Supporting Someone with Borderline Personality Disorder

JUN. 23, 2017

By Luna Greenstein


“The things I struggle with the most are the feelings of abandonment, feeling like people are always mad at me, the self-hatred and self-harm.” says Katie, who lives with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). You might notice these symptoms are all related to relationships—with others and herself. This is not a coincidence.

Intense relationships, fraught with conflict, are the hallmark of BPD. And while it’s difficult for someone with BPD to develop, manage and keep meaningful relationships, it’s essential for them to have support and encouragement for recovery.

So, for those helping a loved one manage their BPD: Yes, their symptoms will most likely affect you and your relationship won’t always be easy. However, it’s important to keep in mind that BPD is not an easy mental illness to experience either. Your stable, reassuring presence in the life of someone experiencing BPD can help them get better. Here are some suggestions on how to further provide effective support, straight from people who live with BPD.

Encourage and Understand Treatment

BPD is not an easy condition to treat, but it is treatable. There are specific options designed for this condition, such as Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). Help your loved one enter and/or stay in treatment. Once they are in treatment, learn the language of that program and use it to offer support in times of need. For example: Learn the basics of the four skills of DBT—mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, distress tolerance and emotion regulation—and how you can help your loved one practice them.

Show You Appreciate Your Loved One

Someone with BPD may go out of their way to do things for you and make you happy because they want to receive love and affirmation in return. Relationships can become turbulent when a person with BPD feels unappreciated: “If we don’t get the recognition we think we deserve, then we’ll start to feel like we hate [the people we love], because they didn’t give you that feeling that you had helped them or did what they wanted,” says Katie. You can combat this by showing your loved one you appreciate them and the things they do to make you happy. Individuals living with BPD are often looking for honest validation and love—so if you feel it, be open about it.

Be Prepared for Mixed Messages

A person with BPD can go from loving and adoring you (idealization) to being furious and “hating” you (devaluation) in a matter of hours. Even when they do “hate” you, they will still carry an overwhelming fear that you will abandon them. “My relationships were very volatile…I was terrified people wouldn’t listen to me, or understand me, or that they would just leave me,” says Robert about his onset of BPD.

When these fears arise, be ready to offer comfort with a meaningful reassurance: “I understand that your feelings are overwhelming right now; I understand that you feel afraid that I will leave you. But I won’t. We will get through this and I support you.”

Be Responsive

When a person with BPD is trying to reach out or contact you, it’s helpful to be as responsive as possible. If a friend or loved one doesn’t respond, a person with BPD can feel rejected and internalize that as something being “wrong” with them. As Katie describes it, “Everybody needs to be there for you and everybody needs to love you. And if they don’t, then you start blaming them, but you also start hating yourself. You start thinking, ‘What did I do to keep them from liking me?’”

This can lead to self-hatred and destructive behaviors. It’s very difficult for a person with BPD to handle conflict or rejection because they blame and punish themselves. This is one of the reasons why self-harm is often associated with BPD; 75% of people with BPD will cut, burn, bruise, bite or hurt themselves in some way. This is not to say it’s your fault if a person self-harms, but being responsive and kind can make all the difference.

Understand It’s Not Their Fault

BPD is known to add immense stress to relationships. It can be challenging—even impossible—for a person to manage their symptoms in a way that doesn’t affect the people close to them. So when symptoms do flare, remember that they don’t have control—literally. This condition is defined by its lack of regulation, or control, over emotions, thoughts and behavior. You wouldn’t blame a loved one for having cancer symptoms that might spill into everyday life, so don’t blame someone for having a mental illness with active symptoms.


Laura Greenstein is communications coordinator at NAMI.


