Published On: January 30, 2023
Reviewed On: January 30, 2023
Updated On: November 2, 2023
Love bombing is a term used to describe a pattern of behaviors frequently seen in people with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). Borderline love bombing uses demonstrations of affection and emotion to catch and keep someone’s interest. While this attention can be flattering at first, love bombing is a manipulative behavior used to control another person.
Continue reading to learn more about BPD love bombing, including the signs, the various stages, what causes it, and how you can protect yourself.
It’s normal to receive compliments at the start of a new relationship, but love bombing takes this behavior to extremes. A love bomber will shower a recipient with praise, gifts, and physical affection. In addition, they may make grandiose promises for the future or claim that they’ve fallen in love at first sight.
While this positive attention can feel exciting or even exhilarating at first, it can also be overwhelming. It’s common for love bombers to send excessive texts and messages to targets. A love bomber might also push for a romantic relationship to move quickly and react poorly when they hear the word no.
People with borderline personality disorder often struggle with a fear of abandonment. As a result, they may use tactics like love bombing to try to keep someone interested. While it’s common for someone with BPD to idealize a partner in the early stages, they may use a defense mechanism called devaluation if they feel rejected. Devaluation involves exaggerating a person’s negative qualities and may even lead to angry outbursts.
It can be hard to spot love bombing, especially when you’re in the honeymoon stage of a romantic relationship. That’s why it’s so important to watch out for any of these red flags. Love bombing BPD signs may include:
Borderline love bombing is a cycle of emotional abuse with multiple stages. While the first stage may make you feel wanted and appreciated, the later stages can be deeply hurtful.
Expert Insight“The stages of love bombing include the actual love bombing stage, the devaluing stage, the discarding stage, and the hoovering stage. Each stage is characterized by a narcissistic partner’s attempts at manipulating the other person. If you are in a relationship with someone who love bombs you, then seek out therapy to get the support that you need to deal with this person.”
During the cycle, a love bomber usually goes through the following stages.
Love bombing isn’t always a conscious behavior. For example, people with a narcissistic personality disorder may purposefully use love bombing as a manipulation tactic. Someone who uses BPD love bombing, though, doesn’t always have the intent to harm.
Expert Insight“Love bombing can come from an individual’s need for validation and appreciation from a significant other. They believe that this “over the top” expression of love will make the other person become more attached to them and win them over.”
Most people with BPD struggle with low self-esteem. To cope with their feelings, they seek validation from others. They may have legitimate feelings for you and believe that exaggerated displays of affection are the best way to keep you close.
BPD can make it challenging to regulate emotion, and many people with this condition often have an insecure attachment style and also display BPD splitting. They may be afraid they’ll lose you if they don’t make big gestures early on. Expressing discomfort and setting boundaries could help you address these behaviors. Still, you should be prepared to part ways if your boundaries aren’t accepted.
Love bombing can make you feel attached to a partner, leaving you vulnerable to manipulation. Therefore, it’s essential to learn how to deal with borderline personality disorder love bombing warning signs so you can take steps to protect yourself. If you suspect that you’re feeling love-bombed, learn how to set healthy relationship boundaries and make sure you have space to process your feelings.
It can also be helpful to discuss your relationship with an outside party. While friends and family members may give you biased feedback, a therapist can offer advice and perspective. With the help of a therapist, you’ll be able to examine your feelings and find the best way to proceed.
If you have concerns about love bombing, Talkspace can help. Talkspace is an online therapy platform that makes connecting with a licensed online therapist easy. Love bombing can be dangerous, scary, confusing, and stressful, but a therapist can help you protect yourself from harm or recover from your relationship.
Perry, J Christopher et al. Psychiatry vol. 76,1 (2013): 32-52. doi:10.1521/psyc.2013.76.1.32. Accessed October 26, 2022.
Strutzenberg, Claire et al. Research Gate. Published September 2017. Accessed October 26, 2022.
Kaurin, Aleksandra et al. Affective science vol. 1,3 (2020): 117-127. doi:10.1007/s42761-020-00017-7. Accessed October 26, 2022.
Bisma Anwar is the Team Lead for the Talkspace Council of Mental Health Experts. A major focus in her work has been anxiety management and helping her clients develop healthy coping skills, reduce stress and prevent burnout. She serves on the board of a non-profit organization based in NYC called The Heal Collective which promotes advocacy and awareness of mental health issues in BIPOC communities.