Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is difficult to treat. It is also difficult for families to understand as well.
BPD is one of the main reasons why many mental health professionals burn out. It is also a reason why so many mental health professionals maintain an incorrect perspective about sufferers. Sadly, family members can make misconceptions about BPD worse by the ways in which they react or interact with the mental health system.
This article will discuss and explore ways to correctly interact with and support a loved one with BPD.
One of the theories I was able to confirm after working in a community mental health center for a year was that BPD is difficult to understand and treat. As a result, I often encourage families to learn as much as they can about the disorder. Families can truly lead a suffering loved one to the road of recovery or at least stability. But they can also lead a loved one down the road of further instability if families lack knowledge, are uninformed about the influence of their reactions and behaviors, or simply misunderstand the true needs of the sufferer.
So what can family members do to truly help?
Figure out what is helpful and what is unhelpful to the sufferer. Sadly, this process will take a lot of patience, education, and self-control. It is one of the most difficult things families have to learn to do. Why is it so difficult you ask? Because families with a history of BPD may have a complex family dynamic and many untreated symptoms.
How families can make things worse
Although many of the families of those with BPD strive to do nothing but support their suffering loved one, efforts to support can lead to exaggerated emotional responses and negative interactions with the mental health system. In other words, some families can make symptoms of BPD worse in a loved one by the way they interact with others in the mental health system or the sufferer. As discussed in the audio blog, loved ones can create tension between mental health professionals and the client or demand things that are unreasonable.
I once had a colleague who struggled with a client’s extended family member every single session. The client, a 14 year old girl, struggled with BPD symptoms that were exacerbated or made worse by her aunts over-involvement in her care. When a mental health provider would attempt to reach out to the aunt (who raised this client from age 10 to 20), the aunt would engage in bickering, confrontation, and threatening. Not only did this lead the client to drop out of therapy, but it also encouraged the client to over-react herself. This led to a worsening of symptoms.
As a result, it is important to understand what should and should not be done or said when a loved one is suffering from BPD.
For tips on how to cope with someone suffering from BPD and how to avoid exacerbating symptoms, tune into my audio blog post below. If you have questions or comments, please comment below!