SEP, 16, 2018 07:54:19 AM
Joel Engel
If a person wants to know if they are going through depression, looking at their handwriting is telltale. If the writing is on an unlined page and descends, it can be a sign of depression. Try to find some handwriting written, say a few months back-do they look the same or different? If the previous writing is more or less straight and the current one is written downward, the writer at the date of this present writing is going through a difficult period. It’s probably an event (or crisis) that occurred. In both writings descend; the writer has probably been in a state of depression between these dates.
Check if the writing has become lighter in pressure, this may reveal that the person might ‘simply’ be suffering from exhaustion, not necessarily depression. Kind words are always beneficial to someone going through a hard time.
Joel Engel

SEP, 14, 2018 03:51:37 PM
People, don't mix narcissistic personality disorder's characteristics with BPD's. I am a BPD and have dated 2 narcissists. BPDs don't blame others for everything and are not too proud to want help. Many of you described narcissistic behaviour. Look into it. Persons with BPD can be reasoned with eventually, narcissists can NOT! I have suffered for BPD for 16 years, have been seeking for help all this time.

SEP, 06, 2018 10:13:13 AM
Miriam DL
I have just read the comments from Kim Z and felt like she was talking my case, yes, I suspect my 20 year-old daughter has BPD, in the past she was diagnosed with severe anxiety and depression, have several treatments (CBT, therapies, medications) and while apparently there was some improvements in her behaviour, I don't think her personality has changed a little. She stopped going to therapies and having the medication, her way to cope her bad moments was (beside drinking ocassionally alcohol and smoking weed) part-time working, which I could tell she was happy with her job, but the problem is that she thinks she can also continue with college. She asked for living in a small apartment close to work and school. She even has the car for the weekends. Well, she really does not do well in the academics, she either fails or drops the courses, and it blames to us (the horrible parents) for being too pushy, to nosy. In these days I live in constant fear that she is going to self-harm again. Anytime she is reminded that maybe she need to look for help from psychiatry/counselor, she refuses to do it, she even say that we (specially me the mother) are the ones that need help, we did wrong in raising her with all these mental problems.
It breaks my heart and yes, now I am depressed, frustrated because I do not know what else to do. Her dad is so desperate, he even says he will cut any support to her, no more special treatment, no more credit cards, no fancy cell phone, no car, no apartment. But I know she need help, so how can we make her go to the therapist?

AUG, 11, 2018 03:46:12 PM
John Mader
For those seeking a certified DBT therapist (Julie Cross 4.11.2018 in Dallas), the list is organized by name, city or zip and can be found at
This certification process is quite rigorous and is the only certification in DBT that has been approved by Marsha Linehan, the originator of DBT.

AUG, 06, 2018 11:41:30 AM
I had to end a relationship with my 66 year old boyfriend and go NO CONTACT. He *****s the life out of me and guilts me many times into going back to the relationship. I am now in 60 days + of no contact and I feel so much better. Have blocked him from everything, phone, Facebook, email, cell phone as well. Left any group on FB he was in so he could not comment, unfriended all his friends and relatives so they could not comment or copy my posts and misinterpret them...yet he emails me intermittently of how much he loves me and misses me...I DO NOT RESPOND...he still writes, he is blocked and goes into my junk file. Should I respond at some point? He says he is going to counseling...he is going to address his horrible childhood and abandonment issues BUT he lives at a distance and I really cannot know if he is telling me the truth, he promised this once before and did nothing. I hate ignoring him BUT to save my sanity right now I need to. Any suggestions?

AUG, 04, 2018 11:37:30 AM
For John from 6/23/2017... my 34 yr old daughter who was diagnosed with BPD has also been giving me the silent treatment ... For about 8 moths and it's agonizing. I send supportive cards, texts, emails.... I never hear back from her..: I pray a lot .. I'm pretty sure she is still in a 3/4 house for her alcohol recovery. I'm just hoping she is active in her therapy.

JUL, 24, 2018 09:20:08 AM
Adult daughter with BPD. Finished up 2 month residential treatment program, says it was wrong diagnosis she was treated for initially, wanted to stay longer, but it was too late so she was released. Now doing partial hospital program that's not DBT focused for borderline but general depression group. Once again, wrong group, can't seem to get things right.

JUL, 19, 2018 08:03:05 PM
To Kim Z: Yes! I have a 21 year old daughter with BPD and am experiencing the same. A few months ago she thought I walked on water...I was the best, most wonderful mother in the history of the universe. Now suddenly I'm the worst mother ever, a horrible parent, selfish, and everything wrong in her life is a direct result of my terrible parenting. The pain is gut wrenching, heart breaking...and so very frustrating.

