How Mindfulness Meditation Can Help Borderline Personality Disorder

Woman meditating on sofa

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In the past decade, more and more psychiatrists, psychologists, and other mental health professionals have incorporated mindfulness meditation training into their psychotherapy practice. Mindfulness meditation has applications for many different mental illnesses, including major depressive disorder, chronic pain, generalized anxiety disorder, and borderline personality disorder (BPD).

What Is Mindfulness Meditation?

Mindfulness meditation is about staying in the present moment without judging others and being very deliberate.

When you practice mindfulness meditation, you practice not thinking about the past or future and noticing at the moment. You work on being aware of things happening outside of yourself, such as different sensations like what you see, smell, and touch.

Because mindfulness is about not judging, you are to practice thinking of these things neutrally.

Mindfulness is a concept that comes from the Buddhist spiritual tradition. For almost 3,000 years, Buddhist monks have practiced mindfulness meditation. In recent years mindfulness practice has become increasingly widespread and applied outside of Buddhism.

In fact, most Eastern practitioners who use mindfulness think of it as a skill that can be used separately from any kind of religious or spiritual practice. No matter what your religious background, mindfulness meditation may be helpful for you.

What Does Mindfulness Meditation Have to Do With BPD?

Marsha Linehan, Ph.D., who created dialectical behavior therapy for BPD was one of the first to apply mindfulness meditation training to the treatment of BPD. Often, individuals with BPD not only experience intense emotions, but they can also become “stuck” in these emotions and judge both the emotions and themselves.

Unfortunately, this can end up making the emotion feel even more intense. Judgmental thoughts can add other emotions to the mix; if you tell yourself you are weak for feeling sad you may end up feeling both sad and ashamed.

Mindfulness meditation training may help individuals with BPD be more effective in applying healthy coping skills in the midst of emotional pain. Mindfulness skills allow you to get just a little bit of space to be able to notice the emotion and be more strategic in terms of how you will act in the face of the emotion.

For example, imagine being in a verbal argument with someone you love. During the argument, you may feel very intense feelings, such as anger, fear, and rage. Without mindfulness skills, you are more likely to act on these feelings without being able to see the consequences. You may yell at your loved one, throw something, or storm out.

With mindfulness meditation practice, you may be able to notice the emotions you are having and you may be able to step back and chose your behavior in an appropriate way, such as taking a break until you can discuss things quietly.

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  • Block-Lerner J, Salters-Pedneault K, Tull, MT. Assessing mindfulness and experiential acceptance: attempts to capture inherently elusive phenomena. In L. Roemer & S. Orsillo (Eds.) Acceptance and Mindfulness-Based Approaches to Anxiety, New York: Springer; 2005

  • Kabat-Zinn J. Wherever You Go There You Are: Mindfulness Meditations in everyday Life. New York: Hyperion; 1994.

By Kristalyn Salters-Pedneault, PhD
 Kristalyn Salters-Pedneault, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and associate professor of psychology at Eastern Connecticut State University.