Some Tips if You Have a BPD Sufferer in the Family

The family usually plays a fundamental role in the life of a BPD sufferer. Therefore, when any interventions are proposed, it's advisable to take the family's influence into account and involve them in any therapeutic plan.
Some Tips if You Have a BPD Sufferer in the Family
Ebiezer López

Written and verified by the psychologist Ebiezer López.

Last update: 08 May, 2023

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is one of the most complex personality disorders. One of the characteristics of this disease is that it affects the way in which the sufferer relates to others. In fact, if you’re a relative of a BPD sufferer, you’ll find yourself living in a conflictive environment. Therefore, in this article, we’re going to give you some advice.

Although BPD is a chronic and invasive condition, this doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to treat. Moreover, as you’ll see later, family help can improve the BPD sufferer’s prognosis. In turn, this promotes a more stable and harmonious family environment that generates feelings of well-being.

Woman crying
Borderline personality disorder is characterized by emotional instability.

BPD and family relationships

BPD is a condition that generates different kinds of instability. The sufferer’s emotions are heightened and their emotional states fluctuate a great deal. Furthermore, their behavior tends to be destructive, both to themselves and others. Unsurprisingly, this directly affects their interpersonal relationships. In fact, they tend to become more conflictive due to dependency and fear of abandonment.

Therefore, if you’re a relative of a BPD sufferer, you face certain challenges. Kay et al. (2018) conducted a study on the experiences of people with family members who were BPD sufferers. They identified marital conflicts, financial problems, and adjustment difficulties. They also said they received little support from professionals, as their interventions were more patient-focused.


One of the problematic issues of borderline personality disorder concerns emotional ties. Evidence suggests that involving the family in their treatment is positive.

Fitzpatrick, Wagner, and Monson (2019) conducted a systematic review of treatments for BPD. They concluded that interventions focused on close relationships demonstrated high levels of effectiveness. Therefore, integrating family members into treatments could be essential for any intervention to be successful.

As a family member of a BPD sufferer, you’ll need support for a number of reasons. You not only need to learn how to manage the relationship with your sick relative, but you also need to develop resources to process the discomfort you feel because of the situation.

Next, we’ll explore some useful recommendations for living with a BPD sufferer.

1. Be aware that their recovery will be slow and complex

Personality disorders are chronic conditions that develop over time. Indeed, they don’t appear overnight and you can’t expect rapid improvement to occur. Moreover, the sufferer’s behavior patterns and mental schemas are rigid. Therefore, dismantling and modifying them takes time.

For this reason, it’s important for you to be patient with these changes. You should avoid phrases such as “You can do it” and “It’s all up to you”. That’s because they can generate or feed the idea in the sufferer that you’ll abandon them. These kinds of attitudes also provoke conflictive dynamics and associated problems.

2. Establish routines and maintain harmony

The BPD sufferer tends to lack control and is inclined toward chaos. Therefore, their family environment should be calm and structured.

While it may be hard for everyone in the family to adjust at first, it’s important to maintain these kinds of habits. It gives the sufferer an optimal environment in which to recover.

3. Pay attention to them, but not only when they exhibit destructive behaviors

As a family member of a BPD sufferer, you may tend to ignore them unless they’re engaging in destructive behavior. However, this is problematic. That’s because if they only get attention at these times, it reinforces their behavior. Therefore, it’s important to spend time with them and listen to them, so that they don’t feel that you only think about them when they’re suffering.

4. Set boundaries

Being patient and considerate doesn’t mean you have to be over-accommodating and put up with any abuse from them. In fact, it’s essential that you clearly and assertively communicate your limits of tolerance. If they act violently or insult you, it’s best to withdraw so they understand that their behavior isn’t achieving anything.

In addition, they must understand the consequences of their actions. They need to be aware that their behavior has real effects on the world and other people. If not, they’ll continue to think that they can act however they want and get away with it.

5. Develop realistic goals

If you’re a relative of a BPD sufferer, you need to establish realistic objectives of coexistence and behavior with them. For example, aiming to go a week without arguing is probably unrealistic. More useful and adaptive would be to propose expressing any negative feelings in a respectful way without yelling.

6. Work together to resolve conflicts

Even in families where there are no disorders, problems are inevitable. As a family, ideally, you should work together to resolve any conflicts. Make sure you include the BPD sufferer. Even if the problem isn’t directly related to them, they should participate in the resolution.

Make sure you determine what everyone in the family can do so that the problem doesn’t happen again. This is the starting point for reaching agreements that everyone complies with.

man talking family
Working together to resolve conflicts between the family and the BPD sufferer favors coexistence.

7. Be consistent with the treatment and follow the recommendations

Finally, it’s essential that everyone is committed to collaborating in the treatment process. Therefore, you must take into account the recommendations of the psychologist and psychiatrist at all times. In the event that any of their suggestions don’t have an effect or seem to be counterproductive, you must tell them.

By making use of the above recommendations, you’ll contribute to improving the overall situation. You need to all work together, as a family, on improving the home environment. Naturally, this will contribute to the general well-being of everyone.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Fitzpatrick, S., Wagner, A. C., & Monson, C. M. (2019). Optimizing borderline personality disorder treatment by incorporating significant others: A review and synthesis. Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment, 10(4), 297.
  • Kay, M. L., Poggenpoel, M., Myburgh, C. P., & Downing, C. (2018). Experiences of family members who have a relative diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. Curationis, 41(1), 1-9

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.