I know some areas have support groups for people who love someone with BPD - you may want to look in to that if you haven't already.
Someone else in this blog mentioned Family Connections:
Prior to today, I was not familiar with that program. From what I've read, it seems it may be extremely helpful, and I've already signed up.

You're not alone.

JUL, 01, 2018 11:34:36 PM
Kim Z
Does anyone with a BPD adult child have experience with them blaming you for all the wrong in their life and tell you your the reason they self harm? Mine did that just over a month ago. She is currently 21. I was talking with her on the phone, she went from laughing to crying to calmness (typical behavior for her) and then out of nowhere,snapped. She told me I need to ask her for forgiveness and that I was the root to all her misery and hung up on me. Broke my heart- cried for days and haven’t heard from her in over a month. Tried reaching out to her with no luck. Anyone else dealt with this bizarre behavior ???

JUN, 21, 2018 09:41:34 AM
I have bpd and I hate my life. I want to be here for my children but at the same time I feel like they deserve better and they probably won't miss me anyway. Whenever I see or feel that me and my husband are actually doing good he tells me that he feels like I'm acting fake and that my actions are forced. When I think things are getting better he tells me they're worse. At this point I don't even want to live anymore. He refuses to pay for any type of treatment. I don't know what to do anymore.

MAY, 19, 2018 03:56:04 PM
My boyfriend has BPD and its killing me. Everything is my fault and he accuses and blames me for the things things does. I love him and want to support him but he isn't in therapy. How can I convince him to get in treatment?

APR, 11, 2018 10:25:59 AM
Julie Cross
I am a therapist in the Dallas area looking for a DBT Group for clients and a Borderline support group for families.

APR, 05, 2018 01:34:29 AM
It is so helpful to read of others’ experiences, especially with sons and daughters.
My daughter is now 22 years. In the past year, her long-standing BPD behaviours have receded. At present, she is not experiencing emotional upheavals, suicidal thoughts and behaviours or self-harm. She still deals with severe anxiety, depression and self-doubt, and has gained 40 lbs due to Rx side effects. The best news for me, is that we have each learned how to love, accept, respect... and appreciate each other. This means that when difficulties arise, we face them together, rather than anyone ripping anyone else apart!

APR, 04, 2018 10:27:11 AM
This is helpful. thank you

MAR, 23, 2018 11:20:04 PM
My son has bpd and terrible anxiety- he is in a relationship and his girlfriend is struggling. She wants him to get help. What type of help would benefit him the most.

MAR, 13, 2018 05:53:18 PM
In her ***** years my daughter’s assessment included the possible development of BPD. Throughout her teens, her anxiety and depression were evident to health providers, but the BPD symptoms were evident only at home, with me... and no one took my reports into account.
Many successive therapy and counselling experiences have been ineffective, and prescription drugs have been very minimally helpful.
Now, at her age of 22, I am reconnecting the dots and realize I have just kept missing the BPD thread through all her teen/ early adult years. This realization is a relief to me, and is also very daunting. I’m an older single mom, and while I can care for her now (emotionally, practically, financially) I’m uncertain what the future will hold.

FEB, 14, 2018 11:58:00 AM
Shanara - I would definitely join a FB group!

FEB, 04, 2018 11:52:35 PM
Hi Shanara
Please let me know whether you created the FB group. I am in the same situation.

FEB, 02, 2018 11:28:22 PM
I believe my boyfriend has BPD, but he is too proud to seek treatment. It has been difficult because throughout the course of a relationship usually when a couple has a fight there would be some discussion about how we can avoid that same conflict in the future, and thus the relationship would grow together versus apart. However, I believe that due to my boyfriend's BPD, he refuses to discuss a fight the next day or within the next couple of days to help us learn from the mistake, so our relationship can grow together. Basically, when I bring it up he shoots the discussion down as being too negative, and that I am "bringing him down." I guess I just do not understand how we are supposed to grow together if we never take the time to resolve the fight or what made us fight, and learn from it? Do you know of any BPD family support groups that might be good? Maybe I could find some help through one of those?

