The Pros and Cons of Telling Someone They Have Borderline Personality Disorder

Pros Cons BPDOne of the most frustrating aspects of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is that it causes those who suffer from it to have next to zero tolerance for criticism or emotional distress of any kind, thus making it extremely difficult to approach them about their problem behaviors.

If you have a relationship with someone you suspect has Borderline Personality Disorder, you probably want nothing more than to see them get help and live a more peaceful life. It may be tempting to approach them about BPD in the hopes that they will seek help, but you must consider many things before doing so because this type of intervention can result in further conflict.

People with Borderline Personality Disorder frequently project their behaviors and feelings on to others since they cannot bear to hear anything negative about themselves. There’s a fairly good chance that telling them you believe it’s possible they have BPD will result in them accusing you of having it. When they perceive that you are criticizing or slighting them, a person with BPD will be likely to lash out, denying their problems and enumerating yours instead. This will not generally result in them seeking professional BPD treatment. In fact, it may make them more adamant to not get help.

Like most people, those with Borderline Personality Disorder don’t like being told what to do or how to fix their problems. Unsolicited advice is rarely met with instant acceptance. For this reason, you will want to gauge whether the person with BPD may be seeking BPD treatment on their own before you jump in and tell them they need to get help.  

How to Approach Someone About BPD

If you tread carefully, there may be ways to engage with a person who has BPD in constructive and non-confrontational ways that could steer their thinking toward the possibility of change. This is not a simple one day task. You will need to take it slowly and see how things progress. Here are some ways to do that:

  1. Adopt an empathetic tone when in dialogue with the person who has Borderline Personality Disorder. Let them know that you know how they feel. This is not the same thing as accepting or condoning poor behavior, but it does indicate that you hear them and understand their feelings.
  2. Try getting the person with Borderline Personality Disorder to see discrepancies in their statements and actions without being confrontational about it. “I’m confused. A minute ago you said X and now you are saying Y. Can you help me understand?” or “You said you wanted to X and then you did Y. I don’t understand.” This may help them to see the contradictions between their thoughts and actions.
  3. Accept resistance. No one can change until they are ready to, and no amount of cajoling or coaxing will help. If you feel resistance, you must accept that the time for change is not now and let it go. Pushing won’t help, and can very likely make things worse.
  4. Encourage the person by letting them know that you believe in their ability to change and improve their lives. Be available for support. 

While you may find that some of the above steps improve communication, it is still an uphill battle to persuade a person with Borderline Personality Disorder to seek BPD treatment by telling them that you believe they suffer from the psychiatric disorder. Your loved one may believe a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder will result in them being stigmatized or unsupported. 

But the biggest pro to telling someone that they have Borderline Personality Disorder is that they can finally get the BPD treatment they need to live a better life, have better relationships, and make a recovery from their BPD symptoms.

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14 Responses to “The Pros and Cons of Telling Someone They Have Borderline Personality Disorder”

  1. Fred2016 02. Mar, 2017 at 10:28 am #

    I told my undiagnosed bpd in the most gentle of ways that I thought she had BPD. While previously having admitted she had a problem, and saying she was afraid to know what it was, she went into denial about her problem & painted me black to the point where even friendship was impossible with her. In hindsight the advice about not telling them but communicating with them in a gentle manner later is, in my case anyway, the best course of action.

  2. Tina 17. Mar, 2017 at 5:17 pm #

    I’m st a cross roads whether to tell my son or not. He’s definitely the perfect example of someone with BPD. He’s also a recovering addict, so it’s like walking on eggshells to say anything. His life is in disarray and if he knew why he said or did things I think it would help. On ther side, he may blow up and never forgive me. So, I can totally relate. Going to take a lot of time to think about this. So hard🙁

  3. Nkki 18. Apr, 2017 at 6:37 pm #

    I have tried to deal with this and with my BPD husband for the last 10 years. I have read books, joined support groups, gone to therapy myself and he still refuses to accept it and will not stay in on a path for help. I have been gentle, supportive and encoraging and I have been angry, mad and insane. NOTHING has worked. It has taken a huge toll on me and I have to let go and put myself first. I’m done, he is impossible and it is too much to deal with. I hate this illness. I pray for help for all. It’s like living on a rat wheel. It is never ending and the cycle repeats over and over.

