12 Things You Shouldn’t Say to Someone With Borderline Personality Disorder

Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only. It is not intended to be used for diagnosing or mental health advice. If you are struggling, please seek help from a mental health professional.

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a term that is used a lot. Characterized by intense mood swings, fear of abandonment and impulsivity, it is a condition that is common, yet misunderstood. To help break the stigma, in this article, we’ll be looking at 12 things you shouldn’t say to someone with BPD.

What is Borderline Personality Disorder?

BPD is a condition that affects your emotional stability as well as your perceptions of yourself and the world around you. This condition is believed to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors, especially in childhood. Some of the signs include:

  • Intense fear of abandonment
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Risk taking and impulsivity
  • Instability in self-perception
  • Chaotic relationships

(Source: Mayo Clinic 2019)

1. You are Unstable

Telling someone with BPD that their moods are unstable is like telling them that the sky is blue; they likely already noticed. Saying this doesn’t create room for change and instead criticizes the person for something they cannot control. It may be a better idea to find ways to support them emotionally.

2. Stop Being Impulsive

BPD is emotionally chaotic. Telling someone with the condition to be less impulsive is not helpful as the behaviors are uncontrollable. Unhealthy and impulsive behaviors such as excessive drinking, gambling, or spending are generally used as coping mechanisms (Mayo Clinic 2019). Stopping these unhealthy coping strategies are easier said than done and should be treated with care.

3. Snap Out of It

Telling a person with any psychiatric condition to “snap out of it” is not only useless, but insulting. People with BPD, as with other conditions, tend to have observable physiological differences in brain chemistry than those without (Pier 2016). Treating a condition like this requires help from a trained mental health professional and cannot be done alone. 

4. Why are You Messed Up?

Again, this is incredibly insulting to say to anyone with a mental health condition. BPD can occur in an individual from a variety of reasons ranging from genetic, abuse, to other forms of trauma. There may be no exact cause as to why a specific individual has the disorder, but their feelings are still valid.

5. You’re Acting Crazy

Telling someone they’re crazy is far more harmful than helpful. This saying adds to their stress by affirming that they’re different. It does not fix anything nor does it offer any sort of much needed emotional support. 

6. You’re Paranoid

This is much like the previous point in that it affirms that the person with BPD is different, or “weird.” It offers no support and simply criticizes their behavior. This alienates the person as they place the blame inwards.

7. Nothing

BPD typically comes with an intense fear of abandonment. Ignoring someone with the condition can become incredibly intense for them as their fear becomes true. It’s important to communicate your feelings in a healthy and productive manner.

8. Be Positive

This is another saying that is easier said than done. People with BPD have chaotic and intense emotions that make it difficult to simply “cheer up.” It takes more than a positive attitude to treat any mental health condition. This is why it is important to seek help from a professional.

9.  It’s Normal

Minimizing someone’s mental health condition is never a good idea. It invalidates their feelings and puts stress on them to act better. These conditions do not simply go away on their own, and thus need proper treatment from a qualified individual. It’s better to encourage someone with BPD to seek treatment rather than to deal with it on their own.

10. You’re In Your Head

Like the rest of these sayings, this one minimizes their condition. BPD is not the result of overthinking, rather is a combination of genetic and environmental factors. It is a complicated condition that cannot be paired to a singular factor.

11. Why Didn’t You Think…

Because BPD comes with extreme emotional instability, people with the condition may act out in impulsive and irrational ways. They likely know this, but are unable to control their actions. Pointing their behaviors out to them without any advice or support does not change how they act, and is thus an unhelpful statement to make. 

12. You’re Just Moody

Telling someone with BPD that they are simply moody completely invalidates their condition. It puts the blame directly on them, which is especially harmful. BPD is indeed real and observable, and cannot be described in an oversimplified statement.

While BPD is a common condition, it is truly surrounded with much misinformation. While it is absolutely important to voice your concerns to someone with BPD, it should be done so in a safe and constructive manner. If you or someone you know is struggling with signs of BPD, it is strongly advised to seek help from a mental health professional. Getting in touch with the right person may be a great first step to getting your life back on track. What are your thoughts on things you shouldn’t say to someone with BPD? Are there are any more sayings to avoid? Let us know in the comments!

References:

  • amysboarderlineworld. (2017, June 27). 8 things never to say to someone with Borderline Personality Disorder – Amy’s Borderline World. Amy’s Borderline World. amysboarderlineworld.com/8-things-never-say-someone-borderline-personality-disorder/
  • Brooks, N. (2021, February 7). 15 Things You Shouldn’t Say to Someone With Borderline Personality Disorder. The Mighty. themighty.com/2018/07/what-not-to-say-to-friend-with-bpd-borderline-personality/
  • Hill, M. T. S. (2017, September 6). 15 Things Not To Do With Someone With Borderline Personality. Psych Central. www.psychcentral.com/blog/caregivers/2017/09/15-things-not-to-do-with-someone-with-borderline-personality#5
  • Mayo Clinic. (2019, July 17). Borderline personality disorder – Symptoms and causes. www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/borderline-personality-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20370237
  • Pier, K. S., Marin, L. K., Wilsnack, J., & Goodman, M. (2016, March 31). The Neurobiology of Borderline Personality Disorder. Psychiatric Times. www.psychiatrictimes.com/view/neurobiology-borderline-personality-disorder

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