How To Cope When Someone You Love Has BPD

someone you love has bpd

Do you know someone who suffers from BPD, and you are struggling to understand how you can help make things better for them?

If someone you love has BPD symptoms such as intense mood swings, fear of abandonment, emotional reactivity, self-harming, and self-destructive behaviors, you may feel like you are being dragged into one storm after another, deprived of peace in your life, and are left feeling powerless and increasingly hopeless.

Loving someone with BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) is certainly a journey with its gifts and perils. BPD symptoms such as intense mood swings, fear of abandonment, emotional reactivity, self-harming and self-destructive behavior, you may feel like you are being dragged into one storm after another, deprived of peace in your life, and left feeling powerless and increasingly hopeless.

If your loved one is recovering from complex childhood wounds or Complex PTSD, they probably experience reality differently than you do. It is helpful to gain some insight into how their world operates, and thus make some sense of their behavior.

Loving someone with Borderline Personality Disorder requires tremendous strength and patience. You may be hurt in the following situations: For example, when your loved one seems to constantly make untrue accusations, is angry at you all the time, or blames you for things that are not your fault.

Without understanding and support, this can be a painful and exhausting journey. Sometimes, it is hard to see or remember that their behavior is not directed towards you but stems from their internal struggles.

Here Are A Few Descriptions Of Psychological Phenomena That They Might Be Experiencing:

1. Feelings Are ‘too Real’

Some psychologists call this ‘psychic equivalence’– A mental state in which there is little differentiation between their mind’s thoughts and feelings and the external world. Your loved one may forget that their feelings, thoughts, beliefs, and wishes are simply part of their mental activities, and treat them as absolute, objective truths.

To them, their fear, anxiety, feelings of disgust, the thought that someone dislikes them are all as real as reality. In other words, for them, when they feel criticized, they believe they are criticized.

And the feeling of shame and self-criticism can be experienced with such a high level of intensity that it becomes destructive. Loving someone with BPD means your loved one sometimes does not share the same reality as you do. When they feel hurt, they retreat into a regressed state and it can be difficult to reach them. You may have to tolerate some degree of frustration and loneliness when that happens. 

2. For Your Loved One With BPD, Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind

In psychological terminology, this is known as lack of object constancy. Your loved one might have problems with holding onto a consistent mind-image when it comes to relating to others. They struggle to have a sense of continuity and consistency about people in their lives. Imagine playing peekaboo with a child, when you take a toy away, they thought it has disappeared. This is the same for your loved one with BPD: When they don’t see you, it’s like you don’t exist. 

When someone has BPD, they experience terrible anxiety when people leave. There is a desperate need to hold onto the physical connection or to seek the reassurance of others’ love, because they may struggle to hold onto the concept of self without someone mirroring their existence. 

Loving someone with BPD means you are loving someone who is developmentally stuck in a younger state, potentially due to trauma they had experienced. You may feel that you need to constantly remind them of the fact that you love and care for them. When you don’t, they interpret this as you not caring for them anymore.

Without you constantly reminding them, they have a hard time holding a sense of ‘loving presence in their mind. On the surface, this can come across as ‘clingy’, or jealous behaviors. 

Related: 10 Borderline Personality Disorder Facts That You Must Know

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Imi Lo

Imi Lo is a consultant for emotionally intense and highly sensitive people. She is the author of Emotional Sensitivity and Intensity, available in multiple languages, and The Gift of Intensity. Imi is the founder of Eggshell Therapy and Coaching, working with intense people from around the world. Imi has practiced as a social worker and therapist in London (U.K). She has trained in mental health, psychotherapy, art therapy, philosophical counseling, and mindfulness-based modalities. She works holistically, combining psychological insights with Eastern and Western philosophies such as Buddhism. Imi’s credentials include a Master in Mental Health, Master of Buddhist Studies, Graduate Diploma in Psychology, Bachelor of Social Science in Social Work, Certificate in Logic-based Therapy, and an Advanced Diploma in Contemporary Psychotherapy. She has received multiple scholarships and awards including the Endeavour Award by the Australian Government. She has been consulted by and appeared in publications such as The Psychologies Magazine, The Telegraph, Marie Claire,and The Daily Mail.View Author posts