How to deal with someone with borderline personality disorder

I am doing an unexpected, for me, post. Sometimes with most posts I will have a plan for a few days that perhaps this is where one will go, many times I will have a draft simmering that I will finish off.. or for some they can be a recipe, or something fun… or even something that happened that caught me or my eye.

I have noticed though a search term coming up quite often. “how to deal with someone with borderline personality disorder” in my dashboard.

Not my favorite title for a blog, sort of insulting in a fashion, and this is not my intent, more to just answer the search term as I have seen it so often this past week.

When people reach out for advice, tis hard not to reply somewhat.

I would like help with this too, many of my followers have BPD, and who can offer better insight?

Everyone is different, so I am starting that way. People are people, someone that suffers with BPD… well they are no different than you, perhaps they just have some challenges to overcome. With your help too, that can be easier. It can be challenging for you as well.

Living with or working with someone that suffers with BPD can be challenging. Even difficult. It can be very rewarding too, as these people are often very very bright, creative and yes loving.

I have a short answer for that search term. Understanding. 

Sounds simple right? Here is the twist though. You will not be able to understand. Not fully. Don’t try. Accept.

For my BPD readers, I will be referring to bpd sufferers as they, them.. tis not being callous, I just don’t like to keep writing bpd sufferers. I also skip around the term borderlines. You are not borderlines, you may suffer with it, it may be a part of you, but it is not you. right? I know it is an “accepted term” Borderlines, I just don’t really like labels.


I didn’t say it was an easy one, to understand you have to learn. To help you understand. A bit.

Compassion though, you don’t have to learn anything for this. 

Support. Healthy support, encouragement. This too, you don’t have to learn anything to be able to offer.

There are things to remember, to tell yourself. People with Borderline need  reassurance. A lot of it. Understand this. They may feel the need to check on you. a lot. Reassure when they do, don’t criticize their concern. Remember this, they have very powerful abandonment issues. More than you may comprehend, but you don’t have to feel this, just understand that it is so.

Emotions will be somewhat erratic. Don’t argue, lash out. Don’t encourage a debate when emotions are strong. Don’t defend yourself or thoughts, don’t argue.

Just as in therapy, with a therapist, establish boundaries. People with borderline do not like the word no. There are times though were no is right, so this needs to be discussed often by both parties, to establish when no is really no. Tis not a punishment or a withdrawal of something. Boundaries can be established for many things. Arguments can be one. To only discuss things when both are calm.

Empathy goes a long way, build trust. Work hard at this.

Just as cruel though, you want to protect, and should, but also there are times when allowing them to fail is ok too, failing at something is how we learn. Be there to pick up the pieces, support and learn together how to avoid that failure in the future. Now don’t go looking for challenges that they will fail at. Don’t play mind games.

Calm, always be calm, if you feel you are going to lash out, pop. blow up… go do it somewhere else. But do not tolerate any abusive treatment. This is part of the “no” . You have limits. When faced with rage, remove yourself from the situation. tell them you are going for a walk until they calm down. Don’t just leave, communicate, the fear of abandonment is strong so never appear like you are leaving.  They may show anger, this is ok, Don’t try to stop it, but ask them not to yell at you. You can deflect too, agree to discuss something at another time, perhaps when they are calmer. Accept that rage may occur, don’t let it spread to you. Allow it to wash over you, it will pass.

Create a support network for yourself, friends. support groups or even a therapist. Remember you need to protect yourself too and to have a vent, a place to release. Therapists that work in groups to treat BPD also treat each other, this is important.

Treat suicide threats as real, have the appropriate contact information, therapist or psychiatrist, on hand, phone numbers.

Self harm is often something you will encounter. Don’t judge, treat wounds, if they are beyond your ability to treat, go to the hospital.  Self harm is hard to understand. It should not be encouraged, but also not judged or discouraged. I know this is confusing. With love and support this urge can fade. Not with judgement, threats or pleading. If you want a bit more understanding I have a post here. Understanding Self Harm.

Go to therapy together. Helping someone is easier if you see the therapy they work with. You can then help more, you will have a better understanding.

Daily routine is important. Deviating from it, may create stressors. Even tiny things, if routine must be disturbed, you can work with them through it, support.

Know that doing some things may be difficult for them. New things, a new restaurant, even a phone call from a number that does not call.. these things can be unsettling. For someone with borderline, making a phone call can be a chore. Help when you can, even if it is just sitting with them whilst they do it. To support.

How do you understand black and white thinking? 

This is also termed splitting. Because black and white thinking is all or nothing. They will know that someone is not horrible or perfect but between, this is hard to comprehend so it leads to splitting, back and forth, good one moment and horrible the next. Struggling to find the between or grey area that truly exists.

All or nothing, good or evil. black or white. This is tough to understand.. so remember I said you won’t understand everything, but tis good to know.

So the splitting is the thought process of all or nothing, middle ground does not exist. This is very complex. So there could be rocking back and forth. 

One example is: for the morning they may feel you are perfect, good… later in the day, evil, flawed. To see someone as good  but with some flaws is a grey area, this is not seen.

To cope with this is not to argue or to try to change thinking, but to agree to disagree. 

