Borderline personality disorder

Explains borderline personality disorder (BPD), including possible causes and how you can access treatment and support. Includes tips for helping yourself, and guidance for friends and family.

Your stories

A disordered personality?

Debbie talks about her experience of borderline personality disorder.

Posted on 30/07/2014

Borderline Personality Disorder: receiving a diagnosis

Lucy blogs for us about her experience of receiving a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder.

Posted on 12/09/2014

Having a BPD diagnosis - my reality

Rebecca's account of being diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.

Posted on 21/11/2014

How can I help myself cope?

If you experience BPD you might feel like every day is a struggle against yourself, but in fact there are lots of things you can do to help yourself. This page offers some practical tips for:

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

How can I cope with difficult emotions day to day?

If you're feeling overwhelmed, it might help to focus on one feeling at a time. The table below lists some ideas that you could try to see if they work for you. Over time, you might develop your own tips to add to this list.

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

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
  • massage your hands with a nice-smelling moisturiser
  • 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

See our page on managing 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
  • do a reality checklist – write down everything you can think of about where you are right now, such as the time, date, colour of the walls, all the furniture in the room, etc.
  • 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
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.

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.

How can I support my wellbeing in the long term?

Taking some time to make your wellbeing a priority can make a big difference to how you're feeling. Here are some ideas:

  • Talk to friends and family. It can be hard to reach out when you are not feeling well, but sharing difficult thoughts can often make them seem easier to handle.
  • Know how to get help in a crisis. See our pages on crisis services and seeking help in a crisis for more information.
  • Try online peer support. Networks like Elefriends can be a good way to get some support if you don't feel like you can talk to the people around you. It can also be a good way to connect with other people who understand what you're experiencing.
  • Try keeping a mood diary. This could help you identify things or situations that trigger a change in your mood. You can then use that information to learn how to cope with triggering situations in future.
  • Get enough sleep. This can help you have the energy to cope with difficult feelings and experiences. (See our pages on coping with sleep problems for more information.)
  • Do regular exercise. Physical activities like dancing or going for a walk can distract you from your current mood, and help get rid of anxious or angry energy. (See our pages on physical exercise for more information.)
  • Eat a healthy diet. This can help you have the right nutrients and energy to cope with things when you're having a difficult time. (See our pages on food and mood for more information about how your diet can affect the way you feel.)
  • Find specialist support.  If you've experienced abuse in childhood, the National Association for People Abused in Childhood is there to support you.
  • Contact an advocate. If you feel like you're not being listened to or treated fairly, such as when talking to doctors or applying for benefits, an advocate can help you make your voice heard. (See our pages on advocacy for more information.)
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.

This information was published in May 2015. We will revise it in 2018.

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