Living and Coping with Borderline Personality Disorder

Learn More About Living with Borderline Personality Disorder

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Living with borderline personality disorder is not easy. Intense emotional pain and feelings of emptiness, desperation, anger, hopelessness, and loneliness are common. These symptoms can affect every part of your life. However, despite the suffering that borderline personality disorder (BPD) can cause, many people learn ways to cope with the symptoms and lead normal, fulfilling lives.

How Does Living with Borderline Personality Disorder Affect You?

Relationships and BPD

BPD can have a major impact on your relationships.

In fact, having difficulties in relationships is one of the primary symptoms of BPD. People with BPD have lots of arguments and conflict with loved ones or a lot of relationships that break up repeatedly. The way that they feel about their family, friends or partner can change dramatically from day-to-day or hour-to-hour. These patterns can be very difficult both for the person with BPD and those who care about him or her.

Work with BPD

Work, school, or other productive pursuits can give us a sense of purpose in life. Unfortunately, BPD can interfere with success at work or school. Because BPD has such an impact on relationships, people with BPD may find themselves in trouble with co-workers, bosses, teachers, or other authority figures. The intense emotional changes may also impact work or school; people with BPD may have to be absent more often due to emotional concerns or hospitalization.

Some of the symptoms of BPD (e.g., dissociation) can also interfere with concentration, making task completion very difficult.

Physical Health and BPD

Unfortunately, BPD can also have a major impact on physical health. BPD is associated with a variety of serious health conditions, including chronic pain disorders such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, arthritis, obesity, diabetes, and serious health problems.

BPD is also associated with less healthy lifestyle choices (e.g., smoking, alcohol use, lack of regular exercise).

BPD and the Law

Some of the behaviors associated with BPD can lead to legal problems. The anger associated with BPD can lead to aggression (e.g., assaulting others, throwing objects, or acting out against others' personal property). Impulsive behaviors, such as driving recklessly, abusing substances, shoplifting, or engaging in other illegal acts, can also lead to trouble.

5 Keys for Coping with the Symptoms of BPD

People with BPD do not have to resign themselves to a life of emotional pain. Below are some things you can do that can help. These are just the beginning. Getting help from a licensed mental health professional, and learning more about how to manage the symptoms of BPD, can alleviate the impact of BPD on your life.

1. Get HelpBPD is a very serious disorder. The intense experiences associated with BPD are not something that one person should face alone. Fortunately, there are a number of effective treatments for BPD. Finding a professional you feel comfortable with is one of the most important steps you can take for your health.

2. Have a Safety PlanBPD causes very painful emotions, and as a result, it is not uncommon for mental health emergencies (for example, active suicidality) to arise.

For this reason, it is critical for you to have a safety plan in place before a crisis happens. If you are in danger of harming yourself or others, what will you do? Can you call 911? Is there a hospital nearby with an emergency room that you can go to? If you have a therapist, counselor, psychiatrist, or social worker, talk this plan over with them. Learn more about what to do in a crisis so that you can keep yourself (and others) safe.

3. Get SupportHaving the support of your family, friends, or partner can be a big help. But, not everyone has someone to turn to when things get difficult. You may need to find ways to connect with others, and to build a support network for yourself.

BPD is not an uncommon disorder; it occurs in about 1.4% of the population. That means that there are roughly four million people with BPD in the U.S. alone. Many of those people are looking for support, just like you.

4. Take Care of YourselfIt is important that individuals with BPD take good care of themselves. Good self-care can reduce emotional pain, increase positive emotions, and help reduce the emotional ups and downs experienced by people with BPD. Good self-care includes eating nutritious and regular meals, practicing good sleep hygiene, getting regular exercise, taking time for relaxation and stress-reduction, and scheduling enjoyable activities.

5. Learn More: When it comes to your mental health, knowledge is power. Educate yourself about the symptoms, causes, and treatments of BPD. Learn about ways to manage your symptoms. Share what you have learned with the people in your life who are affected by it.


Chapman, AL, and Gratz, KL. "The Borderline Personality Disorder Survival Guide." Oakland, CA: New Harbinger, November 2007.

Frankenburg, F, and Zanarini, MC. "The Association Between Borderline Personality Disorder and Chronic Medical Illnesses, Poor Health-Related Lifestyle Choices, and Costly Forms of Health Care Utilization." Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 65: 1660-1665, December 2004.

Lenzenweger, MF, Lane, MC, Loranger, AW, and Kessler, RC. "DSM-IV Personality Disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication." Biological Psychiatry, 62: 553-654, September 2007.

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

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