Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a mental health disorder affecting both the way someone thinks about themselves and other people.
Someone with borderline personality disorder might have relationships that are intense with a lot of ups and downs, as well as extreme emotions. Impulsiveness and alterations in self-image are also symptoms of borderline personality disorder.
Someone with BPD can have mood swings and problems with anger. They may also have a fear of being alone or abandoned.
Living with borderline personality disorder can be challenging, both for the individual and their loved ones. However, it’s possible to learn how to overcome borderline personality disorder.
With the appropriate professional treatment, self-help and coping mechanisms, it’s possible to live a fulfilling and productive life with borderline personality disorder.
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Coping With Borderline Personality Disorder
Living and coping with borderline personality disorder is an individual experience. Patients should take time to find what works for them. It can be different for everyone, but living with borderline personality disorder can be made easier by:
- Engaging in physical activity. If you’re having trouble coping with BPD, physical activity may help you regain control over your emotions and stabilize yourself. Activities like boxing, running, cycling or yoga might be helpful.
- Taking time for yourself. While social isolation can be detrimental, taking occasional time away from other people can be a good coping skill for BPD. Take the time to be alone, and recharge without the influence of other people. If you are feeling angry or out of control with your emotions, reflecting solo can help you readjust.
- Writing letters or emails to people but never sending them. This is kind of like a journal, and a great release to get out some feelings and start to calm down. By typing or writing out what you feel toward a person or situation, you can express yourself without having your words impact your relationships. By not sending the message, you allow yourself time to reflect and reread what you wrote after the initial feelings have passed.
- Taking breaks. Temporarily removing yourself from a stressful situation can help alleviate feelings of anger and aggression.
- Keeping busy. Do something to distract from your current emotions. Holding a small toy like a slinky or item can keep your hands occupied so your mind can focus on the specific task at hand.
5 Tips for Getting the Most Out of BPD Treatment
Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, is the primary treatment approach for borderline personality disorder. Talk therapy for BPD focuses on improving functionality, managing emotions and reducing impulsiveness.
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is one approach used for the treatment of BPD. The combination of group and individual therapy is included in DBT. Patients learn skills that are meant to help them manage their emotions, deal with stress and improve relationships.
Currently there are no drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) specifically for BPD. Medications may still be prescribed to help with specific symptoms or co-occurring mental health disorders. Medications that someone with BPD may benefit from include antidepressants and mood stabilizers.
A clinical plan for BPD may be the first step toward active treatment, but there are many other steps you can take to manage BPD:
1. Be an Active Part of Your Treatment Plan
Borderline personality disorder does require treatment, and you should work on being active, engaged participant in whatever the program is. As you learns more, you’ll be more empowered to ask relevant questions, make suggestions and be open and honest with treatment providers. No one treatment plan works for everyone with BPD. It can take time to get it right.
2. Try Grounding Exercises
Using grounding exercises can help you learn to deal with borderline personality symptoms. The objective of grounding exercises is to help you put you attention on what’s happening in the present. The goal is to think about the present instead of what happened in the past or what could happen in the future.
Different types of grounding exercises include:
- Visual and auditory grounding exercises. Visual and auditory exercises use senses to bring you back to the present. In visual exercises, take a breath and look around. Think about everything that you see. Try to notice even small details. The same thing can be done using an auditory exercise — do the same steps as a visual grounding exercise but with sounds. Try to notice even the smallest sounds and the differences between those sounds. What’s good about visual and auditory grounding is that you can do it anywhere and the people around you probably won’t even notice.
- Tactile grounding exercises. Tactile grounding exercise are ways to bring yourself into the present through the sense of touch. Again, there are many different ways to put this into action. For example, taking a cold shower can be helpful. Wearing a rubber band around your wrist and snapping it lightly might help you become present.
- Listening to a meditation app. There are a variety of meditation apps that can help center your mind and bring you back into a clearer headspace. Search through apps on your phone or computer to find the best fit for you. Spending just a few minutes a day with a guided meditation app can help you stay focused.
- Use of essential oils. When you’re feeling like you’re having a dissociative experience or symptoms of BPD, using essential oils for aromatherapy can help you stay present and feel calm. Look for scents like lavender or chamomile
- Breathing exercises. Learn to breathe very slowly in through the nose and fill the lungs until it feels like the lungs can’t take in more air. Then, exhale the air out of the lungs completely through the mouth. Repeat and focus on how it feels to have the lungs expand and then contract.
You can explore different grounding exercises until you find what works for you.
3. Have an Emergency Safety Plan
One of the most challenging parts of BPD can be the emotional pain you experience. This can lead to mental health emergencies. You might have suicidal thoughts or behaviors, for example. When you are feeling clear-headed and in a good place, create an emergency safety plan. Outline what you will do if you feel you could be a harm to yourself or someone else.
Create a specific plan, because when you are in the midst of a potentially harmful situation, you might not think as clearly as when you created the plan.
4. Get Support
If you have BPD, you might tend to isolate yourself. This isolation could be because you struggle with relationships or because you fear judgment. It’s critical to have a social support network you can rely on and trust like friends or family.
Think about joining a support group for other people who have BPD as a way to develop relationships.
5. Practice Self-Care
Physical and mental health are intrinsically linked to one another. Being physically healthy can help you better manage your BPD as well. Self-care includes a healthy diet, exercise and getting enough sleep. Find ways to relax and reduce stress that are enjoyable. You can create a schedule and routine that integrates time for those things that are enjoyable.
Overcoming BPD Without Medication
Overcoming BPD without medication is possible, but you should always follow the guidance and treatment plan set forth by your doctor or health care provider. Medication isn’t necessarily the primary treatment for BPD in most cases. It’s typically only used to treat specific symptoms such as depression or mood swings.
Regardless of whether or not you take medication for BPD, you can learn coping skills and healthy ways to live life without having the disorder and its symptoms define you.
It’s important to find strategies that work for you and to shift your thinking from negative to positive. You might also want to speak openly with loved ones about your needs. For example, help loved ones understand how to help you when you become angry or very emotional. The loved ones likely want to help you and be supportive, but they may not know how.
Dealing With BPD and Co-Occurring Substance Abuse
Borderline personality disorder often occurs along with substance abuse. This is likely because people with BPD may turn to substances as a way to self-medicate. To learn more about treatment for substance use and co-occurring disorders like BPD, contact The Recovery Village. Call and speak with a representative to determine which treatment program could work for you.
NIH National Institute of Mental Health. “Borderline Personality Disorder.” Accessed January 17, 2019.
Smith, Melinda, Robinson, Lawrence and Segal, Jeanne, Ph.D. “Helping Someone with Borderline Personality Disorder.” HelpGuide. November 2018. Accessed January 17, 2018.
Tartakovsky, M. “Living with Borderline Personality Disorder.” Psych Central. December 17, 2017. Accessed January 17, 2019.