When you have a friend with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), you may feel helpless when it comes to providing them support. You may not know how to react to their sudden bursts of anger or handle their wild mood swings. And you may not know how to be there for them when they need someone to turn to.
Knowing how to support your friend with BPD will go a long way in helping your friend better cope with their disorder. Here are six ways to better support a friend with BPD:
1. Validate their feelings. According to Marsha Linehan’s biosocial theory of BPD, most people with BPD grow up in environments where their essential childhood needs of being heard and accepted are not met. Even through adulthood, people with BPD are often accused of being manipulative and over-reactive – they’re used to being misunderstood and unaccepted. You can reassure your friend that you understand where they’re coming from and you hear what they are saying. You can also offer validation through gestures such as hugs and smiling.
2. Help them get BPD treatment. People with Borderline Personality Disorder can be reluctant to get BPD treatment because they don’t believe there is anything wrong with them. They might also evade therapy because of the stigma attached to BPD. However, BPD treatment is absolutely essential if they wish to lead a functional life. You should try to drive home the fact that BPD treatment could free them of their suffering and help them to lead a more enjoyable life. If you’ve convinced your friend to get BPD treatment, help them find a suitable BPD treatment center that offers Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).
3. Don’t ignore self-harm threats. People with BPD often make suicidal and self-harmful gestures. While many of these are a cry for help rather than actual threats, you should not be led to believe that your friend will never attempt suicide. Rates of suicide are high among people with BPD, so do not ignore any threat or warning signs of suicide. In the event your friend makes such a threat, call 911.
4. Educate yourself. If you’re going to try to help your friend with Borderline Personality Disorder, you will have to invest time in understanding the disorder. People with BPD demonstrate extreme behaviors that can completely fluster others. For example, your friend may completely idolize you (idealization) one day, and the next day dethrone you from the pedestal they had put you on (devaluation). Books and workshops on BPD can be valuable resources in furthering your understanding of the psychiatric disorder. Understanding the psychology of BPD will go a long way in helping you better support your friend with BPD.
5. Take care of yourself. A friendship with someone who has Borderline Personality Disorder can be emotionally draining at times. You may feel like the only one making an effort to make the friendship work. It’s essential that you look after your own physical and mental health. Get counseling if it helps. Do not tolerate any type of physical or mental abuse.
6. Be there throughout. The fight against Borderline Personality Disorder is a war, not a battle. It will test your patience at times, but you’ve got to stay the course. It may take several months or even years before you will notice significant change in your friend’s behavior, but the effort is worth it. Be consistent and unwavering in your support, and learn skills needed to create a more worthwhile friendship with someone who has BPD.