthy, it is best that I keep my distance because I do not want to cause her pain and I personally can not handle the pain of rejection, even if the rejection is just my imagination; Trauma Brain kicking in.

    I feel like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: I believe I understand the “why” of BPD, (as Dr. Jekyll), but yet, I can not STOP from falling into “Trauma Brain” beliefs that are a part of being BPD, (as Mr. Hyde).

    Oh wretched woman that I am! IS there hope for me?

    I am seeing an amazing Counselor who specializes in BPD and trauma. She says that I am making great progress. She assures me that there will be an end to all this turmoil one day. I believe her.

    With God, all things are possible!

  10. Sam 18. Jun, 2017 at 3:54 am #

    Michael, Karen Lee’s post isn’t disgusting. It’s actually what you need to do to help both of you. All BPD aren’t the same but many test boundaries constantly. By setting firm boundaries with them, and honesty n humor work best I find, they will respect you and feel safe and you will feel like you can b there for them and take care if yourself. If you just support and listen without doing this, things w a BPD loved one most likely will not work out. People w BPD do best w strong, people who know and take care if themselves. Selfless giving and codependent friends and partners do not work out for either in the long run. But, again, BPD manifests differently and each person is unique. Obviously her friend isn’t the quietly self-abusing, loner, and suicidal type of BPD. With, any, tho, strong boundaries make them feel safe. If u can show that you have self love, self awareness, and give them clear boundaries, this is a great example to them. And only then will they feel safe and know they can’t hurt and that you won’t leave them because u take care of yourself. Good luck, everyone. Come at this from a position of love and strength and work on your own triggers when the BPD loved one activates them. It will help you grow and mature on your life path as well as your friend s and lovers. XO

  11. Sam 18. Jun, 2017 at 3:57 am #

    *can’t hurt you

  12. Rose 21. Jun, 2017 at 5:02 pm #

    I have BPD, and I do my best to not be the person everybody pictures when they think BPD. I rarely lash out at anyone, but I take the anger i havewith others and i place it on myself. For example: my best friend used to text me at least once a week, and if i texted him he’d always reply eventually. Well he all the sudden stopped texting me and speed replying to my texts. I got scared, my abandonment issues flared up, but I didn’t say anything to him. After several months of absolutely no communication, I decided I had done something wrong. I decided i screwed up so bad with him somehow that he would be better off without me. So i texted him and told him i was ending our friendship. He flew off the handle. After, 5 months of not talking now he texted me back and is telling me this is just my BPD and how emotionally draining this text is and how i am being manipulative and how mean i am to our other friend. So, now I’m left with his words, not sure what to do. All I know is that no matter what I do or say, no matter how nice or mean I am, I am always the bad guy just because I have BPD.

    Please, try to understand your family and friends with BPD are not ot to get you. I would never wish this illness on anyone. Life as someone with BPD truly sucks. I am terrified to express my feelings to anybody because of being told I’m overreacting or I shouldn’t feel that way, or worse because i told someone whatever I’m feeling (happy, scared, sad, mad) I get accused of hurting them.

    I’m sorry if i am not supposed to post this here or if i said anything that upset someone or if i didn’t make any sense.

  13. Amanda 24. Jun, 2017 at 10:01 pm #

    I just ended a 45-year off again, on again friendship with a childhood friend who I believe fits the diagnosis of BPD. The never-ending drama and trauma that this person attracts became so draining and overwhelming that it was taking its toll on me personally. Once I got firmer boundaries and started pushing back a little on their “victim” mentality, they did not like it one bit. What ensued was a nasty vitriolic rage that seemed to come out of nowhere and that I can only describe as cruel – just hours after I was told “you are the best.”

    If you are friends with someone with BPD, and you want to maintain your own sanity, encourage them to get into some kind of recovery. Sadly, my friend thinks everyone else is the problem and probably always will. She thinks everyone else is ‘crazy.’
    Proceed with caution…

  14. Kara 30. Jun, 2017 at 11:54 pm #

    If people treated others with respect and fairness, a lot of people with BPD wouldn’t have it to begin with!

