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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12 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

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  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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