Living With A Loved One With Borderline Personality Disorder

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Borderline Personality Disorder: Tips for Better Communication

BY DR SARAH HUGHES

Borderline Personality Disorder can put stress on relationships

BPD can put stress on relationships

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a psychological disorder characterised by intense emotional reactions, recurring relationship problems, and impulsive behaviour which is disruptive for not only the individual but their loved ones as well.

Living with a loved one with Borderline Personality Disorder can be stressful and emotionally exhausting. Seemingly mundane events can trigger extreme emotions and it can be hard to find a common ground. While your loved ones behaviour is their responsibility, there are things you can do to support them and improve your relationship.

Here’s 5 tips to get you started.

Tip #1: Be Clear + Concise

People with Borderline Personality Disorder have difficulty regulating their distress and this can make conversations about emotionally sensitive issues difficult. Before broaching emotionally charged issues, think carefully about the words you’ll use so there’s no room for misinterpretation. Keep the discussion neutral and make it clear that you’re displeased by your loved ones behaviour but you don’t dislike them as a person. Your loved one will be sensitive to rejection and you may need to remind them of this distinction frequently.

Tip #2: Stick To Your Message

When your loved one feels under attack they may try to put an end to the conversation with personal attacks and emotional threats. Stay calm and don’t allow the conversation to be derailed. Calmly state your concerns and needs and once you’ve finished what you have to say, tell your loved one that their attacks are upsetting and then leave. It’s important to be patient, but you do not need to tolerate physical threats or verbal or emotional abuse.

Tip #3: Validate Your Loved Ones Feelings

There may be times when your loved one confuses their feelings with facts. It will be tempting to correct your loved one and challenge their interpretations with facts and logic, but your loved one will see this as a rejection and the distress this causes will make it hard for them to see your point of view. Validate your loved ones feelings first before you address their misinterpretations (e.g. ‘I can see you’re really upset, I’d be upset to if I thought you didn’t love me).

Tip #4: Have A De-Escalation Strategy

When emotions start to run high, implement a de-escalation strategy. Calmly but firmly tell your loved one that you’re feeling upset and you need some time to process what they’ve said so you can understand their feelings better. Suggest you go for a walk together or run an errand to take your mind off things for a while, but make sure you come back to the conversation again later when things are calmer. It will be tempting to avoid re-opening the conversation but if you don’t it will mean your loved one will find it hard to take a pause next time.

Tip #5: Try Not To Take Nasty Comments Personally

When your loved one is distressed they may say and do things that are hurtful. Your loved ones criticisms will feel personal but they’re not real so try not to take them personally. As your loved one learns to better manage their distress they will be able to refrain from harsh criticisms but until that time try to see their comments as a symptom of their disorder and not a personal attack on you.

Dr. Sarah Hughes is a clinical psychologist and the founder of Think Clinical Psychologists. She enjoys working with children, adolescents, and adults, and specialises in anxiety, depression, postnatal depression, eating disorders, self-harm, and challenging behaviour.


 

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