I will add to this or do future posts, for now lets have some feedback. With the hope that people searching for ways to not “deal” with someone with borderline, but how to support them….  can find a bit of help here. But more will come. 



About sensuousamberville

I am a Practitioner, teacher and student. I think we should always be students, we should keep our minds open, to continue to learn. :-) Now a mother of two little ones.

13 responses »

  1. Thank you for this post! I, too, would love to see more “How to support someone with Borderline” searches. I wish that people would really try to help someone BPD, even if they don’t understand, just trust that we know what we need more than anyone. I get treated like an idiot constantly. It’s not fair. Just because I don’t have the same brain as them, I am no worse than them. I’m just different.

    • I am going to be frank.. well I am going to be Amber. lol being frank.. There are many therapists that approach this hard, the challenges seem to be too strong to live with or work with someone with BPD. Divorce rates are too high, chances are not allowed, therapists may say to leave the person, you can’t succeed…. this makes my skin crawl. To give up so quickly. Yes in some cases maybe very hard or challenging. Impossible if the person with BPD is not in therapy or never has been or doesn’t accept it. Untreated the challenges too high. the emotions too strong. In this case, yes you will not be happy, you too will be tormented, It is much harder then. Untreated people with BPD will be too difficult. It is cruel, but true, they need to help themselves too. With stigma though, treatment is hard sometimes. waiting lists are too long, costs are too high, this frustrates me to no end. Because I know help does help. I have seen it. I know. I do.

      but for someone that accepts bpd, tries, then this is not the case. This person that suffers with bpd, I have found to to be more compassionate, always so bright, loving and very creative. If you work with them, support, understand what you can.. as you should with anyone… the reward is great. There are challenges. yes. so? are we not capable of dealing with challenges?


  2. great post, Amber. When I was a teenager my Mum bought a book about dealing with people with BPD. I found it and hid it (mature, right?) I didn’t want anyone else in my family to read it. Now I think the more people know about BPD or any other mental illness, the better.

  3. I really like these ‘how to help/understand/ what to do’ blog posts. There are many, many things I do not know about or understand, or even know that I do not understand. (ack…that is an awkward bit of writing there I just did.)

    Some of what you said helps to show what might be going through a person’s mind … some says this is how it is, you cannot know if you are not there…just know it is true and that is why it is happening. Those are good to know nod nods.

    I hope the person searching for the help read this … I hope they are doing okay too … and the person in their life that they are wondering on.

  4. I happen to be diagnosed with BPD and I see grey area and understand it- Let me just say that Mental health diagnosises and the DSM’s therories are not GOSPEL- no-one can prove or disprove anything concerning humans and thinking patterns-

    Example: being Gay-homosexual was listed in the DSM 4 as a Mental health disability once upon a time and then wow-it came to pass that San fransico went ballistic and threatened to bring down the establishment and BAM- it was taken out of the book- and it just stopped being listed and a disorder- well what does this tell us it tells us this is all ridiculous judgments on people’s thinking that we as a society can never prove or disprove-

    So if being Gay were a mental illness wow can you imagine how many more americans would be collecting Social Security Disability-

    So, seeing things in black and white or right from wrong- well Christ did this I guess He was BPD right? He also saw grey he ministered to the grey areas of humans- look my point is none of this is helping society get a handle on the facts of human behaviors and the real problems and breakdowns of the Nuclear Family model used in the 1950’s which is now almost obsolete-

    We now have most one parent and no pearent households and the whole family dynamic is changed and different-plus we have the “sysytem Kids” the kids in foster care who age out who have serious axes to grind and every right to do so- lets all hope these kids are really getting the true and appropriate care they need or were all in big trouble because their the “next generation people and their going to be the ones responsible for keeping this planet going and to be honest I don’t see so far good reason to look ahead I mean after all what motivaion do they really have- huh?


    Atlantic county -NJ

    • Tis true, this is why I started the post with “everyone is different” The DSM is a guide, It is a good guide in many ways, not so great in others, this will always be debated, but it is only a guide, a starting point. Borderline, like many disorders has many levels, comorbidity is tossed in just to confuse things more. Everyone needs individual care.

      The new family dynamic is also one that may be responsible for a lot of future torment I fear.

  5. Amber, I think it is wonderful how you tackle important issues and then give them a platform for discussion. It makes it so much easier to talk about without the judgement. There is much to gain from a ‘how to deal with’or a ‘how to recognize’ post than trying to solve the problem or simply offering up solutions. It takes courage to come forth and admit to needing help. You, my dear amazing Amber have just opened sooo many doors, I hope they walk through knowing there is only help, not harm.

  6. Reblogged this on A Day On The Plains and commented:
    At therapy We talk often of my Borderline Personality Traits. I think it is the third axis of my diagnosis that states a “Nonspecified Personality Disorder”. I think the therapist is just waiting for a little more evidence that the disorder is in fact Borderline Personality Disorder. There are 9 traits specified by the DSM-5 used to diagnose Borderline Personality Disorder. To be diagnosed one must exhibit 5 or more of the traits. I exhibit about 7 of the 9 on a more regular basis than I’d like to admit.


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