A complicated and challenging problem often faced by those with BPD is how to create and maintain ‘normal’ relationships with others. Not only is this a problem in itself, with the sufferer finding it hard to communicate with those around them, but it can also make it difficult and painful to seek comfort regarding various other symptoms of BPD that they might be affected by. While someone with BPD may desperately want help from a friend, the latter might find their behaviour antisocial – the BPD-sufferer may seem spiky and dismissive in spite of attempts to comfort them. This kind of situation is common, and such problems require a great deal of understanding on the part of friends, family and helpers in order for them to be dealt with sensitively and effectively. Most of all, it is important for all to understand that, while struggles with interpersonal relationships - and other symptoms of BPD - can be eased and lessened, there is never a magical ‘cure’ with which to end them.
How BPD sufferers can help themselves
Although your problems may seem insurmountable, thoughtful and careful attention to your mental health can help make BPD less difficult to cope with. Help available can range from individual psychotherapy to group therapy, where you can share your experiences with others who will understand. The different methods of treatment available ensure that help is at hand for anyone suffering with BPD, no matter what sort of communication they find easiest. Furthermore, within the field of psychotherapy, plenty of helpful research has taken place to find the best ways of treating BPD. Although the variety of different treatments may seem intimidating at first, each has its own distinct way of helping – for example, Dialectical behaviour Therapy (DBT) provides a mix of individual and group psychotherapy, while cognitive therapy takes a more individual approach, and can help those with BPD to get to the root of the problem.
Meanwhile, it is important for anyone with BPD to make sure that they are taking good physical care of themselves. Emotional and physical health are closely linked, and so plenty of exercise and a healthy diet can help lift your mood and keep negative thoughts at bay. It is also important, of course, to get a good amount of sleep, as the more worn out we are, the harder we find it to deal with stress.
Details of the help that BPDWORLD can provide are available in the ‘Resources’ section, and we will be glad for you to contact us through the ‘General Enquiries’ section if you need help in finding a counsellor, or any related problems.
How friends, family and carers can help
In order to understand how difficult it can be for BPD sufferers to establish and enjoy lasting, affectionate friendships and relationships, it is important to bear in mind the other symptoms that may be affecting them. For example, the ‘difficult’ or ‘unpredictable’ behaviour of those with BPD is often rooted in an emptiness felt deep inside: none of us would find it easy to cope with an overwhelming need for love and attention, coupled with dramatic mood swings and fears of being abandoned by those close to us.Those with BPD will often feel confused and overwhelmed by a variety of feelings and emotions, and it is important that those close to them understand that it is not always simple for them to explain how they feel or what it is that is troubling them. Someone with BPD might find that their feelings and actions often work in spite of themselves; for example, if they are disappointed to find that a friend they have phoned for reassurance and comfort is unavailable, their general impression of their friend might change drastically – they may go from being a much-loved and trusted friend, to being seen as inconsiderate and selfish. Although this sort of ‘swing’ is not intentional, it may make future contact with the friend difficult or even impossible; however, if the friend is able to understand that behaviour like this is not wilful, but rather a symptom of BPD, it may after all be possible for them to offer the affection and understanding that was being sought.
In order to help someone suffering with BPD, it is important to realise the trouble they might have in grasping and keeping in mind the needs of those around them. If this can be kept in mind, and hurtful or careless behaviour understood as a symptom, rather than a malicious or spiteful act, then family, friends and carers can provide important and valued companionship and help to BPD sufferers. At the same time, it is important that those attempting to enjoy an understanding and caring relationship with someone suffering from BPD take care of their own feelings and needs: you might understand perfectly well how a friend who has BPD is unable to see your point of view on things, and that this is not their fault, but it is important that you don’t lose objectivity altogether. What is more, if you are taken into the confidence of someone with BPD, you may find yourself suddenly on the end of a lot of demands and pressure – the difficulty those with BPD have in grasping other people’s needs and privacy may mean you receive late-night phone calls, inappropriately public displays of affection or attempts to play you off against other friends. It is crucial to make sure that you state your own wants and needs, and to stick by them.
As well as keeping a close eye on one’s own emotional wellbeing, it is also important to feel physically safe. Often those with BPD direct physical abuse towards themselves (see the section on Self-Harm), but BPD sufferers’ frequently fiery temperaments can lead to physical confrontations with others, too. Make sure that you always feel safe, and are able to maintain some distance between yourself and a BPD friend. Also make sure that you have other friends or family who are aware of the relationship. Most importantly, remember that you are free to walk away from relationships if you feel unsafe; just because someone has a disorder, it does not mean that you have to put yourself at risk in order to offer them your support and friendship.
Helping to carry the burden of someone else’s problems, no matter how fond we might be of them, is never easy. However, there is help at hand not only for those who suffer from BPD, but also for those who help and support them. As well as finding advice on the BPDWORLD website (see the ‘Resources’ section), you can also contact us for more information on organisations that can provide further support (see ‘General Enquiries’).