BPD is one of the most commonly misunderstood mental illnesses. It’s often misdiagnosed as ADHD, Bipolar Disorder or PTSD. And its symptoms can also be dismissed as anger issues or attention-seeking behaviour – creating further stigma.
But the past 20 years or more of research into BPD tells us otherwise.
BPD is the result of biological emotional traits combined with environmental factors, which is also worsened by invalidation. It’s not the person’s fault and they did not cause it. And whatever way BPD manifests, it can cause a lot of pain for those affected and the people closest to them.
BPD is characterised by a pattern of intense relationships and stormy emotions, so it’s no wonder if you feel like you’re riding a rollercoaster.
The intensity of emotions felt by those with BPD, and the unpredictability of responses, poses real challenges for family and friends. Normal everyday occurrences, such as a greeting or request to put dishes away, can trigger irrational and angry reactions. Feeling like you’re walking on eggshells is also common, which is unhealthy for both of you.
There’s no question that loving someone with BPD is hard work. So, here’s how you can provide support and stability – while enhancing feelings of empowerment for everyone involved.
Begin by acknowledging that unless you look after yourself, it’s not easy to care for someone else.
Throughout your relationship, you will undoubtedly experience your own pain, suffering and sadness – along with feelings of guilt and despair.
Here are things you can do to look after your own wellbeing and assist your loved one with BPD:
And remember, create boundaries so you feel safe and help your loved one understand and respect those.
A sense of stability can be encouraging for someone with emotional dysregulation or an intense fear of abandonment. That’s why you should try to listen, comfort, and get help when required.
There are many ways you can offer emotional support to someone with BPD.
In the past, psychiatrists and other mental health specialists tried to steer clear of treating those with a BPD diagnosis. Some believed that it was untreatable, but we now know this isn’t the case.
It’s important to trust and reassure your loved one that people with BPD can, and do, get better with treatment. Treatment can help the person develop a better understanding of themselves and draw greater self-awareness to the surface. Over time, relationships can become more stable and rewarding.
Diagnosing BPD can be a complex process, and not everyone who receives a diagnosis presents in the same way.
Instead of looking at it like a ‘label’, consider it a way of describing a set of symptoms that enables effective communication between your loved one and professionals. A diagnosis is essential for planning treatment, however, it shouldn’t define them.
The guidance of a qualified therapist can make a huge difference to your loved one’s recovery.
BPD therapies – such as dialectical behaviour therapy and schema-focused therapy – can help work through relationship and trust issues and explore coping techniques. Therapy has been described by carers as placing a metaphoric protective layer on raw nerves.
To share a calmer and happier life, it can help to know your loved one’s management plan. This can help you speak the same language, offer guidance when things veer off track and strengthen your bond.
Be patient and realistic when setting goals. Take baby steps rather than attempting ambitious leaps, to avoid setting yourself up for failure. A step-by-step approach has a greater chance of success.
Supporting your loved one with BPD can be undeniably challenging – but also very rewarding. It will be a journey that will help you grow as an individual and strengthen your relationship.
If you’re supporting someone with BPD and need support, our team of psychologists can help. Call us on 1300 995 636 to learn more.