Personality Disorders

How to Deal with People with Borderline Personality Disorder



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Dealing with someone suffering from BPD takes good personal boundaries and more patience than you ever thought you had in you. There are days when you feel their need is a bottomless pit. People with Borderline Personality Disorder usually have a very poor sense of who they are and what they're worth, and they look to other people to give them these things.

The first thing to learn is that you cannot give anyone a sense of self-worth. All of us have to find that for ourselves. People with BPD have to learn to know and love themselves through professional therapy and hard work. Your job is to support and encourage their efforts as they go through this process. It may take them a long time to overcome their disorder, and may take a long time even to seek professional help. This is where the patience comes in. Here are a four types of behavior to expect and how to handle them.

Your loved one will probably have sudden and violent mood swings. If she's hurting herself or threatening to hurt herself, call a professional-her therapist or doctor, or even the police if she's in serious danger. If there's no immediate danger it's best to be calm and soothing and let the mood run its course. Remember that it's not about you, and it's not up to you to fix it. It's about all the pain behind her illness.

Your loved one will also probably hate you sometimes. People with BPD are prone to "splitting." They don't think of people as good but imperfect, they think of them as alternately perfect or awful according to what you've done last. Something as simple as being late home from work can seem to them like total abandonment. Your loved one may yell and scream and say you hate him, that you've never loved him, or insult you. Resist the temptation to yell back; it won't help either of you. Be as calm and reassuring as you can manage and remember that it's not really about you. You might try redirecting the conversation and saying something positive. "I'm sorry my meeting ran late but we can still go out to dinner" might appease him, and if it doesn't you may have to let the anger work itself out. Leave the room if you have to, but try not to leave mad.

These next two are where good personal boundaries are especially important. It's hard to find a balance between helping your loved one and enabling unhealthy behavior. You may want to seek advice from a professional or support group as you try to maintain that balance.

Your loved one will probably do things that seem strange, rude or irresponsible. He might drift from job to job, or act out sexually, or embarrass you in social situations. You can do your best to encourage better behavior but you can't force him to conform to your standards. It helps to remember that this kind of self-sabotage hurts him even more than it hurts you. Concentrate on being as healthy and stable as possible yourself, and set limits for yourself. Decide how far you will go to bail your loved one out and stick to that. If you shield him from every consequence of his behavior he won't find his own strength.

Your loved one may make dramatic gestures, like threatening to leave you or commit suicide, expecting you to prove your love or save him or her. She may pick fights or manipulate you emotionally just to hear you proclaim your undying love and devotion. Be reassuring, but don't be afraid to tell your loved one (as nicely as possible) that this behavior is not necessary or healthy. Try not to add to the drama-don't panic or make dramatic gestures. People with BPD want that in the short term, but in the long term they need you to be stable and not feed into the drama.

Dealing with Borderline Personality Disorder can be exhausting, but people with this disorder appreciate it more than they can express. You can be an invaluable support in their ever-shifting and frightening mental world.

More about this author: Joanna Wald

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