Borderline personality disorder (BPD)

Explains borderline personality disorder (BPD), also known as emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD), including possible causes and how you can access treatment and support. Includes tips for helping yourself, and guidance 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:

  • 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.

  • Don't judge them. Try to listen to them without telling them that they're overreacting or that they shouldn't feel the way they do. Whether or not you understand why they feel like this, and regardless of whether you feel it's reasonable, it is still how they're feeling and it's important to acknowledge it.

  • 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.

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

  • Help remind them of all 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.

  • Try to set clear boundaries and expectations. If your loved one is feeling insecure about being rejected or abandoned, or seems worried about being left alone, it can be helpful to make sure you both know what you can expect from each other.

  • 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.

"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."

  • 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.

  • Learn more about BPD, and help to challenge stigma. 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. Our pages on what is BPD? and BPD experiences contain more information.

  • Help them seek treatment and support. See our page on how to support someone to seek help for more information.

  • Help them find an advocate. See our pages on advocacy in mental health for more information.

  • 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 maintaining your wellbeing for more information on how to look after yourself.

This information was published in January 2018. We will revise it in 2021.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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