Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a mental health condition that affects how you manage various emotions and thoughts. While symptoms have a wide range, most struggle with abandonment issues, low self-esteem, and self-harm. In turn, many seek out how to self-manage borderline personality disorder without the help of medical professionals.
Admittedly, it’s difficult to develop BPD coping skills entirely on your own. Medical professionals can help to give you the tools in managing symptoms and going on to live a fulfilling life.
Throughout this article, we’re going to take a deeper look at BPD and what you can do to self-manage the condition. At the end, we invite you to ask further questions.
What is Borderline Personality Disorder?
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a condition that displays ongoing patterns of different moods, self-images, and behaviors. It can result in impulsive conduct and cause problems in relationships. Furthermore, people with BPD tend to struggle with other mental illnesses, such as anxiety and depression. ¹
Symptoms of borderline personality disorder tend to involve mood swings and uncertainty. The most common include:
- Chronic emptiness
- Efforts to avoid abandonment (whether real or imagined)
- Feelings of dissociation
- Impulsive and dangerous behaviors (i.e. unsafe sex, substance abuse)
- Intense and unstable relationships (with family, friends, and significant others)
- Lack of trust in others (creating irrational fears)
- Self-harming or suicidal behavior
- Severe and very highly changeable moods (BPD episodes)
- Unstable sense of self or self-image
While most people with BPD will only experience a handful of these symptoms, they tend to be so intense that they have full control over a person’s life.
What Causes BPD?
Scientists still struggle to understand the exact causes of BPD. However, they do believe those with the following are at a higher risk:
- Brain Function – Studies reveal that those with BPD have structural and functional changes in the brain. Most notably, in areas responsible for impulses and emotional regulation. ²
- Environment – Many with BPD have reported previous traumatic experiences that led to their condition, such as childhood abuse, abandonment, or adversity. ³
- Genetics – If a close family member (i.e. parent, sibling) struggles with BPD, you’re at a higher risk of developing it. ⁴
Furthermore, some people without these risk factors may still develop BPD at some point in their lives.
How to Self-Manage Borderline Personality Disorder
In order to self-manage BPD, it’s key for someone to get the right treatment and support. This will make it easier when coming up with self-help strategies that can assist in coping with symptoms.
While we go through some of our self-managing tips, you should know that these won’t work for everyone. With that, you may need to experiment around before finding the right management tactics for you.
1.) Practice Mindfulness
When it comes to mental health, it’s sometimes better for people to be “in the moment.” This is especially true for people with BPD who tend to become absorbed with their past and anxious over their future.
While more research is necessary, it’s believed mindfulness may help to alleviate symptoms of suicidal ideation, self-harm, impression management, and substance abuse. ⁵
Certain practices, such as meditation and yoga, can help one achieve mindfulness. However, some people find other activities more beneficial, such as coloring in a coloring book or practicing certain therapies.
Most notably, dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) may be most beneficial for BPD. DBT is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) where you learn to live in the moment and develop healthy ways of dealing with stress, emotional regulations, and relationship improvements. ⁶
2.) Develop the Right BPD Coping Skills
If you can identify triggers that lead to a BPD episode, you may be able to also develop coping skills. Again, these will look different for everyone. For that reason, it’s important to experiment around with different coping mechanisms before figuring out which are right for you.
Some common BPD coping skills include:
- Breathing exercises that allow you to relax, ground yourself, and process emotions. ⁷
- Engage in activities that help distract you, such as taking a walk, cleaning, or spending time with others.
- Ride out your BPD episode before allowing symptoms to engage you in harmful activities.
- Support others even in small gestures to help reduce emotional pain while also connecting with the outside world.
In order to find the right coping skills, we highly recommend doing further research on what activities may help with your BPD.
3.) Distract Yourself
According to research, most people with BPD are susceptible to distractions, especially during social cues. ⁸ So, why not take advantage of this personality trait and use it when you need distractions most?
When you find yourself in pain or experiencing difficult situations due to your BPD, it may be in your interest to simply find something else to do. This may include:
- Finishing work you’ve been holding off
- Participating in your favorite hobby
- Writing down your emotions
Admittedly, distractions may not be the easiest route. You may find it difficult to take your mind off your emotions and in turn, distract yourself. However, with practice and dedication, you’re bound to find ways to distract yourself from BPD episodes.
4.) Take Care of Your Physical Health
Did you know your mental health is connected to your physical health? Scientists recently discovered the gut-brain axis – an interaction between your gut’s microbiome and your nervous system. ⁹
In other words, what we take into our bodies can effect our mood, emotions, and behavior. For this reason, it may be in your interest to find diets that are best suited for people with BPD. ¹⁰
Furthermore, you may want to take supplements for BPD, include:
- Cacao (chocolate)
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
Beyond what we take in, it can also help to make better lifestyle changes. While this looks differently for everyone, some include quitting drugs and alcohol or exercising more regularly.
5.) Find Support
If you’re not already enrolled in a BPD treatment program, this may be the first step you need to take to self-manage symptoms. With professional treatment, you’ll be given the tools necessary to overcome BPD episodes and have the opportunity to better understand your condition.
Furthermore, there are a number of online support groups available to discuss with others your struggle. These include Facebook pages, blogs, and other communities.
However, you may benefit more from in-person meetings where you can sit face-to-face with others also struggling with BPD. A quick Google search should direct you groups in your area.
It’s rare to come across people who can say “I cured my borderline personality disorder.” Still, that isn’t to say there aren’t others out there who are willing to lend you a hand and help you move past BPD symptoms.
Self-managing BPD isn’t easy. In fact, BPD is one of the most complicated and misunderstood mental illnesses out there. Still, with the right treatment and coping techniques, it is possible to overcome symptoms.
We highly recommend seeking professional help before trying to treat this condition on its own. With medical attention, you’ll be given everything you need in order know how to stop a BPD episode.
If you’re currently in a relationship and wondering how to deal with a borderline personality disorder girlfriend or boyfriend, you may benefit more from this blog.
Still have questions concerning how to self-manage borderline personality disorder?
We invite you to ask them in the comments section below. If you have any further knowledge to share – whether personal or professional – we’d also love to hear from you.
¹ National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH): Borderline Personality Disorder
² Journal of Psychiatry 4 Neuroscience: “Missing links” in borderline personality disorder: loss of neural synchrony relates to lack of emotion regulation and impulse control
⁴ Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews: Genetics of borderline personality disorder: systematic review and proposal of an integrative model
⁶ The Mental Health Clinician: Dialectical behavior therapy as treatment for borderline personality disorder
⁷ frontiers in Human Neuroscience: How Breath-Control Can Change Your Life: A Systematic Review on Psycho-Physiological Correlates of Slow Breathing
⁹ Annals of Gastroenterology: The gut-brain axis: interactions between enteric microbiota, central and enteric nervous systems