How to help someone with borderline personality disorder (BPD)

How to help someone with borderline personality disorder (BPD)

How to help someone with borderline personality disorder (BPD) 1200 675 Team Mindsum
Last updated: 17 May 2021

It is challenging when you have a loved one who has been diagnosed with BPD. It is a disorder that tends to interfere with everyday life. It can especially cause problems within the relationship with your loved one itself. Fortunately, there are some things that you can do to help. These are discussed below.

Understand borderline personality disorder (BPD)

It is a good idea to read as much information on BPD as you can. Understanding BPD and how it works will help you to recognize the ways that your loved one is affected, and the ways that you can help.

To read more information on BPD, you can view our pages on borderline personality disorder and getting help for borderline personality disorder.

Help them to feel supported

A person with BPD has difficulty with their emotions and can often feel insecure about other people’s intentions. It is important for you to help them feel safe and supported.

Be dependable and trustworthy- Try to stick to your promises and commitment towards them. Many people with BPD struggle with thoughts of being abandoned or rejected. Let them know that you are there for them and they can count on you.

Show acceptance- BPD might be difficult for you to understand, but it is a real problem for them. Let them know that they are accepted no matter what. Avoid being judgemental or critical about their difficulties.

Be patient- You might sometimes feel frustrated and want to react in the moment. Be patient and take time to think before reacting. This will help you to respond in ways that are more helpful.

Help them to find the right support

You can encourage them to find support through a GP or a therapist. If this involves your young child, you can contact these services. You might:

  • Help them to book an appointment with a GP or therapist

  • Offer support when they attend appointments (e.g., waiting in the waiting room or attending some sessions if you need to)

  • Help them search for support groups or self-help resources (e.g., educational leaflets, mindfulness apps, wellbeing sessions)

  • Encourage them to keep attending sessions and to not give up

Know when to get urgent support

If your loved one is self-harming, expressing suicidal ideas or is having unusual experiences (e.g., seeing or hearing things that are not there) you should get immediate support. 

You should contact emergency services, such as the 999 or you can get them to the nearest emergency department.  Here are some organisations who can help you 24/7 if you need urgent help.

Validate their experiences

Try not to discount their feelings or experiences. Let them know that their experiences are valid and acknowledge that they are real. This can help them to feel understood and safe to express how they feel.

Set boundaries

Your loved one might need a lot of reassurance so that they can cope with difficult thoughts and insecurities. While it is good to help them feel supported, it is also helpful to have clear boundaries. You can talk to your loved one to discuss what you can and cannot do for them.

Plan support in advance

Have a conversation with your loved one and plan out what you and others will do during a crisis. You might want to consider the following:

  • Making sure you have a list of emergency contact services

  • Taking hold of bank cards, vehicles, or any other important assets

  • Think about helping them with their usual tasks that they won’t be able to get done

  • Talk with your loved one and their healthcare provider on what to do if they refuse treatment

Learn their triggers

Pay attention to the situations that usually cause your loved one to have negative feelings and reactions. This doesn’t mean that you must walk on eggshells around your loved one. You can discuss this with them directly, so you can try your best to avoid certain triggers. 

Point out their strengths

It is good to remind your loved one of the things they are good at. Point out their strengths and the areas where they do well. This will help them to build their self-esteem, to feel more secure and this can uplift their mood.

Make time for fun

Doing fun activities with your loved one can help to uplift their mood and contribute to a healthy bond in your relationship. You might want to schedule regular activities you both find enjoyable (e.g., watching a funny movie, ordering your favourite food, going for a walk).

Look after yourself too

It is extremely important for you to look after yourself. Whether you are a parent, family member or a friend, you will be in a better position to give help, as long as you are taking care of your own well-being too. To do this you might:

  • Get other family members involved in supporting your loved one

  • Schedule some time off for yourself

  • See a professional that can support your mental health

To read more about looking after yourself, see our page on self-care when helping someone else.

List of useful resources 

MIND

To read information about helping someone with borderline personality disorder on the MIND website, you can click here to access the link.  

Help Guide

To read information about helping someone with borderline personality disorder on the Help Guide website, you can click here to access the link.

For urgent support

To get urgent help, you or your loved one can contact the NHS urgent helpline or the Samaritans

Click here to book free counselling sessions

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