JAN, 30, 2018 06:04:42 PM
Shanara Schmidt
I am wondering if anybody knows of a support group on Facebook, for people with BPD and families? If there is none at this point in time.... would anybody here be interested in joining, if I start one on Facebook? I would like to be a part of a group that chats back and forth at the drop of a hat.
Also, FB offers the private chat area where those who become more connected can chat in real time. Anybody?

JAN, 28, 2018 11:25:33 AM
R K Gattani
My son possibly has this BPD and we are struggling

JAN, 21, 2018 04:56:48 PM
Shanara Schmidt
My daughter has BPD and I am at my wits end trying to keep her in my life. She is upset with me more often then not and I never now what causes her to not trust me, or to not believe me when she is upset with something she perceives I have done, that I have not done. I'm on edge all the time trying to figure out how to not lose her. And what's worse she refuses to discuss having this condition and INSISTS that she does not. She can be happily chatting with me on the phone one minute and then screaming at me the next. It's making me a basket case.

SEP, 28, 2017 07:40:04 PM
I think my daughter-in-law may have this and I'd like to know better how to help her. Thanks.

SEP, 23, 2017 06:59:11 AM
Judy Bou Kheir
I am a mother of a 28 year-old female who shows symptoms in all diagnostic criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder. When my youngest when to college 4 years ago, I went to graduate school for a Masters in counseling. Little did I know then that I would spend the last two years of my graduate program, diagnosing my own daughter. It's heartbreaking for families to see their loved one suffer, and yet that loved one attacks the very people who care and are trying to help. Through my short time understanding this illness, I believe if I want to help my daughter, I better get a clear understanding of what's going on with her, and arm myself with tools that help me! My counseling skills have helped a great deal in relating to her, but I'm still human. My three courses of action right now are to communicate with her more clearly, avoid my own reactionary behaviors to her mood swings and outbursts, and set clear and defined limits with her to keep me sane. I would love to have any information someone has about family support groups for this illness. I think it's paramount for the loved ones to have support.

SEP, 20, 2017 10:10:52 AM
Cynthia McKinnon
My 40 yo stepson has dx of BPD, PTSD, and now BPD.
He has a lengthy criminal record, participates in therapy and takes medications only when court mandated.
We support him completely . He lives in a building at my husban's workplace .
Over the last year my husband decided to help him realize his dreams of having a small farm and has purchased 3 vehicles , 3 pieces of land and ? $20K of various building materials etc.
If anything behavioral issues are worse and include daily rages , loud crying , screaming and threatening himself and others .
We are physically and emotionally exhausted by this unrelenting stress , unbridled emotion and inability to have any real impact.
We attempted to get court ordered treatment but after ( court mandated ...after ? 5 th domestic violence , threatening , burglary , disturbing the peace charge) that was denied we met with the Public Fiduciary and Social worker as well as a counselor who saw him 13 years ago.
They all suggested we give him one week to move out in order that he :
1. Be forced to seek psychiatric help
2. Be forced to seek regular employment ( he only works when he wants something .. a new truck now ...but will NOT seek out regular employment as he will not work for less than $20/hr ..!!!).
3. Allow him to experience real life consequences for his actions/ lack of actions.

He IS capable of controlling the tantrumming as I forbade him this behavior 15+ years ago assuring him I would immediately call the police and bring charges.

Does anyone have experience with these disorders in co existence ?
And experience of in stopping support ?
We will of course continue to communicate but immediately leave or hang up when he begins his behavior.

Thank you for any response .

