Borderline personality disorder affects an estimated 2% of the population. If your loved one has this condition, you already know how complicated it is. This guide will walk you through learning how they can cope with the situations that arise from when you have a borderline parent.
To start, let’s talk more about what it is and how you can learn more about it.
Inform Yourself About Borderline Personality Disorder
Borderline personality disorder also called simply borderline or BPD is a mental illness that affects a person’s patterns of thinking, behaviors, and actions. Personality disorders are different from other mental disorders, like depression or bipolar disorder, as they are thought to be a result of childhood trauma.
The signs and symptoms differ from person to person, but may include the following:
- Extreme fear of abandonment, imagined or real
- Constant need for attention
- Impulsive behavior (careless driving, spending money they don’t have, unsafe sex, binge eating, using drugs, self-sabotage, etc)
- History of intense and unstable friendships and relationships
- Intense mood swings that can last hours to days (exaggerated joy, anger, shame, anxiety, depression, etc.)
- Unhealthy idealization of people or ideas
- Constantly shifting self-image and identity
- Bouts of paranoia or dissociation related to stress or other triggers
- Suicidal behavior such as self-harm or threatening suicide when faced with rejection
- Feelings of emptiness
- Subject to outbursts of anger or inciting fights
This condition is characterized by extreme moods and reactions.
What Not To Do
When learning about BPD and how to cope with a parent with borderline personality disorder, you may need to adjust your own behaviors. Here are some things not to do:
- Don’t give in to attention-seeking behaviors
- Don’t enter a codependent relationship
- Don’t minimize or invalidate their feelings
- Don’t perpetuate arguments, become hostile, or retaliate
- Don’t take insults or attacks to heart
- Don’t sacrifice yourself to make them happy
- Don’t let yourself be a doormat
- Don’t expect the problems to go away all on their own
A mother with borderline personality disorder may go to extremes to avoid feelings of abandonment. She may give affection or love inconsistently, attempt to control everything, or project imagined feelings onto others.
A father with borderline personality disorder may do those same actions. He may be neglectful and withholding of care. He may have issues accepting boundaries as well.
Learn What You Can’t Change
As BPD is commonly diagnosed in childhood or young adulthood, many of the unhealthy behaviors of a person with borderline have been nearly lifelong. There may be a genetic component to BPD. If your parent was raised in a toxic household, they are likely to view their actions as normal, as that’s how their parents acted.
You can’t change the way your mother or father reacts to stress or the ways they chose to deal with it. If you criticize their spending habits, dangerous lifestyle, or treatment of others, it’s likely to spark an argument or mood swing.
Acknowledge What You Can Change
One of the best practices is to acknowledge the things you can change in your relationship with a borderline parent.
While they may try to control you or make you feel bad, it’s important to remind yourself this isn’t your fault. You’re not responsible for anyone else’s actions other than your own.
BPD parents often try to control others and cross lines that shouldn’t be crossed. A way to disarm borderlines is to set boundaries and to reinforce them. Healthy boundaries in your home or within your family are helpful for the comfort of others and the safety of your parent.
Boundaries, such as strict rules when it comes to personal space or how much of your time you can offer, can help provide structure in your relationship. Your parent may cross these boundaries or invalidate your reasoning for making them, but it’s up to you to stand firm. Backing out only perpetuates negative cycles and does nothing to help either party involved.
It won’t change things overnight, but it could aid you in your efforts to improve your relationship and cope with your borderline parents. Along with this, you should encourage them to seek professional treatment.
Your BPD parent should be engaged in professional treatment for themself. Another good option is family counseling. Family counseling approaches treatment in a holistic and personal manner to address trauma and improve communication.
Engage in Self Care
Part of being responsible for your own actions is taking care of yourself. Living with someone with borderline personality disorder is emotionally and mentally exhausting. Consider these ways to engage in self-care:
- Talk to a therapist or other mental health professional for individual help
- Set and reinforce boundaries with your borderline parent
- Keep a journal to write your thoughts and feelings, especially after an upsetting interaction
- Be aware of triggers (both yours and your parent’s) and do your best to avoid them
- Take time for yourself and see people who aren’t your BPD parent
- Stay healthy by exercising, drinking more water, eating well, and getting enough sleep
- Engage in mindfulness meditation
- Walk away when you need to
You’ll be unable to take care of other people if you aren’t taking care of yourself. You may find talking with others, whether it is a mental health professional like a psychologist or psychiatrist, or others who have experienced similar situations, is helpful.
Talk to Others with BPD Parents
It can be hard to get validation when you discuss your concerns or frustrations when talking about your experiences with a borderline parent. Friends or other people who haven’t experienced it may unknowingly invalidate your feeling and make you feel unheard. This is why speaking to others with parents who have borderline personality disorders is helpful.
Joining a support group for people raised by BPD parents will allow you to vent without fear of judgment. Everyone else in the group understands the struggles you’ve been through. You can come away with valuable advice and ways to cope.
Get Help Coping with a Borderline Parent
Learning how to cope with the complicated relationship dynamics with your borderline parent is difficult, but you don’t have to do it on your own. It helps to understand the symptoms of BPD and the potential triggers. If you need help or would like to help your parent get help, contact us.
D’Amore Healthcare’s Executive Management Team offers multiple treatment programs to help you find sustainable recovery solutions.