Recent research has shown that nearly 1.6% of the American population, or over 4 million people, have been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Sadly, BPD stands as one of the most misunderstood and stigmatized mental health disorders, even among mental health providers. As we continue to raise awareness about BPD, today we focus on those whose loved ones have BPD. While these relationships can be challenging, they are certainly not impossible! Here are some quick tips to remember if you have a loved one who was diagnosed with BPD.
LEARN ABOUT BPD
No doubt about it, the more you know about BPD, the better prepared you will be to offer understanding and support. A good place to start would be the website for the National Education Alliance for Borderline Personality Disorder (NEABPD). This organization seeks to provide information about BPD in a way that avoids the stigma and offers valuable insight. The more you know, the more equipped you will be to de-escalate intense situations when they happen.
CONSUME ONLINE RESOURCES CAREFULLY
While researching for this blog, I was surprised how many articles I found paint a bleak picture of loving someone with BPD. While it’s important to be realistic about expectations, there does need to be some balance. Otherwise, you aren’t going to have any hope to continue the relationship! If you read an article that leans heavily on the negative, take it with a grain of salt. Remember to keep an open mind about your own partner/loved one. Also, take some time to find some articles that talk about the potential benefits of living with BPD. For example, here’s one from a BPD support group and another from an organization called the Mighty.
BE AN ACTIVE PART OF YOUR LOVED ONE’S TREATMENT
One of the most widely used and research supported treatments for BPD is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). DBT teaches practical skills that can be used to regulate emotions, tolerate distress, and increase interpersonal effectiveness. The thing is, just about anyone can use these skills! If your loved one is involved in a DBT group, the simple act of learning and applying the skills they are learning for yourself can go a LONG way! Skills like STOP, DEAR MAN, FAST, and Wise Mind are ones that I teach to nearly all my clients because they are universally helpful! This can communicate that you are learning along with them instead of assuming the problem is theirs alone to deal with.
LEAN ON YOUR OWN SUPPORT SYSTEM
It is vitally important that you have your own support system in place! Having friends to “get away” for a bit can restore you after difficult interactions with your loved one. Even better, having a therapist to process with can help give perspective and clarity when you need to hold tight to your own boundaries. No one can do it alone, and having some people in your corner will be indispensable in the long run!
KNOW YOUR LIMITS
At the end of the day, you have to know your own limits in the relationship. Hopefully, your loved one will want to work with you for the benefit of the relationship. That might not always be the case, however. It can be good to also recognize the signs when your partner is not willing to work with you on the relationship. At the end of the day, you have to do what is best for you, and you have to hold tight to your own values and boundaries.
Loving someone with BPD can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding with some effort from everyone involved! If you are struggling in your own relationship with someone who has BPD, we at Heartland Therapy Connection would love to help! We offer both individual and couples therapy, and many of our therapists have training regarding BPD and its challenges. Call us at (816) 287-0252, and let us know how we can help!