AUG, 26, 2017 11:00:16 AM
Diane Howard
Hello, I didn't realize comments were necessary to be approved for subscription. I have a 18yo son who just recently came home from 17mo RTC. He has slipped off his meds (since he was better didn't seem to see the need) and his BPD is back in full force! I am walking on eggshells! I am providing love and support, but not sure how to initiate conversations. I hope this blog will help me feel less isolated and maybe a bit more empowered

AUG, 26, 2017 10:56:02 AM
Diane Howard

JUL, 31, 2017 02:35:12 PM
After plowing into a brick wall, my daughter finally realized she needed help. She was sexually assaulted in her 1st semester of college last fall. She spiraled into major depression. I didn't know how bad as she was living on campus 2 hrs away. She ended up drinking a lot and getting an underage drinking citation. After that I really tried to get her to agree to get help. She transferred schools for spring and when she came home in may, we had her set up to go to a Psychiatrist. I researched things and sent a letter with traits I've seen to point the Dr in a direction. She was diagnosed with PTSD from the assault and in addition, BPD and Episodic Mood Disorder. I was so mad at myself for not realizing the trauma from the assault. She's on medication and will be starting treatment for the BPD. I have found these comments about helping very helpful because she isn't able to tell me what she needs from me. I am going to access some of the suggestions here and I am grateful I found these comments. Positive thoughts to everyone here!

JUL, 15, 2017 01:45:57 PM
John Mader
Kimberly and others interested in DBT Programs for Teens, please go to
You will find a table of information. Scroll down until you see the heading "
DBT ADHERENCE, CASE FORMULATION, SKILLS, MODELING CLIPS, HANDOUTS & MORE" and look for "DBT Teen Residential Programs List" that links to a 4-page document - a compiled list of DBT residential programs for teen patients which are adherent to the Linehan Model. Unfortunately not all BPD programs offer DBT and some that do lack key elements necessary to gain the results achieved by programs that are adherent with the Linehan Model.

JUL, 11, 2017 05:01:03 AM
The article on this post was very informative and touching it brought tears to my eyes. My daughter started to exhibit these signs early adolescence the age of 13. She has gone through so much bullying, onset of a broken family plagued by divorce, and hidden trauma at the hands of her half brother. It's by the Grace of Our Havenly Father she is still alive, and in long term residential treatment. I read an article on NAMI website, depicting the Stigmatization of the Mental Health Community treating cases of BPD. My daughter they would not diagnose her at that early age, and still will not; even, when she is about to turn 18 in the next 4 months. I agree with the research done in that articles, stating some clinicians look at BPD as hopeless because their symptoms are extreme emotional instability, and other underlying symptoms attached with BPD. Also, less not forget that their illness is among the highest in suicide fatalites. There bais toward BPD patient makes them feel patient can control their symptoms, unlike other mental illnesses. Moreover, the issues from that article are the problems my daughter is having in her current treatment. After three months of treatment they want to discharge my daughter. On 7-6-17 she experienced both visual and auditory hallucinations associate with BPD. Please respond!
7-11-17 @ 5:00am

JUL, 06, 2017 03:45:05 AM
I'm 38 years old and just now realizing this may be my disorder. My actions and reactions indicate that. I have been to therapy, I have had traumatic experiences in my past I believe are contributors along with genetic pre-disposition.

My advice to people dealing with those of us suffering from this disorder is patience over all other options. Listening without judgment and not interrupting with "solutions" in some way. If others are like me, I am infuriated by the suggestions because I have contemplated every solution and nothing seems to help in moments of confusion. I completely shut down and stop communicating if I am feeling "judged" or like I haven't tried to do everything in my power NOT to feel the way I am feeling. Counseling does help. For me, anti-depressants have helped but I struggle with keeping on them when I start to feel better, which I think is common.

"Silent Treatment" I can understand. When I'm in the depressive mode, I don't want to talk to anyone. It feels like I can't say anything right. I have an extremely hard time verbalizing anything clearly, so for me...writing is best. Be open to communicating in that fashion and let them know it is acceptable to communicate that way.

Just my humble opinion and feelings from someone beginning to realize that this might be my struggle to overcome in life, if that is possible. I am working on it.

JUL, 05, 2017 10:07:33 AM
Peg Morrison
Great information. Thank you.

JUL, 05, 2017 03:43:41 AM
Much appreciated!

