Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as a chronic, mental disorder. The Merck Manual explains that BPD “is characterized by a pervasive pattern of instability and hypersensitivity in interpersonal relationships, instability in self-image, extreme mood fluctuations, and impulsivity.” Hence, it is highly common for individuals with BPD to lack the ability to foster and maintain meaningful, lasting relationships. Further, the symptoms associated with borderline personality disorder significantly interfere with a person’s ability to function optimally in his or her daily life. There are certain communication strategies and helpful tips that can make talking to someone with BPD less triggering and more productive.
- Educate yourself on the condition: You are more likely to respond to difficult behaviors in a less reactive manner when the underlying cause for the behavior is understood.
- Use non-judgmental words to describe behaviors: Language can make a big difference in how people with BPD think about themselves and react to feedback.
- Try not to take things personally: During moments of heighted emotions someone with BPD may say hurtful things, but this is often because they lack the skills to express themselves in a more controlled manner.
- When delivering difficult information, cushion it with support and empathy: Try implementing the SET method, which allows you to “honestly address your loved one’s demands, assertions, or feelings, while still maintaining appropriate boundaries.” Reminding someone that you care about them by acknowledging their real and valid feelings can help better equip them to take in the information and curb fears.
- Become an active listener: Keep distractions to a minimum and provide your full attention when you talking to someone with BPD. Ask questions and repeat back what they have said to show that you heard them.
- Validate, validate, validate: Everyone needs validation, and people with BPD especially need validation because many have experienced a lot of invalidation in their lives. By simply acknowledging and validating how a person with BPD feels, we demonstrate that we are listening and not judging their emotions.
It is helpful to bear in mind that conflicts and disagreements are particularly difficult for people with BPD, because they interpret these as signals of uncaring or relationship termination. After a conflict, focus on the person, not the behavior, and demonstrate understanding and forgiveness. You can reject the behavior and still accept the person. Remaining engaged, despite difficulties, can foster a sense of acceptance and encourage the cultivation of a healthy attachment.
For Information and Support
Every family in need of mental health treatment must select a program that will best suit the needs of their family. When one member of a family struggles, it impacts everyone in the family unit. To maximize the benefits of treatment we work closely with the entire family to ensure that everyone is receiving the support they need through these difficult times. Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person’s life, long term. Pursuing support at the beginning of one’s journey can put the individual in the best position to learn how to manage themselves in a healthy way so they can go on to live happy and fulfilling lives.
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