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8 Ways Of Saying No To Someone With Borderline Personality Disorder & How To Get Help

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Looking for effective ways of saying no to someone with borderline personality disorder? Seeking guidance from a mental health professional can be essential when dealing with someone with BPD. Continue reading to learn more about borderline personality disorder.

Saying No To Someone With Borderline Personality Disorder

It might be challenging to say no to someone with BPD or borderline personality disorder. When you love someone or have a spouse with BPD, you may find yourself walking on eggshells regularly, not knowing when you’ll catch a glimpse of BPD’s wrath or experience the consequences of your loved one’s fear of abandonment. You may believe that you can’t do anything correctly or that you are always setting them off. You may be emotionally exhausted and at a loss for words, ready to call it quits.

When you don’t have the condition yourself, it’s hard to understand why your loved one with BPD has these explosive reactions. You will have to say no, or assert your boundaries. This “no” could be a plan, an idea, or a request. Whatever it is, you need help navigating BPD signs and symptoms.

Unstable interpersonal relationships are a hallmark of borderline personality disorder. So how do you love someone with borderline personality disorder in a way that honors them and yourself? Often, it starts with recognizing the realness of BPD, making room for yourself in the relationship, and putting an end to rescuer-rescuee dynamics. It’s crucial to remember that you cannot heal your loved one’s BPD. Instead, encouraging high-quality mental health treatment is essential.

How To Say No To Someone With Borderline Personality Disorder?

You may feel your loved one is being dramatic, too sensitive, or both. You may be concerned that they are manipulative or controlling. You could question if they’re simply abusive. But in reality, it’s more likely their fear of abandonment and rejection has been triggered by your “no.”

A borderline’s fears of abandonment and rejection can be triggered by things like:

  • Unexpected delayed response to a text
  • Not getting a text back at all
  • Canceled plans
  • Being left out of a conversation or event
  • A backhanded comment
  • Partner going out without them
  • Having their ideas or requests rejected
  • Offering help or support but being told no
  • Being told no when asking for help
  • Being reminded of a past trigger

Small things most people wouldn’t bat an eye at can trigger someone with a borderline personality disorder. So what’s a loved one to do? Bend over backward to try and appease them? Never say no? No, of course not. It’s healthy to have boundaries in relationships. Your loved one with BPD may not like them, but they need to learn to accept your boundaries if they want a healthy relationship with you.

When someone with BPD gets triggered, it can create an overwhelming wave of negative emotions like shame and sadness. These feelings are intense and can be extremely hard to shake off. Instead of walking on eggshells, you want to learn how to validate their feelings (validation is NOT blind agreement) and say no in a way that won’t trigger their fears of abandonment and rejection.

Often, the person with borderline personality disorder can become the central focal point in a relationship, and it can feel like there is little room left for you. Make sure that you are an active participant in your relationship. Express your feelings, needs, and thoughts. Share your stories, struggles, and joys.

After all, while your loved one may struggle with BPD, they also love, value, and want to know you. An authentic relationship can only happen when both participants contribute to creating a meaningful social bond. Allow yourself and your loved one the opportunity to do that.

At the same time, don’t blame borderline personality disorder for all of your loved one’s emotions. BPD does not preclude genuine grievances or the expression of sentiments that are not influenced by dysfunction. Recognize your loved one’s whole humanity, think about what they are telling you, and accept errors if you make them. Remember that doing this is easier when your loved one is on board with strengthening and fixing themselves, openly acknowledges their BPD diagnosis, is in BPD treatment, or is willing to seek an evaluation with a professional. 

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Borderline Personality Disorder Statistics

In the United States, recent research has shown that 1.6% of the population has BPD. That number may seem small, but when you consider just how large the United States is, you may realize that 1.6% represents quite a large number of people. Borderline personality disorder is one of the most challenging mental health disorders to manage. Looking for effective ways how to motivate someone with borderline personality disorder? It is best managed with an interprofessional team, including psychiatrists, psychologists, pharmacists, mental health nurses, and social workers. [1]


1.4%

It’s estimated that 1.4% of the adult U.S. population experiences BPD.

Source: NCBI

75%

Nearly 75% of people diagnosed with BPD are women.

Source: NCBI

20%

Surveys have estimated the prevalence of borderline personality disorder to be 20% in the inpatient psychiatric population.

