Navigating Friendships with Borderline Personality Disorder: A Comprehensive Guide

Having a friend with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) can be a unique experience filled with ups and downs. BPD is characterized by emotional instability, intense interpersonal relationships, fear of abandonment, and impulsive behavior. Understanding this complex condition can provide invaluable insight into maintaining a supportive and healthy friendship. This article delves into the aspects of being friends with someone with BPD and how to navigate these relationships effectively.


Understanding Borderline Personality Disorder: A Deeper Look

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a mental health disorder that impacts how an individual thinks and feels about themselves and others, causing problems in everyday life. Understanding this disorder involves delving deeper into its major characteristics and how they manifest in an individual's behavior and relationships.

Emotional Instability

People with BPD often experience emotional instability or dysregulation, meaning their emotions can be intense and fluctuate rapidly. One moment they might feel happy, and the next could be filled with intense sadness or anger. These shifts can happen over a few minutes, hours, or days and are usually in response to stressors or perceived slights.

Distorted Self-Image

A key aspect of BPD is a distorted self-image. Individuals with BPD may view themselves in extremes, either as very good or very bad. This perspective can lead to frequent goals, values, vocational aspirations, and identity changes. It can make them feel fundamentally flawed or worthless, leading to emptiness and self-loathing.

Intense and Unstable Relationships

People with BPD tend to have intense and unstable relationships. This is often associated with their fear of abandonment and rejection. They may idealize someone one moment and then suddenly believe the person doesn't care or is cruel. This pattern can manifest in friendships, family relationships, and romantic partnerships.

Impulsive Behavior

Impulsivity is another common characteristic of BPD. This might involve risky behaviors such as reckless driving, substance misuse, or unsafe sexual behavior. It can also manifest as binge eating or overspending.

Fear of Abandonment

Fear of abandonment is a significant symptom of BPD. This fear can lead to frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment, resulting in intense reactions to perceived slights or even routine separations.

Understanding these aspects of BPD can provide context to the behaviors and reactions of someone with this disorder. This comprehension is a critical first step in supporting a friend with BPD and navigating the complexities of this friendship.


Challenges of Having a Friend with BPD: Navigating the Complexities

Having a friend with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) can present unique challenges. Understanding these can help foster empathy, patience, and effective communication. Here are some of the issues you might encounter.

Emotional Intensity

Friends with BPD often experience intense emotions that can change rapidly. It can be overwhelming to keep up with these shifts as a friend and know how to respond appropriately. The emotional intensity can also spill over into your interactions, potentially leading to heated arguments or intense emotional conversations.

Fear of Abandonment

People with BPD often have a pervasive fear of abandonment. This can lead to clingy or needy behavior, where your friend may require constant reassurance of your friendship. It can also result in extreme reactions to perceived slights or misunderstandings, which can strain the relationship.

Unstable Relationships

The unstable relationships characteristic of BPD can also impact friendships. Your friend might idealize you one moment, then suddenly believe you're against them the next. This instability can be confusing and hurtful, leading to a friendship that can feel like an emotional rollercoaster.

Impulsive Behavior

Impulsivity in BPD can lead to risky behaviors that may affect your friendship or put you in uncomfortable situations. It might also lead to inconsistent or unpredictable behavior, making it difficult to maintain a sense of normalcy in the friendship.

Emotional Drain

Supporting a friend with BPD can be emotionally draining. The constant need for reassurance, the intense emotions, and the unstable nature of the relationship can take a toll on your mental health.

Despite these challenges, it's important to remember that people with BPD also deal with a mental health disorder that makes their life difficult. They're not behaving this way out of choice. Understanding and compassion can go a long way in maintaining a friendship with someone suffering from BPD.

Supporting a Friend with BPD: Strategies for Navigating the Relationship

Being friends with someone with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is undeniably challenging. However, with the right understanding, patience, and strategies, you can support your friend effectively while caring for your well-being.

Maintain Boundaries

One of the most critical aspects of supporting a friend with BPD is setting and maintaining healthy boundaries. Given their fear of abandonment and intense emotional responses, people with BPD might blur the lines of acceptable behavior. Communicating and consistently upholding your boundaries can provide a sense of stability in the relationship.

