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. 

What Is BPD Love Bombing?

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. 

What Are the Signs of Love Bombing?

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:

  • Reassurance-seeking: Love bombers crave constant reassurance and validation. While they may give you lots of compliments, they may also expect you to affirm them continuously. 
  • Intense interest: It’s normal to ask questions when getting to know someone, but a love bomber will push you to share as much as possible. Later on, they may use this information to manipulate you. 
  • Clinginess: If you’re being love-bombed, you may feel smothered. Your partner may always demand your attention, even when you’re not together physically.
  • Jealousy: When you spend time with friends and family or have other obligations, like work or school, a love bomber can get jealous. 
  • Elaborate gifts: Presents can be great, but love bombers often send over-the-top gifts. They may give you expensive presents to make you feel indebted to them. Aside from gifts, they also resort to grand gestures to serve as proof of their affection.
  • Strong declarations: Love bombers often make extreme statements about the depth of their feelings, even if you have just met. They may tell you that the two of you are soulmates or that you were born for each other. This is another manipulative tactic to cover up their narcissistic traits. 
  • Sudden withdrawals: When you don’t do what a love bomber wants, they may shut down or withdraw their affection. They might act cold or distant until you change your behavior.

Stages of Love Bombing in People With BPD

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. 

“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.”

Talkspace therapist Bisma Anwar, MA, MSc, LMHC

During the cycle, a love bomber usually goes through the following stages. 

  1. Love bombing: During this stage, a love bomber will attempt to sweep you off your feet, giving you gifts, compliments, and excessive attention. Though these behaviors can feel good, they can also be overwhelming or disorienting. 
  2. Devaluation: When you tell a love bomber no or attempt to set a boundary, they may respond with insults or withdraw affection. They may suddenly cut off contact or blame you for the issues in your relationship. 
  3. Discarding: If a love bomber can no longer get what they want from you, they may discard your relationship and move on to a new target. This stage can be shocking, especially when you’ve gotten used to constant attention and praise.
  4. Hoovering: Even after a love bomber discards a relationship, they often continue to look for ways to stay close to their target. They may reach out suddenly or attempt to apologize for their behavior. If you’re receptive, they may return to the love bombing stage and begin the cycle again. 

What Causes Love Bombing?

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. 

“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.”

Talkspace therapist Bisma Anwar, MA, MSc, LMHC

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. 

How to Protect Yourself from BPD Love Bombing

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.