  4. Liza 20. Apr, 2017 at 6:28 pm #

    I finally had to tell my BPD mother (as sensitively as I could) that she had BPD. This was after over forty years of being the ‘all bad child’ to her and taking all the hits so she could walk away happy, vindicated and feeling in control. It became sickening to be her target and I couldn’t stand by quiet any longer and say ‘Yes Mother, No Mother’ when she wanted me to, so that she could bully and rage with abandon. I really don’t care what she thought. When you have been abused that long and take the blame that many years for the instability of another, something has to give.
    Of course she blamed me when I spoke to her about this, yammered on about how she is absolutely fine, doesn’t need counseling and has worked through all her childhood demons of abuse. For now, I have had to completely walk away from a relationship with her. I am in No Contact mode with her and I hate it but I hate being abused more. I am so over Borderline and walking on eggshells with her and tolerating one set of rules for her and another for me. I think tip toeing around these people just enables. You come to a point like I did, when the angst of having them out of your life isn’t half as bad as having their insanity torment you at every turn.

  5. Steve 05. Jul, 2017 at 9:27 pm #

    So encouraging to read the comments and to understand that I’m not alone. I start to question my own sanity after capitulating in arguments when I’m not to blame, just to keep the peace. I too am tired of the projections that I’m entirely to blame and mentally ill and that its my “insensitivity” that’s to blame for her hair-trigger anger. I too have gone to therapy at her behest (as I think most of us have). It’s important to keep your “True North” and I would agree with the writer that telling them is very very difficult.

    “I think tip toeing around these people just enables” was bang on. I realise that keeping the peace and just giving into the intimidation has just enabled my partner. The key difference is that most people realise that, in an argument, the other party politely conceded simply to stop the argument and unfortunately there is no “agree to disagree” with a BDP. By capitulating, my BDP partner takes it as a sign that she was right and that her rage was justified. This, unfortunately, reinforces her warped reality.

    Again, it’s important to keep a “True North.” My partner has a real skill at taking small pieces from several different events over the course of a couple of years and twisting them into a no-win scenario that never actually happened. Why she ould do that I have no idea, but I assume control. The mistake I’ve made is to assume that she actually knows she’s doing it. She has an ability like no other to rewrite history and then gaslight me that my memory is bad. “You see, you can’t find your car keys..this proves your memory is bad! Admit it, your memory is bad!! (or I’ll be more upset)”

    I truly feel compassion for my partner, and I love her so much, but she is totally unaware and refuses to speak about her behaviour. My own therapist mentioned that the condition is a lot like Alzheimer’s. The sufferer is completely unaware and, if told, will simply say, “No way, are you nuts? I’m fine. You’re the crazy one.”

  6. Grace 28. Jul, 2017 at 3:19 pm #

    Is there any chance that confronting those with bdb ends well? Or is it a lose
    Lose scenario regardless? Does anything work?

  7. Ariel 29. Aug, 2017 at 9:41 am #

    I was dating my husband for 5 years. After being married for 11 months he decided to walk out on me with a 10 day divorce because I am “too controlling”. This has been a whirlwind of a few weeks. He has had major family stresses arise which I knew to be his trigger. I started studying about mental disorders and came to realize he is the epitome of a quiet BPD. I am replaying the past 5 years and wish I would have been more educated on the subject sooner. I have so much compassion for the suffering he is going through and although we are no longer together I feel obligated to talk to him about BPD. I plan to start the conversation with love and patience so he knows I will ALWAYS be here. This is very scary but I figure I don’t have much to lose at this point. It is such a relief reading these comments to know that he and I are not the only ones battling this disease.

