How to Deal with Borderline Personality Disorder

Written by:Jill E. Daino, LCSW-R

Published On: June 23, 2022

Medically reviewed by: Elizabeth Keohan, LCSW-C, MSW

Reviewed On: June 23, 2022

Updated On: July 5, 2023


Understanding how to deal with borderline personality disorder (BPD) can be incredibly challenging. BPD involves disruptive and disturbing emotions and can cause intense mood swings, distort self-image, keep you anxious, make you lose interest in ordinary activities, and/or cause self-harm and delusional and suicidal thoughts.

There is hope, though. While there’s no technical cure for it, BPD is very treatable. With the right therapy and support, you can learn to manage BPD symptoms and live a healthy, rewarding, productive life.

Keep reading to get six smart and effective tips you can begin using today so you can manage your borderline personality disorder.

1. Get Educated on BPD

Borderline personality disorder is a complicated diagnosis. It’s a mental health condition that’s often misdiagnosed, which makes it even more important to understand as much as possible about it. The more you learn about a BPD diagnosis, the better you’ll be able to cope with some of its challenging symptoms, such as unstable relationships and emotions.

2. Practice Self Care to Ground Yourself

Learning how to deal with BPD involves taking care of yourself. There are several ways you can practice self-care.

Tip for if you feel frustrated or angry

Intense emotions like feeling frustrated, restless, or angry can be common with BPD. Try the following to reduce this intense anger and relieve stress:

  • Tear up a newspaper
  • Do a hard workout
  • Punch your pillow
  • Listen to loud music

Tip for if you feel lonely or sad

Pamper yourself when you’re down. Things that can offer comfort include:

  • Snuggling up in a blanket
  • Watching your favorite movie
  • Spending time with a pet
  • Writing in your journal
  • Taking a bubble bath
  • Crying
  • Singing your favorite song
  • Opening up to someone you trust

Tip for if you feel anxious or nervous

If you feel panicked, tense, or anxious, there are several different things you can try that might help you relax. Consider:

  • Slowly drinking a hot cup of herbal tea
  • Taking in a series of deep breaths and releasing them slowly
  • Meditating
  • Working out or taking a walk
  • Doing yoga
  • Listening to music
  • Taking a long bath

Epsom salt baths let you soak in magnesium, which is shown to be effective in treating symptoms of depression, calming the nerves, and helping you relax.

Tip for if you feel detached or dissociative

If you feel “spaced out” (dissociative), consider activities that give you energy and help you feel alive again. Try things like:

  • Drinking ice water
  • Splashing very cold water on your face
  • Clapping vigorously
  • Chewing on ginger
  • Jumping up and down or spinning in circles

Tip for if you want to hurt yourself

Self-harm is unfortunately an extremely prevalent symptom of borderline personality disorder. Some studies suggest that up to 65% – 80% of people with BPD might engage in non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI). There are several techniques that might help you overcome the urge for NSSI, including:

  • Taking a cold shower to reset your endocrine system
  • Rubbing ice on the area of your body you’re considering hurting
  • Placing tape on your skin and pulling it off quickly

Some of these ideas may sound a bit odd to you, but there are no concrete rules for dealing with BPD.

Remember: knowing how to deal with borderline personality disorder largely involves gaining knowledge about your condition, learning to understand your triggers, and having proper coping mechanisms in place before you find yourself needing them.

“Having a variety of strategies in your toolkit is crucial for your self-care. Being able to use grounding techniques like breathing exercises, distractions like watching a favorite TV show, soothing strategies like using a cozy blanket or taking a warm shower, and physical movement to reconnect with yourself can all help you navigate the wide range of thoughts and feelings that come up on any given day.”

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW-R), BC-TMH Jill Daino

3. Join a Support Group for BPD

BPD support groups help many people become more effective communicators and solve problems associated with this mental health condition. BPD is different for everyone, yet there are some similar elements that can be shared and recognized.

Routine participation in support groups can teach you how to deal with BPD more effectively, especially if your loved one attends too.

4. Seek Types of Therapy for BPD

Knowing how to deal with borderline personality disorder is important, and it almost always involves the need for psychotherapy (also known as talk therapy). There are various BPD therapy methods that mental health professionals will use case-dependently. Let’s look at some now.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) helps you assess thoughts and beliefs to gain an understanding of how they might be affecting you in a negative way. Once you identify any unhealthy thoughts or behaviors, you can work toward changing them. CBT is a highly effective technique to treat borderline personality disorder.

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a type of CBT that was originally developed specifically to treat BPD. It combines elements of CBT and group therapy to teach you skills for coping with disturbing and intense emotions.

DBT can be particularly effective for people who repetitively self-harm. It helps you focus on dealing with the intense mood swings that are difficult to manage.

Mentalization-based therapy (MBT)

Mentalization-based therapy (MBT) is another type of talk therapy that teaches you to recognize and understand the mental states you and others experience. Knowing how to deal with borderline personality disorder always involves examining your thoughts and emotions as often as possible. That awareness is key to controlling your impulsive behavior or emotion.

Cognitive analytic therapy (CAT)

Cognitive analytic therapy (CAT) is a talk therapy modality that combines some of the functional elements of cognitive-behavioral therapy, placing a central focus on the relationship between your therapist and yourself.

CAT teaches you to understand how you affect and relate to others. Again, it’s all about self-exploration, self-knowledge, and self-care.

Other talk therapies for BPD

Psychodynamic therapy, art therapy, interpersonal therapy, and schema-focused cognitive therapy are all also used to treat the symptoms of borderline personality disorder.

If you’re wondering which type of therapy might work best for you, reach out to your family doctor or a mental health professional for advice. Don’t hesitate. The sooner the better!

“Getting support from a licensed mental health professional even when you are feeling well can make a significant impact on your overall well-being. Working with a mental health professional provides a safe space to discuss your concerns while you also learn new strategies to help manage day-to-day stressors and symptoms.”

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW-R), BC-TMH Jill Daino

5. Consider Medication for Borderline Personality Disorder

Generally, psychiatric medication is not the first line of treatment in determining how to cope with BPD. Currently, no specific pharmaceuticals are known to be effective or are FDA approved for treating BPD. Dealing with borderline personality disorder can be more of an internal process.

That said, you might consider medication for comorbid mental health conditions you experience. For example, a doctor might prescribe antipsychotics, antidepressants, or anti-anxiety medications to treat mood swings, depression, anxiety, or other mental health conditions. BDP medication is generally only used short term.

6. Find Borderline Personality Disorder Support

Understanding how to cope with borderline personality disorder can be challenging, especially at first. However, by continuing to participate in therapy and practicing the skills you learn, most people find that dealing with BPD becomes much more manageable.

If you’re living with borderline personality disorder, it’s essential to reach out for help as soon as possible. Talkspace is an online therapy platform where mental health treatment is available and effective. The goal is happiness, and with the right support, you can achieve it.

See References

Jill E. Daino, LCSW-R

Jill E. Daino, LCSW-R, BC-TMH, is a clinical social worker with over 25 years of experience as a therapist, clinical supervisor, and program director. She works to support quality clinical care at Talkspace. Her work as a clinician and trainer focuses on the mental health impact of body image concerns and eating disorders across the lifespan.

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