As a partner of someone with BPD, you may feel overwhelmed by the emotions and behaviors that come with this condition. While you can’t change the person with BPD, you can learn how to love and understand them despite their emotional peaks and valleys.
The key to a relationship with someone with BPD is understanding their journey and staying in the present moment, even as their moods fluctuate. It will help you both build a stronger, more healthy relationship.
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a mental health disorder that can be very challenging for individuals diagnosed with BPD, their families, and other loved ones. People with BPD often exhibit dramatic mood swings, irritability, and intense anger that can affect relationships with others.
Family therapy has become an increasingly important form of support for those with a mental illness. In the past 30 years, family therapy has emerged as a critical component of psychiatric treatment for individuals with a mental illness diagnosis and their families.
When families meet with a therapist, they are encouraged to recognize and understand patterns in their family interactions that nurture healthy adolescent development or maladaptive ways that can elicit or maintain borderline behaviors and drug use. These patterns are identified through powerful in-session enactments and are addressed through the therapist’s coaching of the family members.
One of the most destructive family communication patterns involves invalidation. It is when family members do not empathize with or validate the adolescent’s emotions, goals, and beliefs. The adolescent is likely to be very sensitive to invalidation and may act out to try to get her needs met.
Only a few family interventions have been proven effective in treating BPD. Family Connections is an evidence-based manualized 12-session program delivered in community settings for multiple family members/carers of individuals with BPD . Three independent research studies indicate that participation in the FC program results in significant reductions in depression, burden, and grief and improvements in mastery levels.
Family Support Groups
Support group for BPD family members offers a private, secure setting where caregivers can learn about local services and exchange experiences with others who can relate to their difficulties. They are supervised by trained NAMI members who have dealt with the problems of caring for a loved one with a mental illness.
If you are a family member of someone with BPD, attending a support group is essential to your self-care. It can help you learn new coping skills, reduce stress, and find hope for the future.
Many families find that attending group meetings helps them improve communication with their loved ones and build trust. They also learn to consider their needs and not judge or criticize their loved ones.
While you can’t control your loved one’s behavior, you can take steps to encourage them to seek treatment and set healthy boundaries. For example, set aside time for light discussions about topics outside their disorder, like exercise or music.
You can also distract your loved one when acting out by offering them relaxing activities, such as exercising, sipping hot tea, or grooming a pet. Doing these things can help you keep calm and make the person with BPD less anxious or upset.
NEA-BPD has developed a 12-week manualized course for family members called Family Connections that meets weekly to provide education and skills training based on Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). It’s accessible in some locations, but donations are welcome to cover materials costs.
Friends and Neighbors
Family members of people with BPD may experience many difficulties in their role as caregivers. The intensity of the person’s mood swings, impulsive behaviors, and suicidal or self-destructive thoughts can be overwhelming. It can lead to significant stress for both the family member and the loved one.
Fortunately, family support for BPD is often available. For example, Bridges to Recovery offers programs specifically designed for families of individuals with BPD.
Friends and neighbors can be constructive in the caregiving process. They are often a source of encouragement and can help the person with BPD learn new skills and practices that can improve their coping strategies.
As a friend, it is essential to remember that your relationship with your loved one with BPD should be based on mutual trust and respect. It is crucial to be open and honest about your feelings and to offer supportive and nonjudgmental feedback when you see a person with BPD struggle with negative emotions.
You should also be sensitive to the person’s needs for privacy and security and be aware of how their behavior might affect your relationship with them. If your friend is avoiding you or not responding to your requests for assistance, it may be time to set some boundaries.
If you find your relationship with your friend with BPD is becoming strained, it may be time to consider seeking professional mental health treatment for your loved one. It is necessary to restore emotional harmony and ensure your loved one has the tools to recover from their disorder.
If you have a family member with BPD, seeking a therapist with experience treating personality disorders may be helpful. Choosing the right therapist is vital to getting the most benefit from therapy.
A good therapist should be compassionate, caring, and nonjudgmental. They should also be skilled in understanding your individual needs and helping you find solutions to your problems.
Your therapist should also be willing to listen and encourage you to discuss any complex subjects. It can help you get the insights you need to deal with your loved one’s symptoms.
You can try a few different therapists before deciding on the best one. You may have a recommendation from your loved one’s therapist, or you can contact the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy for a list of qualified therapists in your area.
A therapist can help you set healthy boundaries or limits with your loved one so that you can control the way they behave. They can also help you to recognize and avoid triggers that may be triggering their behavior. It can help to prevent further conflict and enable your loved one to have an everyday, productive life.