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.

Your stories

'The borderline'

Imani compares the change in treatment since her diagnosis was changed from bipolar to BPD.

Imani
Posted on 14/03/2017

Being diagnosed with BPD

Leah blogs on her journey after being diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder.

Leah Burton
Posted on 13/01/2016

A disordered personality?

Debbie talks about her experience of borderline personality disorder.

Debbie
Posted on 30/07/2014

How can I help myself?

If you feel suicidal

Our page on suicidal feelings includes practical tips on what you can do right now to help yourself cope. If you don't feel able to keep yourself safe right now, seek immediate help:

  • call 999 or call NHS Direct on 111 (England) or 0845 46 47 (Wales)
  • call Samaritans on freephone 116 123 (open 24 hours a day)
  • go to your nearest Accident and Emergency (A&E) department
  • ring your GP or out of hours service for an emergency appointment
  • contact your Community Mental Health Team (CMHT)
  • use our 'I need urgent help' tool.

If you experience BPD you might feel like every day is a struggle, but in fact there are lots of things that could help, both now and in the longer term:

What can I do now?

When I am in a really irritating and triggering situation which I can't get out of or change I just take it five minutes at a time. Breaking it into bite-size pieces makes it possible.

If you're feeling overwhelmed, it might help to focus on one feeling at a time. Here are some ideas that you could try to see if they work for you. Different things work at different times for different people, so try to be kind to yourself if some things don’t work for you. Over time, you might develop your own tips to add to this list too.

How you're feeling

What you could do to get through it

angry, frustrated, restless

  • rip up a newspaper
  • hit a pillow
  • throw ice cubes into the bath so they smash
  • do some vigorous exercise
  • listen to loud music
  • do a practical activity like gardening or woodwork.

See our page on how to manage anger for more tips.

depressed, sad, lonely

  • wrap up in a blanket and watch your favourite tv show
  • write all your negative feelings on a piece of paper and tear it up
  • listen to a song or piece of music you find uplifting
  • write a comforting letter to the part of yourself that is feeling sad or alone
  • cuddle a pet or a soft toy.

See our page on self-care for depression for more tips.

anxious, panicky, tense

  • make yourself a hot drink and drink it slowly, noticing the taste and smell, the shape of the mug and its weight in your hand
  • take ten deep breaths, counting each one out loud
  • write down everything you can think of about where you are right now, such as the time, date, colour of the walls and the furniture in the room
  • take a warm bath or shower – this can help change your mood by creating a soothing atmosphere and a distracting physical sensation.

See our page on self-care for anxiety and panic attacks for more tips.

dissociative, spaced out

  • chew a piece of ginger or chili
  • clap your hands and notice the stinging sensation
  • drink a glass of ice cold water.

See our page on self-care for dissociative disorders for more tips.

wanting to self-harm

  • rub ice over where you want to hurt yourself
  • stick sellotape or a plaster on your skin and peel it off
  • take a cold bath.

See our page on helping yourself cope with self-harm for more tips.

I have found meditation/listening to a tape on meditation and mindfulness very helpful on occasions.

What can I do in the longer term?

If you experience BPD you might feel like every day is a struggle, but in fact there are lots of things that could help. You could:

With time, you do learn to cope with [BPD] better. I have struggled for 15 years, but every year I seem to get stronger and better at coping with it!

Talk to someone

It can be hard to reach out when you’re not feeling well, but it might help to share difficult thoughts. If you don’t feel you can talk to the people around you, you could try contacting a helpline. For example, you can talk to Samaritans for free on 116 123 or jo@samaritans.org about anything that’s upsetting you. (See our page on telephone support for more information about different helplines.)

I now work within mental health and am trying to break the stigma. I still self-harm and have suicidal ideation but I have hope. I think trying to live using the recovery drivers of CHIME (Connections, Hope, Identity, Meaning and Empowerment) really helped me.

Keep a mood diary

Recording your moods in a diary could help you spot patterns in what triggers difficult experiences for you, or notice early signs that they are beginning to happen.

You could also make a note of what's going well. It's really important to be kind to yourself and recognise difficult steps you’ve taken, or new things you’ve tried.

If I am feeling very bad but can't put into words how I feel or why, I wear a particular bracelet. My closest friends and family know that this means I am having a rough time at the moment and might need some TLC.

Plan for difficult times

If you're feeling less well you might not be able to tell people what help you want, so it could be helpful to plan ahead.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) – the organisation that produces guidelines on best practice in healthcare – recommends that everyone with BPD has a crisis plan. This should include possible triggers, self-help strategies and details for getting support, and should be shared with you and your GP.

(See our on planning for a crisis and making a support plan for more information).

Sometimes I have good periods where my symptoms don’t really trouble me – at other times, they can be overwhelming. It’s sometimes hard not to beat myself up for the relapses, but that’s something I need to keep working on. It’s ok to struggle sometimes.

Make a self-care box

You could put together some things that might help you when you’re struggling – a bit like making a first-aid kit for your mental health.

For example:

  • favourite books, films or CDs
  • a stress ball or fiddle toy
  • helpful sayings or notes of encouragement
  • pictures or photos you find comforting
  • a soft blanket or cosy slippers
  • a nice-smelling candle or lavender bag.

Watch Madeline talk about her self-care box, which contains all sorts of things that help her when she's going through tough times with her mental health:

There are positive sides too; I believe that I experience pleasant emotions more strongly than others, and my friends value my sincerity.

Try peer support

Peer support brings together people who have had similar experiences. Some people find this very helpful.

There are lots of ways to find peer support. You could:

Although it can sometimes be triggering, going online and talking to people who also have BPD is useful, supportive and reassuring that I really am not alone.

Look after your physical health

Looking after your physical health can make a difference to how you feel emotionally. For example, it can help to:

  • Try to get enough sleep. Sleep can help give you the energy to cope with difficult feelings and experiences. (See our pages on coping with sleep problems for more information.)
  • Think about your diet. Eating regularly and keeping your blood sugar stable can make a difference to your mood and energy levels. (See our pages on food and mood for more information.)
  • Try to do some physical activity. Exercise can be really helpful for your mental wellbeing. (See our pages on physical activity for more information.)
  • Spend time outside. Spending time in green space can boost your wellbeing. (See our pages on ecotherapy for more information.)
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol. While you might want to use drugs or alcohol to cope with difficult feelings, in the long run they can make you feel a lot worse and can prevent you from dealing with any underlying problems that the drug or alcohol use may have been masking. (See our pages on recreational drugs and alcohol for more information).

Find specialist support for abuse or bullying

If you’ve experienced other issues that have contributed to your problems, such as abuse or bullying, it could be helpful to explore the help out there for these too. If you have been abused in childhood, the National Association for People Abused in Childhood is there to support you, and our pages on abuse and PTSD useful contacts list many more organisations that could help.


 

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


Mental Health A-Z

Information and advice on a huge range of mental health topics

> Read our A-Z

Training

Helping you to better understand and support people with mental health problems

> Find out more

Special offers

Check out our promotional offers on print and digital booklets, for a limited time only

> Visit our shop today