Source: NCBI


8 Ways Of Saying No To Someone With Borderline Personality Disorder

  1. Clarify if it’s a “hard no” (never happening) or a “not now” (will happen shortly). The word “maybe” can be frustrating and anxiety-inducing. Try not to use it. Be direct whenever possible.
  2. Give your side of the story. If you’re saying no because of your anxiety over a particular activity, be open about your feelings so your loved one with BPD can better see things from your perspective instead of getting stuck in their own emotions.
  3. If your no is actually “not now,” suggest a few alternate days or times. This helps your loved one remember that they still matter and shows that you care about them just as much as they care about you. It also lessens the blow of disappointment and gives them something to look forward to.
  4. If your no is a “hard no,” try to create an alternative idea, plan, or compromise. But only if it’s possible, realistic, and if you want to. Don’t ever do something just because you feel forced to do it. That will only hurt both of you in the end.
  5. If they seem to be getting upset or becoming passive-aggressive, ask your loved one how they feel. Expressing this can help your loved one let off steam. It could also help you develop a better alternative for both of you.
  6. Reassure your loved one that your reason for saying no has nothing to do with them as a person, nor does it change anything about your relationship or your love for them. Even if you’ve already told them your reason for saying no, sometimes it’s not enough to know the why (especially if you’ve been fighting over your no).
  7. Be in the habit of sticking with the plan or with things you say you’ll do. Try not to cancel, push the time back, or not follow through, as that can cause anxiety for someone with BPD.
  8. Above all else, be patient and consistent. This may seem like a lot of work to assert a boundary. It is. It’s not easy for loved ones with BPD and those trying to learn how to motivate someone with borderline personality disorder. But with lots of patience, consistency, time & professional help, there’s hope for BPD relationships. Consistency helps us know what to expect. 

Borderline Personality Disorder Facts Sheet


Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a mental condition in which a person has long-term patterns of unstable or turbulent emotions. These inner experiences often result in impulsive actions and chaotic relationships with other people.

Causes

The cause of BPD is unknown. Genetic, family and social factors are thought to play roles.

Risk factors include:

  • Either real or fear of abandonment in childhood or adolescence
  • Disrupted family life
  • Poor communication in the family
  • Sexual, physical, or emotional abuse

BPD occurs equally in men and women, though women seek treatment more often than men. Symptoms may get better in or after middle age.


Exams and Tests

BPD is diagnosed based on a psychological evaluation. The healthcare provider will consider how long and severe the person’s symptoms are.

Symptoms

People with BPD lack confidence in how they view themselves and how they are judged by others. As a result, their interests and values can change rapidly. They also tend to view things as extremes, such as all good or all bad. Their views of other people can change quickly. A person who is looked up to one day may be looked down on the next day. These suddenly shifting feelings often lead to intense and unstable relationships.

Other symptoms of BPD include:

  • Intense fear of being abandoned
  • Can’t tolerate being alone
  • Feelings of emptiness and boredom
  • Displays of inappropriate anger
  • Impulsiveness, such as with substance use or sexual relationships
  • Self-injury, such as wrist cutting or overdosing

Treatment

Individual talk therapy may successfully treat BPD. Group therapy can sometimes be helpful. Medicines have less of a role in treating BPD than other mental disorders. In some cases, they can improve mood swings and treat depression or other disorders that may occur with this disorder.


Outlook (Prognosis)

The treatment outlook depends on how severe the condition is and whether the person is willing to accept help. With long-term talk therapy, the person often gradually improves.

Possible Complications

Complications may include:

  • Depression
  • Drug use
  • Problems with work, family, and social relationships
  • Suicide attempts and actual suicide

When to Contact a Medical Professional

See your provider if you or someone you know has symptoms of borderline personality disorder. It is especially important to seek help right away if you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide. If someone you know has attempted suicide, call 911 or the local emergency number right away. DO NOT leave the person alone, even after you have called for help.

[2] Source: Borderline personality disorder – National Institutes of Health

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How To Talk To Someone With Borderline Personality Disorder?

It is essential to avoid giving in to a BPD person’s impulsive acts while you are learning how to motivate someone with borderline personality disorder. While there are extreme lows associated with BPD, there are also extreme highs, and it can be easy to get sucked in. Be careful and understand these highs are also symptoms and can plummet to a low very quickly. Here are a few essential pointers for communicating with someone with borderline personality disorder healthily and productively:

  • Be patient
  • Be realistic
  • Try to separate facts from feelings
  • Validate feelings first
  • Listen actively and be sympathetic
  • Seek to distract when emotions rise
  • Do not allow yourself to be the product of the intense anger. Attempt to diffuse it, but sometimes you may have to walk away.
  • Understand the symptoms and triggers
  • Offer constructive criticism
  • Help to set realistic goals
  • Keep schedules consistent
  • Encourage treatment
  • Learn how to motivate someone with borderline personality disorder and attend therapy together.
Saying no to someone with borderline personality disorder will require acknowledging that boundaries must remain firm.
Saying no to someone with borderline personality disorder will require acknowledging that boundaries must remain firm.

