Your partner recently got diagnosed with BPD, now what? Relationships can be difficult to navigate all on their own, adding mental illness into the mix can make relationships even more difficult. On one hand it may be validating and a sense of relief for both of you to know that there is an explanation for the symptoms, on the other hand the road to navigating support and treatment can be so daunting. Fear not, this post outlines all of the information and steps for success on the path to improvement.
What is BPD?
BPD or Borderline Personality Disorder, mental health condition marked by extreme mood fluctuations, instability in interpersonal relationships and impulsivity. While some people with BPD are high functioning in certain settings, their private lives may be in turmoil. Most people who have BPD suffer from problems regulating their emotions and thoughts, impulsive and sometimes reckless behavior, and unstable relationships. Other disorders, such as depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, substance abuse and other personality disorders can often exist along with BPD. The diagnosis of BPD is frequently missed, and a misdiagnosis of BPD has been shown to delay and/or prevent recovery. The mood changes in BPD are much shorter and can even occur within the day. However, with active treatment such as Dialectical Behavioral therapy (DBT) someone with BPD can see incredible improvements in symptoms and quality of life.
What can be done if your loved one has BPD?
- Gather Information- Learning as much as possible about BPD can increase empathy in a partnership. If you’re the partner affected by BPD, educating yourself about the disorder can help explain your feelings and behaviors and help ease your shame.
- Seek professional help- Seeking support from a mental health counselor or therapist can help people affected by BPD gain insight, communicate more effectively, resolve conflict, and strengthen their relationships.
- Offer support- Partners should provide the person with BPD understanding and emotional support and encourage and support their treatment.
- Practice healthy communication–
- When you communicate, don’t say anything that could make the person with BPD feel slighted or uncared for. Actively listen and do your best to respond in a positive way.
- If you’re a partner to someone with the disorder, it’s important to speak objectively and keep in mind that BPD can cause people to misconstrue what others say to them. Asking open-ended questions can also help them feel that they’re being heard, such as “I think….”
- Be mindful of body language and facial expression and what that communicates to your partner
- Talk only when your partner is calm. A severe episode of BPD is not the time to tackle potentially sensitive topics, like the cleanliness of your living room or your family budget. Doing so may lead your partner with BPD to make irrational decisions. He or she is also more likely to be defensive, pull away, or turn to self-harming behaviors when their symptoms are uncontrolled.
- Avoid labeling or blaming- It’s important to be careful not to blame everything the person with BPD says or does on their mental illness because it can be perceived as an insult and invalidate their experience.
- Take threats seriously-Threats of self-harm or suicide should never become a form of blackmail in the relationship, but they must be taken seriously regardless of whether you believe the person plans to follow through. Call your partner’s therapist, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-8255), or 911. Taking on the responsibility can be hard for one person it is good to have a safety plan and network of support.
- Prioritize self-care- being in a relationship with someone who has BPD can feel all-consuming, but it’s important to seek out your own support system and have a healthy outlet to deal with stress. Make healthy eating, fitness, and sleep a priority, and carve out time for friends, a hobby, or enjoyable activities.
- Know that you can live a normal life with BPD- All hope is not lost if your loved one has BPD. Be mindful of BPD stigma, build healthy coping and support, and you may find peace in your relationship as well.