JUL, 02, 2017 05:10:02 PM
John Mader
Along with the tremendous resources to be found at and other pages on the NEABPD website, we use Shari Manning's book, Loving Someone with BPD. She addresses several of the questions posted here by helping to sort out where behaviors like "silent treatment" are coming from. DBT emphasizes the importance of understanding the function of behavior to begin to know how to more effectively respond.

JUL, 01, 2017 04:38:40 AM
Donna Marie
This article holds much truth to how we with BPD internalize rejection and abandonment. This explains very clearly the reasons for our suicidal ideation or tendencies. It's not always that we feel we must be bad people or that we are unlovable... but we have hearts so huge and such a strong desire to not only give love and affection, but also to receive it...and when we dont, the feelings of loss and loneliness are too strong to accept being able to live in a world where everyone walks away from us. I hope to see many other writings explaining this to those we love so dearly.

JUN, 30, 2017 12:26:35 PM
Donna Neuman
Hi! Thank you so much for your comments. I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder at age 26. I remained in denial until 46. Even with treatment though, both individual and group therapy, staying on my meds and living an honest program, my emotions continued to be all over. It was exhausting!! I remained consumed with suicidal ideation. It was awful. My psychiatrist added Borderline Personality to my diagnosis and sent me to a DBT is literally saving my life! It is intense, but worth it! I also have been blessed with a family and friends who have never forgotten about me or stopped supporting me no matter how often I went off the grid!!! Good luck and peace to all!! You are NOT alone!!

JUN, 29, 2017 03:43:35 PM
How do I ask my niece to be more open and specific about her diagnosis when she hasn't told her family more than that she struggles with a chemical imbalance depression and drug/alcohol addiction. I want to be more supportive but its difficult to know how to react to her anger when I/we don't know her diagnosis. I am researching BPD and Bipolar disorder and she is possibly suffering from either of these. HELP

JUN, 28, 2017 04:01:53 PM
All great information but what if your family member has no income and the only health insurance is state provided medical? All the in-patient programs are either private pay or don't accept the state insurance. So I either need to find $30,000 to cover the first 30 days of treatment. Issue has never been will she accept treatment it has ALWAYS been ACCESSING treatment. Why is this okay. Would you deny someone suffering with cancer, heart condition or diabetes from medical care???

JUN, 28, 2017 06:56:45 AM
Also, check out the family connections page of NEABPD. It reduced our anguish significantly. That, in turn, helped our BPD daughter improve. There is hope!

JUN, 27, 2017 07:27:07 PM
Ryan Robinson
The information is very helpful. Now I can take the next step to help others. Thank you!

JUN, 27, 2017 05:11:16 AM
This post really redonated with my current situation at home. I feel helpless and lost.

JUN, 26, 2017 07:04:02 PM
Adele Kaber
Would like to know more -if I read this my eldest daugter surely jave this

JUN, 26, 2017 06:46:45 PM
Stacey M.
Good read. Life is extremely difficult for me and a never ending nightmare for my husband who most certainly has BPD (previously diagnosed with MDD and PTSD) Best we can do is sliding scale clinics with PAs that can't do much to help in 10-15 mins. I get to my wits end with the situations that we end up in and then I read an article like this one and I remember that it's not his fault and he needs my support. Thanks!

JUN, 24, 2017 11:49:57 AM
Tammy Wilson
I want to thank you from my entire heart, I have been assuming I understood what my daughter has been going through I had my guard up thinking she was manipulating me I wish i had information long ago I am ashamed she is in the hospital now getting help so I want to get help to be the better mom she needs. Thank you

JUN, 23, 2017 01:41:59 PM
What about the silent treatment as a sign or behavior? It is extremely painful and we are trying our vest to stay with our adult child. We have no idea whether she is even reading our e-mails to her, so what is your insight about the silent treatment? Please elaborate.

Submit to the NAMI Blog

We’re always accepting submissions to the NAMI Blog! We feature the latest research, stories of recovery, ways to end stigma and strategies for living well with mental illness. Most importantly: We feature your voices.

Check out our Submission Guidelines for more information.