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How To Motivate Someone With Borderline Personality Disorder?

An essential part of loving someone with BPD is realizing that you cannot fix them. You can have a close, loving, meaningful relationship with them and provide invaluable support, but you cannot heal their illness. What you can do is help them connect with high-quality treatment options. Skilled clinicians use a range of therapeutic modalities, including dialectical behavioral therapy and trauma-focused therapies, to help clients find lasting relief from BPD symptoms and restore emotional and behavioral harmony. Of course, a crucial part of healing from borderline personality disorder is creating more stable interpersonal relationships with loved ones.

Keep your word and be honest in saying no to someone with borderline personality disorder. Don’t say, “I understand.” Instead, say, “I want to understand.” 
Keep your word and be honest in saying no to someone with borderline personality disorder. Don’t say, “I understand.” Instead, say, “I want to understand.” 

High-quality residential treatment programs offer family and couples therapy to guide you and your loved one through a shared recovery process. With the help of experienced clinicians, you can explore how to motivate your loved one, identify unhealthy relationship dynamics, and create a strong foundation for moving forward.

Residential treatment programs are often the best option for people struggling with BPD, as they allow them to participate in a broad spectrum of therapies tailored to their unique needs. Furthermore, the inpatient setting encourages the rapid establishment of trusting therapeutic alliances necessary for treating BPD. Surrounded by compassionate clinicians and peers, your loved one can develop meaningful coping skills and practice them in a safe, supportive environment.

How To Support Someone With Borderline Personality Disorder?

If you have a friend or family member with borderline personality disorder (BPD), you know the stress of this challenging problem. And you may be at a loss for how you can respond helpfully. The nature of BPD makes relationships intense and stressful. The family and friends of a person diagnosed with BPD usually have questions about how to help. Support systems can be essential in helping someone with borderline personality disorder manage and reduce troubling symptoms.

The following strategies are effective on how to deal with someone who has borderline personality disorder:

  • Learn about BPD.

The first step for family, friends and other support people who want to offer meaningful help is to learn about BPD. You will more likely react to problematic behaviors in a supportive way when the underlying cause for the behavior is understood.

  • Show confidence and respect.

There is a significant association between BPD and early-life trauma. Early childhood trauma diminishes a person’s sense of safety and control regarding themselves, others, and the world. How to communicate with someone with borderline personality disorder? You must approach the relationship in a way that promotes trust and respect, which can be helpful and healing to a person with BPD.

  • Be trustworthy

Many people with BPD have a history of attachment problems, which creates a sense of fear and mistrust. As a support person, you must be consistent and honest.

  • Manage conflict with attachment.

Support people can provide perspective and help the person with BPD recognize conflict as part of a healthy relationship. When a support person stays engaged despite difficulties, there is a sense of acceptance and attachment that can heal and create meaningful change in BPD.

  • Encourage Professional Help.

How to deal with someone with borderline personality disorder? It’s always best to seek professional help trained in dealing with mental disorders. Mental health professionals can assess for other mental disorders requiring treatment, such as anxiety and depression. Support people can provide information and assist with arranging appointments if needed. Knowing help is available can create hope for people with BPD.

  • Identify strengths.

BPD can be understood as a self-identity problem. People with BPD are unsure of themselves and how others view them. But every person has strengths and abilities. Support people can help by identifying positive characteristics and specific abilities they have noticed. You can share with them the best jobs for someone with borderline personality disorder. Many people with BPD feel emotions profoundly and find working in a caring role fulfilling. They can try teaching, childcare, nursing and animal care jobs if they are empathetic people.

  • Have fun together.

One of the most helpful and healing things a support person can do is suggest a healthy activity that is mutually enjoyable, such as a walk in nature, gardening, attending a concert, or watching a funny movie. These self-soothing activities benefit the person with BPD and those learning how to motivate someone with borderline personality disorder while developing a healthy attachment.

  • Take suicide seriously.

People with BPD are more at risk for suicide than the general population. If a person talks about ending their life or makes suicidal gestures, it is essential to ask if they are serious about killing themselves. Let the person know that if you are concerned for their safety, you will act because you care. If in doubt, seek help through a crisis phone line or mental health services available in your local area.

  • Be self-aware.

With consistent and appropriate support, the impact of BPD on the individual and their family and friends can be reduced. How to live with someone with borderline personality disorder? Developing your capacity to respond helpfully is one of the most meaningful things you can do for someone struggling with BPD.

