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Borderline personality disorder (BPD)

Explains borderline personality disorder (BPD), also known as emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD). Includes what it feels like, causes, treatment, support and self-care, as well as tips for friends and family.

This information is for friends and family who want to support someone with BPD.

If someone you care about is diagnosed with BPD you might sometimes find it hard to understand their feelings or behaviour, or to know how to help. But there are lots of positive things you can do to support them:

One thing I find helps is when others validate my emotions, as I often feel guilty for having them.

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.

Don't judge

It can be difficult if you don't understand why someone is feeling or behaving in a certain way. Especially if their reactions seem upsetting or unreasonable. But try to remember that you're not in their head and there may be things going on for them that you don't understand. Try to listen, and acknowledge their feelings, rather than judging their reactions.

Be calm and consistent

If your loved one is experiencing a lot of overwhelming emotions, this could help them feel more secure and supported and will help in moments of conflict. If you feel yourself becoming angry or upset, try taking some time alone or going for a walk if you can.

Remind them of their positive traits

When someone you care about is finding it hard to believe anything good about themself, it can be reassuring to hear all the positive things you see in them.

Set clear boundaries

Practising good boundaries and expectations can make a big difference. If your loved one is feeling insecure about being rejected or abandoned, or seems worried about being left alone, it can help to clarify what you can expect from each other and to communicate about this calmly and patiently if things become unclear.

Plan ahead

When the person you're supporting is feeling well, ask them how you can help them best when things are difficult. See our pages on supporting someone who feels suicidal, and supporting someone who is self-harming for more information.

Learn their triggers

Talk to your loved one and try to find out what sort of situations or conversations might trigger negative thoughts and emotions. Understanding their triggers could help you avoid difficult situations, and feel more prepared when they have strong reactions to certain things.

Provide distractions

Sometimes helping to distract someone from difficult feelings can be really useful. Try suggesting activities or tasks, such as watching a film or tidying up. Or you could start something and let them know they're welcome to join in when they feel ready.

Learn more about BPD

BPD is a complicated diagnosis, and your loved one might sometimes have to deal with other people's misconceptions on top of trying to manage their mental health problem. Educating yourself can also help you to challenge stigma. Our about BPD and experiences of BPD pages contain more information.

Help them seek treatment and support

See our page on supporting someone to seek help for more information about how to help someone get the support they need, including what you can do when someone doesn't want help. And see our page on advocacy in mental health for guidance on how to help them find an advocate.

Take care of yourself

Looking after someone else can sometimes be difficult and stressful. It's important to remember that your mental health is important too. See our pages on coping when supporting someone elsemanaging stress and improving your wellbeing for more information on how to look after yourself.

I have a friend who goes for hot chocolate with me every week. To know there is somebody who cares and has time for you, even when you're not sure who you are, that means the world.

This information was published in September 2022. We'll revise it in 2025.

References and bibliography available on request.

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