  8. Fred2016 08. Sep, 2017 at 7:26 am #

    Hi Grace.
    Its a lose lose situation – tell them and you lose them and as has been said they then dig their heals in and the denial gets deeper roots. I wish I hadn’t said anything to mine now as I believe they know very well what’s going on they just don’t want to admit it and face the resposibilty of dealing with it.

  9. StevefromFlorida 18. Sep, 2017 at 4:47 pm #

    If you aren’t married and/or don’t have kids with them, why even fight the fight? You didn’t cause it, you cant fix it. Period. Save yourself and get out. You’re actually trying to have a logical, reasoned conversation with someone where those 2 things don’t apply–they have no capacity to “hear” b/c of their disordered thinking…. they’re perpetual victims, despite being the provocateurs– no culpability, empathy, they will manipulate you– they are deceitful as hell, we are implements for their pleasure, wants and needs. What do we get? (rhetorical.)
    Separating with “NO CONTACT” will bring you surprising clarity in time- the reason they try to keep you engaging is they want to continue to bring drama/chaos into the picture b/c it serves their needs…. if you have constant drama and discord, you cant have any clarity–you fall right into their trap– then when they sense youre withdrawing, they use their feminine wiles to draw you back– 5-10 days, rinse and repeat. By removing yourself, you leave their web before they suck you dry, and before they can steal your dignity and inflict even further psychological damage on you…
    Leave before they find your replacement–because that’s the only reason they even want you there. My therapist calls them “Spider Web Women” they always want two in the web. They will string you along, driving you mad with their neglect, dismissiveness, and manipulation, all the while triangulating, making seemingly plausible excuses as to why they cant be “present” in the relationship while theyre f’in with you (or behind your back) keeping you on ice for when they want to play with you. Like youre a toy they deign to play with at will. Just get out. GOD will sort out the rest. No one deserves or needs to be in such an unhealthy relationship– if you choose to stay, I pray for you. The price is too high.

  10. Jennifer 25. Sep, 2017 at 6:21 pm #

    I really do understand the rationale behind not bringing this up to your loved one, but I am so so so very torn. My brother has been through various rehabs, misdiagnosed as bipolar and is still dealing with all of the same life problems that brought him to treatment originally. I know if I mention BPD to him it will likely be a fight-but how else can he be steered in the right direction for the actual treatment for his actual diagnosis if I don’t bring it up to him? Especially when he has been suicidal lately… I just feel like I have to tell him this is what I think is going on,but I’m terrified to do so….even more after some of the advice posted above. I know it’s not my job and it’s not my fault, but I couldn’t live with myself feeling confident this is his problem and not doing anything.

  11. Nick 29. Sep, 2017 at 7:54 am #

    I’m not even quite sure why I’m writing here except that I finally feel the tiniest bit of relief having read that there are others with a similar experience to me. I love her, she is such a wonderful person and artist, but I am being emotionally abused and pushed away in the wave’s trough, and then the crests leave me feeling like, wait, am I the crazy one? She cannot be alone and wages an emotional war with me if I go off and do my own things for an evening. She divisively distances me from my friends and chastizes me roughly if I talk to anyone about our relationship. Any space I take she warns against and says that I will cause her to grow cold and distant, keeping me close and me feeling like I’m supposed to keep things in, which then doesn’t allow me to process them, while she also feels paranoid about what others will think of her and weaponizes that paranoia against me. Pheeew. It is so painful and also liberating to know that I’m not alone in these feelings, and I feel strongly for all of you out there who have been on the non-bpd side of a romantic relationship…

  12. GS 26. Oct, 2017 at 12:04 am #

    My sister is almost certainly BPD and I’m so sad to know that this illness prevents her from even wanting to hear that she could have it. Without mentioning any labels, I begged her tonight to try talking to a therapist about how she’s feeling, even if she thinks it won’t help. She’s in such a bad place right now and it’s tearing the family apart. My mother fed into my sister’s hysteria when she accused me of hurting her feelings when I’ve been going out of my way to make her feel loved. I so t want to give up on her; I don’t want her to have a miserable, angry, sobbing-all-night life when there is treatment available. I told her husband she needs help. He doesn’t live with her fu time because it’s a difficult relationship but they do love each other. If I was suffering the way she is, I’d like to think my loved ones would get me help. But she’s a 51 year old adult and this has all gone unsaid for so long. I didn’t even truly realize what BPD was; I thought it was an exaggerated term we tossed around to refer to her volatility and fragility. How do we get through this? Why is everyone her “enemy”?

