Happiful November 2019


How to support a friend with


personality disorder

BPD can be a tricky illness for friends and loved ones to understand, but there

are lots of ways that you can be supportive without becoming

overwhelmed by the condition’s symptoms

Writing | Harriet Williamson

Illustrating | Rosan Magar

Borderline personality

disorder (BPD), also

known as emotionally

unstable personality

disorder, is a broad

diagnosis characterised by

difficulties with mood and

interaction with others. It means

that sufferers often think – and

perceive the world – differently

from the average person, and

they may form very intense

relationships that end up being


Unfortunately, personality

disorders like BPD still carry a

great deal of stigma, due in part to

outdated ideas about the condition,

and labels such as ‘toxic’ that still

get unfairly attached to people

with BPD. Despite their

difficulties forming

and maintaining

stable relationships, BPD sufferers

can be the warmest, most

empathetic and loving people, and

offer truly rewarding connections.

Although the condition can be

hard to manage – not just for the

sufferer, but for those around them

– there are practical things that

you can do to make sure that your

relationship with someone who

has this mental health condition is

positive and solid.


Ensuring that you know what BPD

entails will make life easier for

both yourself and your friend. A

quick read of the NHS or Mind

websites will offer plenty of insight

into the illness, and will mean

that you can approach difficult

situations with more awareness

and compassion.



The hypersensitivity that

comes with BPD means that

those close to sufferers

may feel as

though they are

‘walking on

eggshells’ at times. But, this doesn’t

have to be the case. Open and clear

communication is key, as is a basic

sensitivity towards things going on

in the other person’s life.

For example, if someone with

BPD feels unhappy or unsupported

at work, dismissing these concerns

with words such as ‘You won’t find

a better job elsewhere’ is definitely

not the right approach. For a BPD

sufferer, this sounds like ‘I don’t

care about you’ and ‘You don’t

deserve to work in an environment

where you feel comfortable’. Being

sensitive doesn’t mean treating the

other person like they’re made of

glass, but it does mean having an

awareness of the impact of your

words and actions.


BPD is often accompanied by

intense fears of abandonment,

heightened by the transient

nature of many relationships in

the sufferer’s life. If you’ve had

a string of broken or incredibly

short friendships, you might be

very wary of others, and

terrified of being left

or let down.

More magazines by this user
Similar magazines