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Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD): Living with and Understanding a Complex Mental Illness

BPD, Safe Haven Counselling

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a complex and often misunderstood mental health condition. It affects approximately 1-2% of the general population and is characterized by intense and unstable emotions, impulsive behaviour, and a distorted sense of self-identity. Living with this mental illness can be a challenging and isolating experience, but with the right support and treatment it is possible to manage the symptoms and lead a fulfilling life.

Signs and symptoms

Individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder often struggle to regulate their emotions, which can lead to intense and unstable mood swings, including anger, anxiety, and depression. They may also engage in impulsive behaviours, such as substance abuse, binge eating, or risky sexual behaviour, to cope with these emotions. Additionally, they may experience chronic feelings of emptiness, have a distorted sense of self-identity, and struggle with interpersonal relationships. People may experience one or more of these symptoms to varying degrees, which can have a significant impact on daily life.


The exact cause of BPD is not fully understood, but it is believed to be the result of a combination of genetic, environmental, and developmental factors.

People with BPD often have a history of childhood trauma, such as physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, neglect, or separation from a parent or caregiver. This can disrupt the development of emotional regulation, attachment, and self-identity, leading to the symptoms of BPD.

Additionally, genetic factors may play a role in the development of BPD. Studies have found that BPD tends to run in families, suggesting that there may be a genetic predisposition to the disorder.

Overall, the causes of BPD are complex and multifactorial, involving a combination of genetic, environmental, and developmental factors. It is important to note that having a genetic predisposition or experiencing trauma does not guarantee that someone will develop BPD, and not everyone who develops BPD has experienced significant trauma.

Living with BPD

Living with BPD can be a challenging experience. Individuals with BPD often feel like they are on an emotional rollercoaster, and they may struggle to maintain stable relationships, hold down a job, or manage daily responsibilities. They may also experience feelings of isolation, shame, and self-blame for their struggles, which can make it difficult to seek help.

Support from Others

Support from friends, family, and mental health professionals is crucial for individuals living with BPD. Here are some ways in which others can provide support:

  1. Validate their feelings: Individuals with BPD may struggle to regulate their emotions, and their feelings may seem irrational or intense to others. It is essential to validate their emotions and acknowledge their experiences, even if you don’t fully understand them.
  2. Encourage them to seek help: Individuals with BPD may feel ashamed or stigmatized by their struggles, which can make it difficult to seek help. Encourage them to seek professional support, and offer to help them find a therapist or support group.
  3. Practice healthy boundaries: Individuals with BPD may struggle with boundaries and may become overly dependent on others. It is important to set healthy boundaries and maintain them consistently.
  4. Offer support during crises: Individuals with BPD may experience intense emotions that lead to suicidal ideation or self-harm. Offer support during these crises and help them access professional support if necessary.

Counselling Support

Counselling can be a highly effective treatment for BPD. There are several approaches to therapy that have been found to be effective, including:

  1. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a type of therapy specifically designed to treat individuals with BPD. DBT is a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy that focuses on developing skills to manage intense emotions, improve relationships, and promote mindfulness. DBT is typically delivered in a group format, which provides individuals with the opportunity to practice new skills in a supportive environment.
  2. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is a type of talk therapy that focuses on identifying negative thought patterns and replacing them with more positive ones. CBT can help individuals with BPD develop a more positive sense of self and learn to regulate their emotions more effectively.
  3. Mindfulness. Mindfulness is a practice that involves being present in the moment and observing one’s thoughts and emotions without judgment. Mindfulness can be an effective tool for individuals with BPD because it can help them regulate their emotions and reduce impulsivity. Mindfulness can be practiced through meditation, yoga, or other mindfulness-based practices.
  4. Supportive Relationships. Individuals with BPD may struggle with maintaining stable relationships. However, having supportive relationships can be essential for their recovery. It’s essential to surround oneself with individuals who are non-judgmental, understanding, and supportive. Joining a support group for individuals with BPD can be an effective way to connect with others who are experiencing similar struggles.
  5. Medication. Medications such as mood stabilizers, antidepressants, and antipsychotics can help regulate mood and reduce impulsivity. However, medication should always be used in conjunction with therapy and should only be prescribed by a qualified medical professional.

People with borderline personality disorder can live normal lives, but it often requires significant effort and dedication to treatment. The recovery journey is not always a linear process, and there may be setbacks along the way. However, with the right support and treatment, many people with BPD are able to lead fulfilling and satisfying lives.

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