Why Won't My Loved One Get Help For Borderline Personality Disorder?

Many people with borderline personality disorder refuse treatment

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It is quite common for people with mental health problems to be resistant to the idea of seeking out treatment. Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is very treatable, yet many people with BPD deny that they have a problem or avoid getting help. 

Why Won't My Loved One Seek Help When She Is Clearly Suffering?

There are so many reasons that people refuse to get help. Many are afraid of the stigma attached to mental health issues.

Others feel they cannot commit the time and/or financial resources required to engage in therapy. Some may not be willing to admit that they have a problem in the first place, or may not think that treatment will work for them (despite clear research evidence to the contrary; we now have a number of effective treatments for BPD and a host of other mental health conditions).

Whatever the reasons may be, being the loved one of someone who is engaging in self-destructive behavior, hurting and manipulating others with their outbursts and volatility, and refusing to take steps toward change can be a heart-wrenching, defeating, and painful experience. In this position, many loved ones feel the need to do something that will convince their loved one to get help—for the sake of that person and themselves. 

The fact is, if your loved one is an adult, you have no control over what they do or don't do at the end of the day.

This lack of control naturally leaves many loved ones feeling desperate and helpless—but it doesn't have to. Whether it’s your spouse, child, parent, sibling, or friend who is exhibiting symptoms of BPD, there are steps you can take to set boundaries in your relationship and improve your own quality of life, even if the person with BPD isn’t ready to acknowledge the problem.

All the while, you can continue to encourage your loved one to seek professional help. 

How You Can Support Your Loved One's Recovery—And Protect Yourself

There are several things you can do to support your loved one's recovery, and many of them include setting your own boundaries and not enabling your loved one's abusive behavior. Here are some tips: 

  • Make clear the kinds of behavior you will not tolerate, focusing on yourself. You might say, "If you can't speak calmly/stop being verbally abusive right now, I'm going to remove myself from the conversation." 
  • Bring the entire family into the discussion about setting boundaries with your loved one. If the person with BPD is raging or emotionally volatile with any of you, agree on the steps you will all that situation, such as walking out of the room.  
  • If you believe your loved one is engaging in self-destructive behavior or is in danger of suicide, don't leave them alone—and call either your loved one's therapist, 911, or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.
  • Do not tolerate verbal abuse or physical violence. If your loved one tries to harm you, call the police.
  • Join support groups and seek out resources for loved ones of people with BPD. Getting involved in these groups and educating yourself about the disorder can help you better understand BPD and make choices about how you want to live your life in relation to your BPD loved one. Your energy is probably better spent on these activities, which are in your control, than on changing your loved one's behavior, which is not in your control.
  • Remember that, though you love your family member very much, your own safety and self-care should always be your priority. If your loved one continues to cross boundaries or make you feel unsafe, you may need to find an alternate living arrangement or, if you don't live together, simply keep your distance from this person. Allowing their abuse to continue does much more harm than good—and not only for you, but also for them. 

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