  13. Amber 19. Nov, 2017 at 11:37 am #

    I agree with others that this is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s helpful to see there are others out there experiencing the same thing, and on the other hand, it’s so frustrating that it’s so difficult to convince the BPD to get help. My heart is breaking and my family is fractured because my son refuses to see a therapist. He says people always leave him, but he can’t see that it’s his actions that push people away. It’s sad that there’s such a stigma on mental illness, nobody would be judged harshly if they were suffering from cancer. An illness is an illness. My faith in God is the only thing keeping me sane, and I just have to trust that all things will work for good in His time.

  14. Jade 19. Nov, 2017 at 12:28 pm #

    My sister the social worker has lay diagnosed me with BPD. I have been seeing a psych now for 7 years and he and I are clear that I DO NOT HAVE BPD, but a complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder due to childhood molestation and 3 separate incidences of date rape, an ex husband who was verbally abusive and then ongoing abusiveness while coparenting our child, and a NPD Parent. The biggest issue for me is the judgments thrown in my direction for the majority of my life by my older sister. She has always thought I was too sensitive (I can be, but generally it’s because I react to being hurt by others words or actions). Her family shuns me from family events and then gets angry when I tell them this hurts my feelings. I am slowly starting to realize that she uses her children and my parents as her flying monkeys. I do not fit the criteria of BPD but that of a adult seeking to understand myself. I have not blamed anyone in my family for abuse, I take responsibility for myself and seek to have harmonious relationships, albeit I have avoided romantic relations for 8 years now (personal choice). I don’t feel lonely, in fact I feel mentally healthy by making a choice to stay away from toxic people and to enjoy my time by nurturing my artistic hobbies, by pushing through anxiety traveling on my own etc etc. My mother is dying and my sister has made it incredibly difficult by choosing to not speak with me, avoid me and tell my parents that I am BPD so that I look like I am the one with the issue. I am not. I would love to have a proper relationship with her, but without judgement of my lifestyle, my parenting style, and how I cope with stress etc. It is in fact her judgements of me without compassion that made me realize that I am not the problem. Here is a woman who has a masters in social work, helps others resolve family conflicts yet chooses to avoid resolving our and instead tries to gaslight me to anyone who will listen. My parents have a bit of cognitive dissonance going on because they don’t see what she is saying about the BPD, but of course CPTSD mimic some of the symptoms of BPD, and they are aware that she bullied me as a child. She would poke me to get a rise out of me, and then feign innocence with my parents and I would inevitably get some kind of pushback for being ’emotional’. This is a the same pattern as when we were kids. I have tried to go no contact, or low contact – but honestly it is painful for me as I feel shunned and not included in family events because they ‘choose’ to keep me away but then ensure to tell me I should just be okay with it. I just want a normal family who are accepting and non judgmental. I love them even though they nit pick at me about my foibles and personal choices (I am into nudism at the local beach). I do have some emotional issues, but to have my social worker sister tell everyone else around me that I have BPD without ever having had that conversation with me directly (whilst also knowing I am in the care of a psych regularly and he diagnosed me with family dysfunction and CPTSD) is a slap in the face (or a stab in the back). I wish I knew how to address it with her, but she has been avoiding me, and lying to both my parents that she is protecting herself from my anger. Yes, I am a little angry, but mostly because of the years of shunning, judgements and gaslighting. Fed up is an understatement. Any advice on this (no contact is clearly not an option now that my mum is in palliative care and my dad is not far behind her).

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