When Your Loved One Has Borderline Personality Disorder

How should I structure the home environment?

People with BPD benefit from a home environment that is calm and relaxed.  All involved family members (including a boyfriend or girlfriend) should know not to discuss important issues when the individual is in crisis mode.  Stop to take a breath yourself when they do become emotionally reactive.  It’s also important to not center all discussions around the disorder and setbacks. Conversely, it’s important not to place too much emphasis or praise on progress, or an individual may begin to self-sabotage. People with BPD should have opportunities to talk about their interests and thoughts about the news, family events, and other leisure activities. Take the time to laugh at a funny joke or eat dinner together several times a week. The less an individual feels like his or her mental illness is under the spotlight, the more opportunity they have to explore other aspects of themselves.

How can I communicate effectively during a crisis?

When a loved one becomes reactive, they may become to insult you or make unfair accusations. The natural response is to become defensive and to match the level of reactivity. You have to remind yourself that an individual with BPD struggles to place themselves in a different person’s perspective. They struggle to gauge what is a minor issue and what is a full blown catastrophe. They interpret your defensiveness as not being valued.

Instead, when they become reactive, take the time to listen without pointing out the flaws in their argument. Try not to take it personally.  If the person does point out something you could improve or have done wrong, acknowledge their point, apologize, and suggest a way you can improve on the matter in the future.  If the individual feels like they’re being heard, the crisis is less likely to escalate. However, if the conflict rises to the level where an individual is throwing a full-on tantrum or threatening you, it’s best to walk away and resume the conversation when they are calmer.

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