Practice Active Listening

People with BPD often feel misunderstood or invalidated. Active listening—giving your full attention, reflecting on what you've heard, and showing empathy—can help your friend feel heard and validated. However, remember that active listening doesn't mean you have to agree with everything they say.

Encourage Professional Help

If your friend needs professional help, encourage them to seek it. Therapies like Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) can effectively manage BPD symptoms. Remember, you are a friend, not a therapist—it's essential to direct them to professional help when necessary.

Learn About BPD

Educate yourself about the disorder, its symptoms, and effective coping mechanisms. The more you understand BPD, the better you'll be able to support your friend. This understanding can help you respond appropriately to your friend's behaviors and remind you that their actions are often symptoms of their disorder, not personal attacks.

Take Care of Yourself

Supporting someone with BPD can be emotionally draining. If the relationship becomes too challenging or damaging, stepping back or seeking support for yourself is okay. Prioritize self-care and make sure you're looking after your emotional well-being.

Remember, each person with BPD is unique, and these strategies may not apply to every situation or individual. Being flexible, patient, and understanding will go a long way in supporting your friend through their struggles with BPD.

Maintaining Your Mental Health: Balancing Support and Self-Care

While supporting a friend with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is crucial, maintaining your mental health is equally important. Here are some strategies for preserving your emotional well-being in the process.

Regular Self-Care

Regular self-care activities are essential for everyone, but they become even more critical when supporting someone with BPD. This could involve physical activities like exercise or yoga, mental exercises like mindfulness or meditation, or simply engaging in hobbies you enjoy.

Establish Personal Boundaries

Setting boundaries with your friend can help protect your mental health. This might involve deciding how much time you can spend with them, determining what topics are off-limits for discussion, or limiting the support you can provide. Remember, it's okay to say no when you need to.

Seek Support for Yourself

As you encourage your friend to seek professional help, don't hesitate to do the same for yourself. Therapists, counselors, or support groups can provide valuable insights and coping strategies. This support can be particularly helpful if the stress of the relationship begins to affect your mental health.

Practice Emotional Detachment

People with BPD often experience intense emotions and may have outbursts or engage in manipulative behavior. It's important to remember that their feelings or actions are not your responsibility. Practice emotional detachment by reminding yourself that you can't control their emotions, only your reactions.

Prioritize Your Needs

Finally, remember to prioritize your needs. While supporting a friend with BPD is admirable, your well-being should not be sacrificed. It's okay to step back if the relationship becomes overwhelming or detrimental to your mental health. After all, you can only effectively support others when you're in a good place.


Supporting a friend with BPD while maintaining your mental health is a delicate balance. By implementing these strategies, you can provide the help your friend needs while ensuring your emotional well-being is taken care of.


Final Thoughts

Having a friend with BPD can be a journey filled with challenges and growth opportunities. With understanding, patience, clear boundaries, and self-care, it's possible to maintain a healthy friendship with someone who has BPD. Remember, you and your friend deserve support, and it's okay to seek help when needed.

Grouport Offers BPD Group Support Online & DBT Skills Groups Online

Grouport Therapy offers online Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) group sessions to support individuals coping with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). This therapy approach utilizes mindfulness and acceptance to enhance self-awareness and emotional regulation, helping to reduce destructive behaviors and strengthen interpersonal connections. Our virtual group sessions instruct members on incorporating various psychotherapy techniques, such as DBT, into their everyday lives, enabling them to engage with others and express themselves more effectively. You can learn more about the structure of our DBT Skills groups here


Our qualified therapist conducts weekly group meetings remotely, allowing members to participate from the comfort of their own homes. As reported by participants, 70% witnessed significant progress within 8 weeks.

You don't need to confront these obstacles by yourself. Enroll in one of our groups today to embark on a path toward substantial, enduring transformation and renewed optimism. Become part of our community and collaborate towards a more promising future.

We also have groups for a variety of other topics including anger management, anxiety, depression, grief and loss, obsessive compulsive disorder, relationship issues, and trauma and PTSD, among many others. You can explore a wide range of group topics and options here. Sign up for one of our groups today and begin your journey towards meaningful, lasting change and learn to replace the behaviors and emotions that hinder your daily life and relationships.

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