9 Things NOT To Do If You Have Borderline Personality Disorder

For the more than 4 million Americans who have borderline personality disorder (BPD), life can be challenging. Living with this personality disorder often means having an unstable self-image, extreme emotional reactions, impulsiveness, and intense fear of abandonment. Certain triggers can intensify symptoms and, in some cases, lead to self-harm.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Here are 9 common things that could be making your BPD symptoms worse, and what to do about it.

Living with borderline personality disorder often means having an unstable self-image, extreme emotional reactions, impulsiveness, and intense fear of abandonment. Certain triggers can intensify symptoms and, in some cases, lead to… Click To Tweet

9 THINGS THAT MAKE BPD WORSE

  1. DON’T use alcohol or marijuana to relax.

Turning to substances like alcohol or marijuana to calm your intense emotions will ultimately make BPD worse. Research shows that nearly 78% of adults with BPD will develop an addiction or substance use disorder during their lifetime.

People with BPD who are also struggling with addiction tend to be more impulsive and unstable than those who don’t abuse substances. They are also more likely to have suicidal thoughts or engage in suicidal behavior.

Drugs and alcohol harm the brain in ways that makes it even harder to deal with BPD. For this reason, it’s important to eliminate recreational drugs and booze from your life. And if you have an addiction, seek treatment. 

  1. DON’T forget about your past.

Although experts have yet to pinpoint the exact cause of BPD, research has found that adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are contributing risk factors. These experiences include physical, emotional, or sexual trauma; abandonment; and neglect.

Seek treatment in the form of psychotherapy to learn strategies to address traumatic experiences. One form of treatment that can be especially helpful for trauma survivors is eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR).

  1. DON’T neglect co-existing mental health disorders.

People with BPD often have co-occurring mental health conditions, including bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), eating disorders, and substance use disorders.

Neglecting these other mental health problems can get in the way of managing borderline personality disorder symptoms. By addressing these underlying issues, you can cope better with BPD.

  1. DON’T forget about family risk factors.

Genetics can play a role in your risk for BPD. In fact, having a first-degree relative with the condition makes you 5 times more likely to develop BPD, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

Talk to your relatives to determine if anyone in your family tree—past or present—suffered from BPD.

  1. DON’T ignore your brain.

BPD is a brain-based disorder. Some brain-imaging research has shown abnormal activity in brain regions related to regulations emotions, impulsivity, fear, and aggression. In addition, there may be abnormal levels of neurochemicals, such as serotonin, that play a role in regulating moods.

Unfortunately, most psychiatrists never look at the brain. This is part of the reason why research shows that close to 40% of individuals with BPD are previously misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Functional brain imaging with SPECT scans can be helpful in avoiding misdiagnosis. At Amen Clinics, which has been using SPECT for over 30 years, brain imaging helps rule out other causes of symptoms, such as exposure to environmental toxins like mold, chronic infections, and neurohormonal abnormalities.

  1. DON’T shy away from relationship issues.

Relationship problems are common in people with BPD. Arguments or a lack of communication with friends or a significant other can trigger increased symptoms.

Automatically letting feelings of rejection set in can cause a downward spiral of negativity that can lead to self-harm.

Rather than jumping to conclusions, find ways to talk to the important people in your life to understand their actions. In many cases, you may find that your fears are unfounded. If you have trouble doing this on your own, consider marital therapy or couples counseling.

  1. DON’T crumble from criticism.

Having BPD can make it hard to cope with criticism, even when it’s given in a constructive manner. If a critique directed your way makes you feel attacked or unworthy, take a few deep breaths and challenge the negative thoughts in your head.

A 2024 study shows that repetitive negative thoughts contribute to emotional and behavioral dysregulation in borderline personality disorder.

To combat automatic negative thoughts (ANTs), ask yourself if your thoughts are true. If not, come up with a more realistic thought and look for evidence to support it. By repeatedly questioning your thoughts, you can begin to improve negative thinking patterns.

  1. DON’T just take medication to treat BPD.

In general, taking medication should never be the first or only thing you do to treat BPD. Currently, there is no FDA-approved medication specifically for borderline personality disorder treatment.

However, some types of medication may be helpful in managing BPD symptoms. Types of medication that may be used to treat borderline personality disorder include:

Rather than relying solely on medication, it’s better to take a comprehensive approach to treatment. Consider psychotherapy, lifestyle changes, diet, and nutritional supplements. For example, one study suggests that taking omega-3 fatty acids reduces aggressive behavior and hostility in individuals who have BPD.

  1. DON’T let stress overwhelm you.

Research in Frontiers in Psychology shows that stressful events can trigger impulsivity in people with BPD. In some cases, it can lead to non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI). An estimated 60%-90% of people with BPD engage in self-harm behaviors such as cutting.

This is why it’s so important to practice stress-management techniques. Learning how to self-soothe in stressful times can be so beneficial for anyone suffering personality disorders like BPD. Some simple techniques to try include deep breathing, meditation, and avoiding stress triggers when possible.

When you stop doing the things that exacerbate BPD, you can better manage your symptoms. In many cases, it’s best to work with a mental health professional to find the best treatment plan for this serious mental health condition.

Personality disorders and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-926-0831 or visit our contact page here.

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