There are many things that a family can do to help a member of that family to recover from borderline personality disorder (BPD). However, there are also things they can do which may hinder the family member’s recovery. Let’s look at each of these in turn :
THINGS THAT CAN BE DONE TO AID A FAMILY MEMBER’S RECOVERY FROM BPD :
– COMMUNICATION: communicate with professionals about aspects of BPD you are uncertain about
– GAIN KNOWLEDGE: gain as much information about BPD as possible, but make sure the information comes from reliable sources
– EMPATHIZE: BPD is an extremely distressing and emotionally painful condition; try to show compassion and understanding in relation to this
– NON-JUDGMENTALIST: when under stress, those with BPD may say hurtful things, due to uncontrollable emotions, that they would not say if they were well; this sort of behaviour is best responded to as non-judgmentally as possible
– BALANCE OWN NEEDS WITH THOSE OF THE BPD SUFFERER: in order to cope, it is necessary to balance one’s own needs with those of the BPD sufferer; this will also help the BPD sufferer take steps towards independence
– SHARED INFORMATION: discuss what information can be shared with relevant healthcare professionals when the BPD sufferer is relatively well, bearing in mind that a balance often needs to be struck between disclosure and the right to privacy/confidentiality.
THINGS THAT FAMILIES OF BPD SUFFERERS MIGHT WISH TO AVOID:
– DENIAL OF DIAGNOSIS: whilst a diagnosis of BPD can be difficult to accept, it can also be very useful as it allows the sufferer to understand his/her condition, and, therefore, puts him/her in a stronger position to be able to fight it. It is always possible to seek a second opinion, of course, but treatment is most likely to succeed if the BPD sufferer, the family, and the experts all work together and face up to the seriousness of the condition. Many do recover (click here to read my article about why we should be optimistic about people recovering from BPD).
– HAVING TOO HIGH EXPECTATIONS: whilst there is every reason to be optimistic about an individual’s likelihood of recovering from BPD, it is also important to avoid having unrealistically high expectations – for example, it would not be realistic to expect someone who has a severe case of BPD to make a full recovery within six months. Bear in mind, too, that it is often a case of ‘two steps forward, one step back’ rather than a steady, linear improvement.
– AVOID BEING AGGRESSIVE TOWARDS THE BPD SUFFERER: whilst the behaviour of sufferers of BPD can be highly challenging at times, responding with aggression is likely to just lead to the situation deteriorating further.
– AVOID OVERPROTECTIVENESS: whilst it is of course natural to wish to protect a loved one, it should be borne in mind that if this is taken to too great extremes there is a risk of hindering the development of the BPD sufferer’s independence skills
– STIGMATIZATION: unfortunately, some of the literature about BPD is very stigmatizing – such reading matter is best avoided
– INVALIDATION: click here to read my previously published article on this
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).