Coping Skill Toolbox for Borderline Personality Disorder

Use a Coping Skills Toolbox When Times Get Tough

Counseling and Support
A counseling session in a therapist's office. Joe Houghton/Getty Images

If you are struggling with symptoms of borderline personality disorder (BPD), one of the best things you can do for yourself is to build a coping skills toolbox — a collection of various healthy coping skills that you can draw on when you are distressed or having difficulty regulating your emotions. 

The Goals of the Coping Skills Toolbox in BPD

Instead of resorting to unhealthy habits, like impulsive behavior or self-harm, a coping skills toolbox allows a person to manage stress and negative thoughts and emotions in a healthy way.

This way, in times of grave distress, when you feel you have nowhere else to turn, take out your coping skills toolbox list. Try one skill from the list. That didn’t work? Try the next one. Keep going until you have exhausted the list and your urge to do something destructive has passed.

Building Your Coping Skills Toolbox in BPD

To build a coping skills toolbox, you first need to make a list of healthy coping skills. This may be a challenging task at first, but keep at it and consider devising the list with your doctor or therapist. This way you can ensure your coping skills are safe and appropriate for you and your needs. 

It's a good idea to begin with a list of at least five coping skills and then expand the list with time. Some examples of coping skills on your list may include:

  • Exercise
  • Seeking professional help
  • Positive thinking and constructive self-talk
  • Humor
  • Focus on solving the problem
  • Relaxation
  • Spiritual Support

These articles offer other coping skills that can help a person regulate their emotions and manage distress:

Practicing Your Coping Skills in BPD

Now that you’ve made a list of coping skills from lots of different coping domains, the key is to practice.

If a skill is completely unfamiliar to you, you are unlikely to be able to pick it up and use it successfully if you are in a really tough emotional place. But if you practice each skill when you are feeling good or only mildly distressed, it will become a familiar source of comfort.

What Does This Mean for Me?

Remain proactive in your health. Borderline personality disorder is a health condition that can be treated with proper therapy and time — continue seeing your physician, participating in therapy, and reaching out for help when needed. 

Sources:

Linehan, MM. "Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder." New York: Guilford Press, 1993.

Meaney-Tavares R & Hasking P. Coping and regulating emotions: a pilot study of a modified dialectical behavior therapy group delivered in a college counseling service. J Am Coll Health. 2013;61(5):303-9. 

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