How to cope when your loved one suffers from BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder)

Those who suffer from BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) profoundly affect their loved ones. One minute everything is fine and the next you feel as if you are walking on eggshells all the time, never knowing how your loved one will react to a situation or to you; will it be with love ? or anger? You feel helpless and unable to cope. You are not alone. It is thought that more than six million people in the U.S. have a Borderline Personality Disorder, and that these people greatly affect the lives of at least 30 million others.

What is Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)?

BPD is a serious and often life-threatening disorder that is characterized by severe emotional pain and difficulties managing emotions. The problems associated with BPD include impulsivity (including an impulse to suicide and self-harm), severe negative emotion such as anger and/or shame, chaotic relationships, an extreme fear of abandonment, and accompanying difficulties maintaining a stable and accepting sense of self.

How to cope when your loved one suffers from BPD

The best way to cope is to try to understand what BPD is and how it affects the sufferer. It is always easy to be scared of the unknown, so learn as much as you can about BPD, its symptoms and what a sufferer of BPD goes through. Most importantly, understand that when they lash out at you it’s not personal.

Of course, even when you think you understand BPD, you will still have to learn how to cope with your own feelings of betrayal, hurt and guilt created by your loved one’s attitude towards you and that some people will believe their hurtful comments about you. Sadly, those suffering from BPD have short memories as far as ?good things? happening to them, but they always remember the bad stuff and your perceived involvement in that. It is hard to deal with the feeling that you are only as good as the last thing you did for them.

Help them to get treatment

If you have enough influence and control in the sufferer’s life, then you need to help them to make the decision to seek treatment. It is imperative that they take responsibility for their BPD and be made to understand that there is qualified help out there, that things can be better, that they CAN get control of their life. This is very hard to do and therefore the most difficult element to cope with, because the very nature of the disorder holds the sufferer back from seeking help. It engenders negative feelings in the sufferer towards themselves and those trying to help them, creates low self-esteem meaning the sufferer doesn’t feel ?worthy’ of help, and gives them a black and white view of the world, meaning that they might dismiss the doctor as ?no good’ at a second appointment having been very happy with them at the first.

What if I can’t convince them to get treatment?

There are many support groups out there, not just for BPD sufferers but also for those who live with, or who are close to, a BPD sufferer. Sometimes just sharing the burden helps. Communication is key in any situation but it is particularly important here. Communication with the BPD sufferer and with those around you to make them understand what you are going through; all this is paramount to help you cope with the stress of loving someone suffering from BPD.


Nancy Travers is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She specializes in all types of relationships; We all want them, We all need them; How to get em and Keep them. Nancy’s office is located at 2212 Dupont Dr., Suite I, Irvine, Ca. 92612.

For more information or to make an appointment, call 949-510- 9423 or contact us.
copyright a division of Counseling Corner, Inc.
As seen in The Blade magazine June 2005.

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