Supporting a loved one with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) can be challenging, but it's crucial to provide understanding, patience, and empathy. Here are some suggestions on how to support someone with BPD:
1. Educate yourself: Learn more about BPD to better understand its symptoms, causes, and treatment options. This knowledge will help you approach the situation with empathy and improve communication. It will also help you to feel more confident in your responses and navigating emotionally laden situations.
2. Encourage professional help: Gently encourage your loved one to seek professional help from a mental health professional experienced in treating BPD. There are multiple therapy approaches that have been shown highly effective for BPD treatment, including Schema Therapy and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). Both can enhance awareness, improve distress tolerance, and help to manage challenging behavioural patterns.
3. Practice patience and understanding: BPD can cause intense emotions and mood swings. This can feel very overwhelming for your loved one and also be challenging to cope with for you. It is essential to remain patient and understanding during difficult moments. Try to remember that you are dealing with symptoms of a mental health condition. Recognize that their emotions may be overwhelming for them, and try not to take their behaviour personally.
4. Validate their feelings: People with BPD often struggle with emotional regulation and have a fear of abandonment. Validate their feelings and experiences without judgment. Let them know that their emotions are valid, even if you don't necessarily understand, agree, or feel the same way. Every individual is entitled to feel the way they do. Therapeutically, we work on managing behaviours in response to these feelings, we do not dismiss, invalidate, belittle, shame or suppress emotions. Emotions hold important information for us. In BPD, individuals may not have been encouraged to engage in healthy emotional expression and processing during vital developmental years, which can make emotional distress later on feel physically and psychologically overwhelming.
5. Set boundaries: While supporting your loved one, it is important to set and maintain healthy boundaries. Clearly communicate your limits and ensure that your own well-being is also a priority. While this may initially create some tension or conflict, in the long run this will help establish a stable and respectful relationship.
6. Encourage self-care: Encourage your loved one to engage in self-care activities that promote their well-being and emotional regulation. This might include exercise, relaxation techniques, hobbies, or mindfulness practices.
7. Foster open communication: Encourage open and honest communication within your relationship. Create a safe space for your loved one to express their feelings and concerns. Active listening and validation can go a long way in building trust and understanding.
8. Be a consistent presence: Individuals with BPD often fear abandonment and have difficulties with relationships. Being a consistent and reliable presence in their life can provide a sense of stability and security. Communicating boundaries is particularly important here to help create a sense of safety and predictability.
9. Keep yourself informed and supported: Supporting someone with BPD can be emotionally demanding. Make sure you have your own support system, whether it's close friends, family, or a therapist, to help you navigate the challenges and take care of your emotional well-being. This can also mean seeking professional mental health support for yourself as and when needed to help discuss strategies, build your own resilience, prevent burnout, and have your own safe space for sharing your emotions.
If you are experiencing symptoms of BPD or are supporting a loved one with BPD, and want to find out how therapy can help you, please book a consultation with Dr. Terrighena on (852) 2521 4668 or firstname.lastname@example.org.