This section is for friends and family who want to support someone with a diagnosis of personality disorder.
Someone with personality disorder may feel especially anxious about their relationships. This can make it hard for them to always keep a good relationship with you.
Sometimes you may find it hard to know the 'right' thing to say or how to help. But there are lots of positive things you can do to support them:
- Try to be patient – if your loved one is struggling to deal with their emotions, try not to get involved in an argument in the heat of the moment. It could be better to wait until you both feel calmer to talk things through.
- Talk to them compassionately and calmly – when someone is experiencing difficult thoughts and feelings, their behaviour may be unexpected or upsetting, and you may feel unsettled. Try to understand what they're experiencing and what's affecting their thoughts, feelings and behaviour – this can help you to stay calm.
Validate and try to be understanding – don’t question my thoughts or views. Put yourself in my shoes. If those were the thoughts and feelings you were experiencing, how would they make you feel?
- Don't judge them – try to listen to them. You may not understand why they feel like this, but it can mean a lot to acknowledge and value how they're feeling.
- Remind them of their positives – a diagnosis of personality disorder doesn't stop someone being likeable, intelligent, kind, highly motivated or creative. Remind them of the positives you see in them.
- Try to both set clear boundaries and expectations – it can be helpful to make sure you both know where the boundaries of your relationship are, and what you can expect from each other. This can help you both manage difficult feelings and situations.
Tell me a problem you’re having, let me be there for you for a change. Don’t hold back sharing difficulties in your life, I am your friend after all. It will make me feel valuable and useful.
- Think about how you could help keep them safe – it can be scary if you're worried someone you care about is hurting themself, or is struggling with suicidal thoughts, but being prepared can help you cope. See our pages on supporting someone who is self-harming and supporting someone who is suicidal for more information.
- Learn more about personality disorder, and help to challenge stigma – personality disorder is a broad and complex diagnosis, and your loved one may have to deal with other people's misconceptions on top of coping with their own mental health problem. In addition to Mind, organisations listed in Useful contacts also offer information and support.
- Help them seek treatment and support – see our pages on how to support someone to seek help for more information.
- Help them find an advocate – see our pages on advocacy for more information.
- Take care of yourself – it can be upsetting and painful when a loved one is struggling. Your own mental health is also important. Taking care of your own wellbeing can also help you maintain the energy, time and distance you need to be able to to help someone else. See our pages on coping as a carer, managing stress and maintaining your wellbeing for more information.
Having BPD and DPD means I can feel immense empathy and love for others, so it’s not all doom and gloom. I’m very caring and do lots of charity work, and love to help others. It’s easy to focus on the downsides of the disorder, but it does give positive traits too.
This information was published in August 2016. We will revise it in 2019.