Borderline personality disorder is a mental illness that usually develops during adolescence or early adulthood and affects how people see and feel about themselves and others around them.
A person can be diagnosed with BPD if they display at least five of the nine known symptoms, which include patterns of unstable relationships, fear of rejection or abandonment, losing touch with reality and feelings of emptiness or dissociation, extreme mood swings, to name a few.
Sometimes referred to as emotionally unstable personality, this health condition can only be adequately diagnosed by a mental health professional as it is sometimes mistaken for other psychological conditions like Bipolar disorder.
Being diagnosed with BPD can be an overwhelming revelation, and it can be challenging to live with. That is why it’s incredibly vital that people with BPD are surrounded by people who can understand them and provide both emotional and physical to them.
Thankfully, BPD can be treated using several methods, including psychotherapy, medication (to relieve symptoms), and even hospitalization. However, it is crucial to spell out that there is no quick fix for BPD, but there are some self-care and symptom management tips you can practice at home to manage the symptoms when they arise.
When used alongside your recommended treatment, these self-care tips can help you overcome your symptoms, improve your recovery, and help you live a happier and more fulfilling life.
Self-Care Tips for BPD
- Acknowledge that you have the condition and be willing to seek support and treatment
- Do not be ashamed or embarrassed about your condition
- Educate yourself more about the disorder so you can better understand it’s causes and treatments
- Adhere strictly to your treatment plan
- Make it a must to attend scheduled therapy sessions
- Practice Positive ways to ease difficult emotions, rather than engaging in risky behaviors
- Identify the things that trigger impulsive behaviors and inappropriate anger, and make a safety plan
- Seeking medical treatment for co-occurring conditions
- Reaching out and finding support with others with the same condition to share experiences and insights
Remember that there is no one way to recovery from BPD. The illness intensifies in young adulthood and may gradually get better as you age.
Many people with BPD go on to live a more stable life during their 30s and 40s when their emotional distress lessens as they strive to live fulfilling lives.
Practical tips for managing symptoms daily
Living with BPD can be a challenging experience for you and your loved ones; you may feel like every day is a battle against your feelings and emotions. This is why understanding and patience is vital when caring for people with BPD.
Here are a few practical tips for coping with difficult emotions and impulses as they arise.
Wanting to self-harm
If you’re having the urge to inflict injury on yourself, you can try one of these to get through it:
- Seek help from someone you can trust
- Identify the things that trigger self-harming behaviors, so you can better prepare before the urge emerges
- Identify and practice effective distractions:
- Take a cold bath
- Rub ice over where you want to inflict the injury
- Practice deep breathing
- Plaster or sticky tape your skin and peel it off
- Snap a rubber band on your wrist
- Find new and positive coping strategies
- Eat, exercise and sleep well
- Keep a diary for your coping strategies and emotions
- Reach out your mental health care provider
Feeling sad, lonely, or depressed
Sadness can be a complex emotion to manage, and it may develop into depression. Ways you can get through it include:
- Confide in a friend or family member you can trust
- Engage in healthy activities that you enjoy and find relaxing
- Curate a resilience list. For example:
- Listen to an uplifting song
- Write all your negative feelings and thoughts on a piece of paper and tear it up
- Wrap in your blanket and distract yourself by watching your favorite TV show
- Rub your hands with a nice-smelling moisturizer
- Keep a mood journal
- Reach out to your mental healthcare provider
Feeling anxious, panicky, or tense
Anxiety comes in times of fear, which includes embarrassment, stress, rejection, and criticism. In a period of intense fear, panic attacks can occur suddenly and unexpectedly. You can get through it by:
- Seek help or confide in someone you can trust
- Look after your physical health
- Practice relaxation techniques
- Make yourself a hot drink and sip it slowly, pay attention to the smell and taste, the mug’s shape and weight in your hand
- Take a warm shower or bath – this can calm your nerves by creating a soothing atmosphere and a distracting feeling
- Create a reality checklist – write down everything that you can think about or see in your immediate environment such as the color of the room, items on the table, time, date, etc
- Practice breathing exercises
- Write down how you feel in your mood diary
- Reach out to your mental healthcare professional
Spaced out and Dissociation
Everybody tends to space out once in a while as a form of escape. However, dissociation becomes an issue when it happens frequently and interferes with your daily life or results in risky behaviors.
When it begins, you usually can’t notice it until someone else brings it to your attention.
What you can do to get through it:
- Keep a journal
- Pay attention to your physical health
- Think of safe places
- Try grounding techniques. For example:
- Walk barefoot
- Drink a glass of chilled water
- Clap your hands while paying attention to the stinging sensation
- Chew a piece of chili or ginger and notice the strong taste and smell
- Create a reality checklist – say or write down the time and date
- Seek help from those around you
- Reach out to your mental healthcare provider
Prolonged frustration and anger outbursts
Anger is a normal human emotion, but if left uncontrolled or persists over an extended period, it can lead to destructive behaviors, which can be frightening for you and your loved ones.
Therefore, time is essential to calming down and dissipating the anger. If you are experiencing an outburst, here are some things you can do to get through it:
- Identify triggers
- Give yourself a time out to put your thoughts together
- Look out for the warning signs in your body
- Practice “cool down” techniques. For example
- Breathe deeply and slowly
- Hit or scream into a pillow
- Rip a newspaper
- Imagine a happy situation or visualize a relaxing memory
- Smash ice cubes into your bathtub
- Practice anger management skills
- Control your thoughts by cognitive restructuring, better communication, problem-solving and humor
- Exercise, eat and sleep well
Drug use and alcohol
People take drugs and alcohol for various reasons – focus, relaxation, feeling bored, to fit in, curiosity, relief from emotional stress, or escaping problems.
Recreational substances affect our mood, the way we see things, and how we behave. There are vocational, health, financial, criminal, and relationship dangers with taking illegal drugs and substance over consumption.
It is difficult to acknowledge that you have a problem and to ask for help. Try to be honest with yourself and others and seek advice and support when needed.
You can try one of these to get through it:
- Acknowledge when your substance use has become an issue
- Confide in a trustworthy friend or family member
- Look for suitable treatment and support options close to you
- Find alternative positive coping strategies
- Recognize and deal with setbacks
- Exercise, eat and sleep well
People with this condition spend most of their time battling emotional instability, so accepting their condition may be difficult.
Acknowledging your emotional responses doesn’t mean approving or giving in to suffering. It means to stop avoiding, fighting, denying, or suppressing your feelings and therefore reducing their power over your rational thinking.
Practicing mindfulness techniques can help a lot in letting go of the past and future to focus more on the present without criticism, judgment, or emotional impulses.
- Observe your feelings from the outside
- Watch your emotions as they come and go
- Tune into your body consciousness that comes with the emotions
- Tell yourself that you acknowledge the emotions that you feel
- Remind yourself that just because you can feel it doesn’t mean it’s real
The essence of proper communication
Expressing yourself to people can sometimes be challenging due to the numerous myths surrounding BPD.
However, it is essential that you learn to express yourself in the best way you can, as this can be vital in maintaining your relationships with loved ones and getting the maximum help available.
It is also essential to look after your mental and physical health as this will help a great deal in managing difficult emotions and living a more fulfilling life.