Identifying traits of borderline personality disorder can be difficult because, by its very nature, the behaviors are sudden, unpredictable and can come “out of nowhere” with eruptions of anger, extreme suspiciousness, or suicidal depression.
So how do we deal with borderline symptoms in a healthy way? According to the book I Hate You - Don’t Leave Me they have listed techniques for dealing with specific borderline symptoms.
Coping With Abandonment Fears - Even though the borderline person can express rage and push people away, the underlying fear is being abandoned, which is so powerful. If there is separation, for example, for work, provide a photo or article of clothing that can soothe the person with borderline, or encourage them to play “your song.” Establishing boundaries is important because you may never fully be able to satisfy them but be consistent. For example, if you cannot see your borderline mother every week, set a time for every other Thursday and stick to it.
Coping with Relationship Instability - people with borderline tend to think in black and white with the people in their lives either being a hero or a villain. If they currently think of you as a hero then do not feed into it, but state “I really am not that wonderful.” If you turn into a villain for example, for not being there when they needed you, then you can simply state “I understand you are upset with me, but think of all the times I have been able to be there for you.”
Coping with Identify Disburance - According to the book I Hate You - Don’t Leave Me a common borderline mantra is “I don’t really know who I am.” One way of helping is to be positive, be there and be consistent, as most borderlines experience inconsistencies in life. Join a group with your borderline partner because it helps to promote social interaction and will hopefully stimulate interests that start to define their identity.
Coping with Self-Destructive Impulsivity - People with borderline personality attempt to soothe their shifting moods with destructive impulses such as food, alcohol, drugs and shopping. Pointing out previous patterns that have led to these impulsive behaviors can help the person be more aware of their feelings. Us the Support in the (SET-UP) to express how you feel such as “I am worried because I have noticed it’s been a stressful time for you.” If they still want to engage in the impulsive behavior, then instead of pleading with them not to, focus on their stress, anger or frustration and why they feel that way.
Coping with Suicidal and Self-Mutilating Behaviors - Even if you feel it is a way that the person is trying to get attention, every suicidal threat must be taken seriously. You can call the emergency service or the 988 suicidal hotline. Explore with the borderline person alternatives to self-harm such as intense exercise, soaking in a hot bath, or using ice to cool the body down.
Coping with Mood Instability - Many people with borderline personality disorder are sensitive to people and the environment around them and can react with rapid mood changes. Explain the “no-win” dilemma in that you are dammed if you do, and dammed if you don’t. You can use the SET-UP system. In the book I Hate You - Don’t Hate Me - they explain: “I know you were mad when I said I was going out tonight, but then you were mad because I was “guilting” you by saying I would stay home. I know you have been going through a lot with your dad (Empathy) and I am concerned at how much stress you have been under (Support) but I am going to stay home tonight, not out of guilt, but because you are important to me (Truth).
Coping with Chronic Feelings of Emptiness - people with borderline tend to lack a sense of purpose or value, resulting in a feeling of emptiness. They feel they have nothing to give and are unworthy of receiving love and attention. Encourage them to engage in physical activity, which when done, leaves a person with a sense of accomplishment. Engage them to try new interests such as music, hobbies, or reading. Joining community groups, church groups, social clubs or volunteer organizations also helps.
Coping with Anger - These outbursts may come without warning, but keep calm. Let the dust settle before jumping in with a response. As the person becomes louder, you become quieter. Use the SET-UP to provide support, empathy and the truth of why they are feeling angry.