Self-Help for Borderline Personality Disorder

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Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a serious mental health condition characterized by emotional instability, impulsivity, problems with relationships, and significant, stress-related changes in behavior.

BPD can dramatically impact the way you see yourself and the way you interact with other people. It can also make it difficult to respond to stressful situations in a constructive way. People with BPD may find that their symptoms make it harder to hold down a job and maintain healthy relationships with others.

Only a medical professional can diagnose you with BPD. Typically, the first line of treatment for this condition is psychotherapy, though your doctor may also recommend medication—and both of these options are very helpful for reducing symptoms of BPD.

However, if you find yourself needing more support, these self-help strategies can be used together with your treatment.

Educate Yourself

It's important to be educated about what your BPD diagnosis means for you. That could mean learning about the symptoms of your condition so you can identify and cope with them more easily, and understanding the approach your doctor is taking with your treatment, which might allow you to spot areas in your life where you could use more support.

In fact, many professional treatments for BPD include an education component, and there is evidence that suggests receiving education about BPD can reduce symptoms.

You have a few options to educate yourself about your condition. The first is asking your therapist directly for more information during the assessment process for BPD. Some questions you might consider include (but certainly aren't limited to):

  • Which symptoms of BPD do I show?
  • How will they impact my work and relationships?
  • Could I have any other mental health issues along with BPD?
  • What caused my condition?
  • What does my treatment plan include?
  • Do I need to take medication?
  • How long will I be in treatment for BPD?
  • What can I do to manage my symptoms at home?

Overall, you should feel comfortable asking your therapist any questions you have throughout your treatment process. That's part of building a good therapeutic relationship, which will ultimately benefit your treatment.

Your other option for educating yourself about BPD is to research information about your condition. There are a variety of good sources of knowledge about BPD, including websites and books. Some good online resources about BPD include:

Not all sources of information are reliable. If you find a website or book about BPD that doesn't share its sources or explain where its information came from, it may not be the best place for you to learn about your condition. Always look for information that you can verify yourself.

Books on BPD

There are some very good books available to help you learn more about your condition. These include:

  • "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th ed (DSM-5)," 2013, American Psychiatric Association: If you're looking for an in-depth, clinical resource on BPD, the DSM-5 is it. Intended for use by mental healthcare professionals, it includes BPD diagnostic criteria, symptoms, causes, and treatments.
  • "The Borderline Personality Disorder Workbook: An Integrative Program to Understand and Manage Your BPD," by Daniel J. Fox, 2019, New Harbinger Publications: This workbook includes information to help you understand BPD and interactive exercises help you manage your symptoms. It's intended to provide an integrated approach to managing BPD based on a variety of different therapies.
  • "I Hate You—Don't Leave Me: Understanding the Borderline Personality," by Jerold J. Kreisman and Hal Straus, 2010 Revised Edition, Penguin Random House: This book dives into the possible causes of BPD and how it ties in with other mental health conditions. The newest edition also includes updates on possible treatments for BPD.
  • "The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Workbook: Practical DBT Exercises for Learning Mindfulness, Interpersonal Effectiveness, Emotion Regulation, & Distress Tolerance," by Matthew McKay, Jeffrey C. Wood, and Jeffrey Brantley, 2013 Revised Edition, New Harbinger Publications: This provides comprehensive information on DBT before going over specific skills and exercises designed to help you manage your symptoms.

Coping Skills

Another appropriate use of self-help for BPD is in the area of coping skills training. Learning some simple techniques that you can use at home can help support your skill development in therapy.

Coping skills for BPD are often centered around learning to manage moments of emotional instability and/or control anger. Some techniques to help in these situations could include:

  • Using stress-reduction techniques, like deep breathing or meditation
  • Engaging in light exercise, like walking or yoga
  • Distracting yourself with something enjoyable, like listening to music or watching a funny movie
  • Grounding yourself
  • Reaching out to a close friend or loved one for support

People with BPD frequently experience problems in their relationships, so you may also find that you benefit from learning effective communication skills like engaged listening, seeing things from another person's point of view, and focusing only on the immediate situation.

Emotional Expression

Since BPD is often associated with extreme emotions, including anger, many people with this condition try to avoid expressing their emotions. However, suppressing your feelings won't make them go away, and it may even cause you to focus more on the emotions you're trying to avoid.

Instead, consider learning healthy ways to express what you're feeling. Some people do this by writing in a journal or blog, others by drawing or painting, and some through other creative methods like singing, dancing, or making music. Expressive writing, specifically, may offer a variety of benefits, including better physical health and reduced psychological symptoms.

For some people, engaging in these types of strategies can feel overwhelming or triggering. Talk with your therapist about any anxieties you're feeling about expressing your emotions. They can help you determine which activities, if any, are a good fit for you.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness can be particularly helpful for people with BPD. Mindfulness encourages you to be aware of your thoughts, feelings, and sensations—and that awareness could help you identify moments when your symptoms are becoming particularly intense.

Mindfulness meditation is a structured way to practice that awareness, and research suggests it can help people with BPD manage their symptoms. Mindfulness meditation may also help you manage stress, making it a multi-tasking self-help strategy for people with BPD.

A Word From Verywell

BPD can cause significant disruption in your life, and the symptoms can feel debilitating. However, it's important to recognize that it is possible to learn how to manage your condition and, with time, you can master the coping skills needed to do so.

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  1. American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 5th ed. Washington D.C.; 2013. doi:10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596

  2. Ridolfi ME, Rossi R, Occhialini G, Gunderson JG. A clinical trial of a psychoeducation group intervention for patients with borderline personality disorderJ Clin Psychiatry. 2020;81(1):19m12753. doi:10.4088/jcp.19m12753 

  3. Kramer U. The role of coping change in borderline personality disorder: A process-outcome analysis on dialectical-behaviour skills training. Clin Psychol Psychother. 2017;24(2):302-311.doi:10.1002/cpp.2017

  4. Sabo mordechay D, Nir B, Eviatar Z. Expressive writing - Who is it good for? Individual differences in the improvement of mental health resulting from expressive writing. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2019;37:115-121. doi:10.1016/j.ctcp.2019.101064

  5. Soler J, Valdepérez A, Feliu-Soler A, et al. Effects of the dialectical behavioral therapy-mindfulness module on attention in patients with borderline personality disorderBehav Res Ther. 2012;50(2):150-157. doi:10.1016/j.brat.2011.12.002

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