Acera Health

How to Help Someone with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

Family understanding how to support each other through borderline personality disorder (BPD)

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a mental illness characterized by unstable moods, behaviors, and relationships. Individuals diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder often have difficulty controlling their emotions and may experience drastic mood swings and impulsive and reckless behaviors. They may also have a fear of abandonment and unstable relationships. 

BPD can be a very debilitating disorder for those who are struggling with the condition. However, there are treatments available that can help people manage their symptoms and live fulfilling lives. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that borderline personality disorder has a prevalence of 1.4%

What are the Signs and Symptoms of BPD?

Individuals diagnosed with BPD often have difficulty maintaining healthy relationships. They may also engage in self-destructive behaviors, such as cutting themselves or overdosing on drugs. 

Other vital signs or symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder as per the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual diagnostic framework include: 

  • Extreme efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment.
  • A chain of unstable interpersonal relationships.
  • Identity disturbance like persistently unstable self-image.
  • Impulsivity in potentially self-damaging activities (such as sex, substance abuse, reckless driving).
  • Recurrent suicidal or threatening behavior.
  • Affective instability due to mood reactivity (such as intense irritability or anxiety, usually lasting a few hours and rarely more than a few days).
  • Chronic feelings of emptiness and loneliness.
  • Intense or difficulty controlling anger (such as frequent displays of temper, constant anger).
  • Transient or stress-related paranoid ideation.

BPD’s frequency, severity, and duration differ across individuals, which is why one should not self-diagnose. However, if you are concerned that you or a loved one may have BPD, it is essential to seek professional help.

What are the Causes of BPD?

There is no single cause of borderline personality disorder (BPD). Instead, it is thought to result from a combination of factors. 

1. Brain function

Brain function refers to the way the brain processes information and regulates emotions. Studies have shown that people with BPD tend to have abnormal activity in the areas of the brain responsible for regulating emotions. This may explain why people with BPD are often more reactively and intensely emotional than those without the disorder. 

2. Environmental factors

Environmental factors include early childhood trauma, family conflict, and stress. People with BPD are more likely to have experienced abuse, neglect, or other childhood trauma forms. Most of these factors are not direct causes of BPD, but they may contribute to the development of the disorder. 

3. Genetics

This refers to the heritable (passed down from parents to children) information that influences how a person looks, acts, and thinks. Research suggests that BPD runs in families, meaning the disorder may be passed down from generation to generation. However, it is essential to note that not everyone with a family history of BPD will develop the condition. 

Although these causes can be seen among individuals, it’s not to say that every individual with this background will develop BPD. The risk factors may increase the likelihood of developing BPD, but they are not direct causes.

What are Treatment Options for BPD

While there is no cure for borderline personality disorder, there are treatments that can help. 

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is a type of treatment that involves talking with a mental health professional to help you manage your symptoms. Two examples of psychotherapies used to treat borderline personality disorder are dialectical behavior therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy.

Dialectical behavior therapy

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a type of psychotherapy that was developed specifically to treat borderline personality disorder. It focuses on the thoughts and behaviors that contribute to your symptoms. 

DBT aims to help you learn how to manage your emotions effectively and improve your relationships. Also, dialectical behavior therapy uses concepts of mindfulness or awareness of one’s present situation and emotional state.

Cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy can help people identify and change core beliefs and behaviors resulting from inaccurate perceptions of themselves and others. 

Medication

Medication is another treatment that can be effective in treating borderline personality disorder. Medications can help to stabilize mood swings and reduce anxiety and impulsivity. Medications are usually prescribed to treat specific symptoms when used to treat BPD. Medication includes mood stabilizers and antidepressants. 

With proper treatment, many people with borderline personality disorder live full, productive lives.

How to Help a Friend or Family Member with BPD

If you have a friend or family member with borderline personality disorder (BPD), you may wonder how you can help them. Here are a few things to note before offering help.

1. Educate yourself about the disorder

BPD is a mental illness characterized by emotions that are intense and unstable. This will help you better understand your loved one’s condition and how it affects their behavior. There are many excellent resources available online and in libraries.

2. Be patient and understanding

People with BPD often have difficulty controlling their emotions, so that they may behave in unpredictable or dangerous ways. Therefore, it’s essential not to take their behavior personally.

3. Encourage your loved one to seek professional help

While therapy and medication can’t cure BPD, they can often help reduce symptoms and improve functioning. If your loved one is resistant to seeking treatment, you might offer to go with them to their first appointment or help them find a therapist.

4. Take care of yourself

Caring for someone with BPD can be emotionally draining. Therefore, it’s essential to make time for yourself and do things that make you happy. You might also consider joining a support group for friends and family members of people with BPD.

With that done, here are more ways to help a family member or an individual with BPD.

5. Validate their emotions

Because of the intense emotions, people with BPD often feel like their feelings are invalid. As a result, they may act out in destructive ways to get attention.

6. Offer ongoing support

Such support can be vital for someone with BPD. There will be good and bad days, so your loved one will need your patience and understanding. Just being there for them can make a big difference.

7. Encourage healthy coping strategies

Help your loved one find healthy ways to cope with their emotions, such as journaling, exercise, or deep breathing. Avoid unhealthy coping strategies, such as alcohol or drug abuse, self-harm, or risky behaviors.

8. Help them avoid triggers

Triggers are anything that sets off a person’s symptoms. For example, some common triggers for people with BPD include feeling abandoned, criticized, or rejected. Help your loved one identify their triggers and create a plan for what to do when they are triggered.

9. Support their treatment

Treatment for BPD often includes medication and therapy. If your loved one is in treatment, support their efforts and encourage them to stick with it.

10. Remind them of their best attributes

This can help them see themselves in a more positive light. Also, it can be helpful to be consistent in your behavior. Finally, having reliable and predictable people in their lives can be soothing for someone with BPD.

11. Know what to do during an emergency

Knowing what to do during an emergency can help your loved one feel more secure. For example, if they are experiencing a mental health crisis, call their therapist or doctor. You may also want to consider taking them to the emergency room.

Find Help for BPD with Acera Health

If you’re living with borderline personality disorder (BPD), you know how difficult it can be to cope with the symptoms. A professional, evidence-based treatment program can make all the difference. At Acera Health, we understand the unique challenges of BPD, and we’re here to help. We offer various services, including individual therapy, group therapy, and crisis intervention. 

We also have an intensive outpatient program (IOP) for those who need more intensive treatment. No matter where you are in your journey, we can help you take the next step. 

Contact us today to learn more about our program and how we can help you live your best life.

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