    Sam and Karen Lee, you sound like the people I would gladly allow to have the same treatment placed upon you like my friend because you two don’t sound like you have an empathetic bone in your body.

    I’ve had a friend with BPD who was very close to killing herself.

    My friend was the sweetest person ever before she turned into someone I almost found it hard to stand by. When she was bullied, girls and boys would get every chance they could get to tease her. If it wasn’t for her aappearance, it was for her clothes. Since her family, and neither did she, like a lot of popular trends, she was always teased relentlessly about it. If I had never noticed how distant she’d been with me, I don’t think I would have ever figured out that she had BPD.

    I never went to the same school as her and she kept things bottled up until then.

    Her mom was an emotional abusive alcholic and her family was no better with trying to keep her in the house she was in. She tried to make friends but couldn’t because after those two experiences + being bullied, she kept to herself.

    But you know, whenever she had her freakouts, I was determined to help her. I always tried to validate her as best as I could. I told her that I gave a shit about her. After I started doing that, she started to become a little bit better. She started to trust me more and she even managed to be social and become friends with other people. Now hers weren’t as bad as most people’s but she would always apologize afterwards because she truly COULDN’T help herself.

    She’s still very much alive but she still struggles with making friends because of those experiences she had to go through. Not every child can handle being teased and even when they go to teachers for her, it never seems to do anything but make the situation worse.

    Not every person with BPD enjoys it. You probably will encounter some that enjoy it, but you won’t know that until you really get to know them. Most of them cannot get the help that they need. You don’t know what is going on with them until it’s too late.

    If you can’t handle someone with bpd, then maybe don’t talk to them in the first place? Don’t even offer to be their friends because they’d be much better without you. Don’t say you’ll give them support but then yank it away when it becomes too much for you.

  15. Vicky 24. Sep, 2017 at 6:56 pm #

    I was just recently diagnosed with personality disorder, both borderline and dependent. I went through a horrible divorce 5 years ago and have major depression. My ex abandoned My son and I. I was a very devoted wife and help put him through law school, traveled around the country and lived in places ai did not want to live so we could supposedly have a better life. I never got a chance to go to PA school ehich wad my dream because I was too busy supporting us. I trusted him. He was my best friend. I am now stuck all alone in this small college town in Pennsylvania. I am so lonely. Just out my son in college so I am completely alone. I have very few friends here but I am in a special treatment program here at the university for people with personality disorders called Transference Therapy. I meet with my therapist twice a week. I will be starting DBT group therapy there soon too. I am doing everything I can to get better but some days are so hard and so lonely. I miss my old life so much. I lost my ex who was my best friend. And I am worried my son may have this. I know my older sister most likely does and hers is much worse than mine. She is vicious and mean. But she has a good husband who stands by her. Both my sisters live 5 hours away in another state. I need an advocate and a support system. I need friends now more than ever. I have lost quite a few life long friends these past 7 years since he left. I would never do that to them. One friend who I met just a few years ago called me and left a message not to call her anymore because I am too stressful and give her a stomach ache. She pretends to be a Christian. Just cut me off Facebook for no reason. This is cruel. I am hurting so badly.

  16. renate 14. Nov, 2017 at 9:35 pm #

    i am good friends with a male whom i feel has bpd he has not been diagnosed by a physician but from the resaech i have done he is. MosT Of the time we get along but almost like clockwork every month or so he goes ballistic on me and totallt criticizes everything i do to the point of bringing me to tears which has no effect on him we are usually somewhere where i can,t walk away from him. Then the next day or comes around apologizes and says he didnt mean anything he said. It is very hard to take and leaves me with deep wounds which he doesnt really ackmowledge how do i handle this in the future? i dont want to desert him because i know he also suffers from abandonment issues
    R

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  1. Abandonment Issues in People with BPD | Borderline Personality Treatment - 06. Apr, 2011

    […] For people with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), abandonment is something to be avoided at all costs. When a person with BPD feels abandoned, it can have a serious effect on their self-image and behavior, as well as their ability to maintain relationships. […]

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