Here are some tips on how the friends and family of someone suffering with BPD can help.

  • Offer frequent unprompted reassurance that you love me, are not annoyed by me, and are not going to leave me/stop supporting me. If I have to ask for this reassurance, I will feel that I have manipulated you into giving it and will be unable to believe what you say.
  • Respect that I need to be given space sometimes, and comforted at other times. I need space if I seem to be pushing you away or shutting down. Tell me that you will be available if I need you so that I won’t feel abandoned, then leave the situation. I need comfort if I am clinging to you or refuse to leave you alone.
  • Never tell me that I’m overreacting. It is not my fault that I experience extreme emotions.
  • Do not threaten punishment for impulsive behaviour. This includes saying that you will take me to the hospital if I continue. Offer to talk me through it instead.
  • If you don’t have BPD, don’t tell me that you know how I’m feeling. You don’t. Empathy is much appreciated, but if you say you can sympathize with me, I will begin to feel distrustful of what you say.
  • Never say or imply that I don’t actually have BPD. I get enough of that shit from myself.
  • Hear. Me. Out. No matter what I have to say. You don’t have to agree, just listen.
  • Tell me why I’m not a bad person. Have examples to back it up because I will likely accuse you of empty compliments.
  • If I become unreasonably angry at you, be aware that I will feel incredibly guilty and remorseful later. When that happens, accept my apology and move on if you are able to.
  • Never tell me to “just stop” doing something destructive. I guarantee that if I could stop, I would have already. Instead, gently ask me things like “Why do you think you’re doing this?” + “Do you think it is helpful for you?” + “How is it helpful? How is it not helpful?” If I am in a panic state/dissociative state and answer with “I don’t know!”/refuse or am unable to provide an answer, please determine if I need to be given space or comforted, and act accordingly.
  • When I dissociate, I often appear zoned-out, distracted, or dead-eyed. I may be unable to see you, hear you, or speak to you. A gentle touch on the shoulder may or may not snap me out of it. Stay with me and make sure I don’t do anything dangerous until I come back to reality.
  • Do not judge me for my actions, and especially do not imply that I am being a bad person. Do not try to make me feel guilty for anything, no matter what. Instead, gently ask questions about my behaviour, and try to understand the underlying cause.
  • Use lots of words with positive connotations when speaking to me.