BPD Living With BPD How to Be a Good Friend to Someone With BPD By Kristalyn Salters-Pedneault, PhD Kristalyn Salters-Pedneault, PhD Kristalyn Salters-Pedneault, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and associate professor of psychology at Eastern Connecticut State University. Learn about our editorial process Updated on December 26, 2022 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Amy Morin, LCSW, Editor-in-Chief Print Joe Houghton / Getty Images Table of Contents View All Table of Contents Educate Yourself Support Their Efforts Validate Their Experiences Don't Ignore Threats Self-Care A Word From Verywell A friendship with someone who has borderline personality disorder (BPD) is not always easy. There may be times when your friend feels totally hopeless or out of control, causing you to feel helpless as well. Although BPD has no cure, people with BPD can get better with the right treatment and support. Try following these general principles to be a friend to someone with BPD. Verywell / Theresa Chiechi Educate Yourself About Borderline Personality Disorder If you have a friend with BPD, it is critically important to educate yourself about the disorder. It's characterized by unstable moods and emotions, which affect relationships and behaviors. As a result, friendships with people with BPD can be rocky. Understanding Borderline Personality Disorder Sometimes, people with BPD engage in behaviors that can seem manipulative, mean-spirited, or destructive. A deep understanding of the disorder can help you recognize these behaviors for what they are: symptoms. Understanding that these behaviors are not intended to harm you may help you build more empathy for your friend so you can better support them. Signs and Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder Support Their Efforts to Get Professional Help Trying to force someone to get professional help rarely works, no matter how badly they need it (unless, of course, it's an emergency situation). You can support your friend when they decide to get help, however. This may mean telling your friend that you are proud of them for asking for help or that you think seeking help is a courageous choice. Or it may mean offering rides to appointments or making an effort to visit if they're in the hospital. Whatever you do, it will mean a lot to your friend to know you are behind them. In fact, people with BPD who have support and stability in their personal lives often see improvement in their symptoms sooner than those who lack support. In fact, people with BPD who have support and stability in their personal life often see improvement in their symptoms sooner than those who lack support. What to Do When Your Loved One Won't Get Help for BPD Validate Your Friend’s Experiences The most important thing you can do to help a friend with BPD is to just listen and validate their feelings. Understand that strong emotional reactions are part of the disorder. You may not necessarily agree with their evaluation of a situation or feel that the intensity of their feelings is justified, but you can still listen and acknowledge the difficulty of the feelings they are experiencing. In fact, validation can provide tremendous relief to someone with BPD. Many people with BPD grew up in emotionally invalidating environments and expect that no one will care how they feel. Because of the nature of the disorder, even those who didn't experience a problematic environment growing up may have grown accustomed to people telling them that they are overreacting. As a result, having someone actually care about how they feel can be powerful. Getty Images / bymuratdeniz Don't Ignore Threats of Harm Suicidal threats and gestures are common in people with BPD. Some people with BPD will make multiple suicidal threats, which can lead their family and friends to become desensitized to this kind of behavior. But even if your friend has made suicidal threats in the past without actually attempting suicide, know that people with BPD are at very high risk of attempting and completing suicide. Research has found that 75% of those with BPD will attempt suicide at least once during their lifetime. Studies have also shown that between 3% and 10% of people with BPD die by suicide. For this reason, even if you don’t think they will actually do it, never ignore a threat of suicide. Learn the possible signs that your friend is contemplating suicide, and call emergency personnel (such as “911” in the United States and Canada) any time you believe there is imminent risk your friend may harm themselves. Leave it to the professionals to decide whether there is a serious risk of harm. If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911. For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database. Why Suicidality in BPD Is So Common Take Care of Yourself, Too Sometimes friendships with people who have BPD become unbalanced, and you may find yourself giving more than you receive. If this happens only occasionally, it is usually fine. Most relationships ebb and flow; they can’t always be an even 50-50 split. But if you find yourself in a perpetually unbalanced and difficult situation, it will create a strain in the relationship. Research has shown that friends and family who care for people with BPD have high rates of hostility, anxiety, depression, and distrust. Financial strain, marital problems, and social embarrassment are also common family responses. If you give too much, you may start to feel resentful or burned out. After a while, you may get to the point that you feel the need to end the relationship for your own health and happiness. In the long term, however, it is more helpful for a person with BPD to have a consistent, reliable friend than to have a friend who was 100% there for them for a few months before disappearing forever. For this reason, it is important for you to take care of yourself, take breaks from your friend when needed, and create healthy boundaries so that you get your needs fulfilled, too. All of this is easier said than done. It requires assertive communication skills and sufficient self-awareness to understand when it is time to pull back a bit. However, it is possible to have a long-term, rewarding friendship with someone with BPD if you work at it. Setting Boundaries for Stress Management A Word From Verywell 7 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Brüne M. Borderline Personality Disorder: Why 'fast and furious'?. Evol Med Public Health. 2016;2016(1):52–66. doi:10.1093/emph/eow002 Ng FY, Bourke ME, Grenyer BF. Recovery from borderline personality disorder: a systematic review of the perspectives of consumers, clinicians, family and carers. PLoS One. 2016;11(8):e0160515. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0160515 Biskin RS. The lifetime course of borderline personality disorder. Can J Psychiatry. 2015;60(7):303–308. doi:10.1177/070674371506000702 Keng SL, Soh CY. Association between childhood invalidation and borderline personality symptoms: self-construal and conformity as moderating factors. Borderline Personal Disord Emot Dysregul. 2018;5:19. doi:10.1186/s40479-018-0096-6 Goodman M, Tomas IA, Temes CM, Fitzmaurice GM, Aguirre BA, Zanarini MC. Suicide attempts and self-injurious behaviours in adolescent and adult patients with borderline personality disorder. Personal Ment Health. 2017;11(3):157-163. doi:10.1002/pmh.1375 Soloff PH, Chiappetta L. Prospective predictors of suicidal behavior in borderline personality disorder at 6-year follow-up. Am J Psychiatry. 2012;169(5):484-90. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2011.11091378 Kay ML, Poggenpoel M, Myburgh CP, Downing C. Experiences of family members who have a relative diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. Curationis. 2018;41(1):e1-e9. doi:10.4102/curationis.v41i1.1892 Additional Reading Gunderson, JG. Handbook of Good Psychiatric Management for Borderline Personality Disorder. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing; 2014. By Kristalyn Salters-Pedneault, PhD Kristalyn Salters-Pedneault, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and associate professor of psychology at Eastern Connecticut State University. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist for BPD Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.