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Being Married To Someone With Borderline Personality Disorder

Studies of marital status in people with BPD have found that about 60% are married (these studies were done in people with an average age of around 40). This suggests that people with BPD are less likely to be married than those in the general population—in the United States, about 85% of people are married by age 40.

Can someone with borderline personality disorder love? Yes. However, many kinds of close relationships are affected by borderline personality disorder (BPD), but perhaps none more than being married to a person with BPD. But even if it can be very tumultuous, conflict-laden, and dysfunctional, there’s still hope.

On a special note, research suggests that people with borderline personality disorder who develop a substantial reduction in their symptoms (defined as recovering from BPD) are more likely than non-recovered people with BPD to marry and become a parent and less likely to divorce or lose custody of a child. At the same time, the average life expectancy of someone with borderline personality disorder is not as bad at once thought. Almost half of the people diagnosed with BPD will not meet the criteria for a diagnosis just two years after treatment. [3]

While saying no to someone with borderline personality disorder, don’t be afraid to set and communicate those boundaries calmly and clearly. Furthermore, in addition to the BPD partner getting treatment, it's a good idea to seek marital or family therapy to keep the marriage, relationship, and family functioning intact.
While saying no to someone with borderline personality disorder, don’t be afraid to set and communicate those boundaries calmly and clearly. Furthermore, in addition to the BPD partner getting treatment, it’s a good idea to seek marital or family therapy to keep the marriage, relationship, and family functioning intact.

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How To Help Someone With Borderline Personality Disorder?

Dealing with someone with borderline personality disorder can sometimes be distressing and difficult. It can seem like nothing is changing. If you are the family, friend, or carer of someone with BPD, there are some things you can do to help.

Is it an emergency?

Get help immediately if the person:

  • Has deliberately injured themselves
  • Is acting out in a highly aggressive or abusive manner
  • Is expressing thoughts of suicide or of killing someone else
  • Is disorientated (does not know who they are, where there are, or what time of day it is)
  • Has delusions (strange beliefs) or hallucinations (hearing or seeing things that are not real)
  • Is confused or not making sense
  • Is badly affected by drugs and or alcohol and acting abnormally

Sometimes a person with BPD doesn’t want to attend their appointment with their psychiatrist or another therapist, even though they have previously committed to their treatment. If this happens:

  • Ask them what is worrying them and let them talk about it
  • Keep giving them emotional support and encouragement
  • Talk about what kind of practical help they need to keep going with their treatment
  • Contact the healthcare team for advice on how to motivate someone with borderline personality disorder
Looking for effective ways of saying no to someone with borderline personality disorder? If you or someone close to you often has feelings of emptiness, loneliness, or insecurity that cause irrationality or impulsivity, it's crucial to talk to your healthcare provider.
Looking for effective ways of saying no to someone with borderline personality disorder? If you or someone close to you often has feelings of emptiness, loneliness, or insecurity that cause irrationality or impulsivity, it’s crucial to talk to your healthcare provider.

Call us now for a free mental health assessment! In addition, for the substance abuse or dual diagnosis approach, We Level Up FL inpatient treatmentinpatient medical detox, and residential primary addiction treatment may be available at our affiliated facility. For more BPD treatment resources, call us about your loved one’s symptoms, and we can help you determine the cause and develop a treatment plan.

Living With Someone Who Has Borderline Personality Disorder Top FAQs

  1. How to detach from someone with borderline personality disorder?

    It’s best for everyone involved to establish limits on how much time you’re willing to spend around them, particularly when their symptoms are flaring up. When you start ignoring someone with borderline personality disorder, they may experience abandonment fear or feelings of worthlessness, which can make them feel the need to get close to you once more. These behaviors aren’t a conscious attempt to mistreat or manipulate you. They’re mostly the result of an inability to manage emotional pain and fear of rejection.

  2. How to date someone with borderline personality disorder?

    Dating someone with borderline personality disorder can be challenging. Your partner may have difficulties with intense emotions, drastic mood swings, chronic fear of abandonment, and impulsive behaviors that can strain your relationship with chaos and instability. Nonetheless, understanding BPD, learning ways to cope, and seeking support can help to shape your relationship in meaningful ways.

  3. How to live with someone who has borderline personality disorder?

    People with BPD and those living with someone borderline personality disorder often feel alone. Education is critical, especially regarding the behaviors that come with the condition.

  4. How to love someone with borderline personality disorder?

    Seeking guidance from a mental health professional can be essential when loving someone with borderline personality disorder. When loving someone with BPD, you may need to learn how to take some time away without implying you’re leaving the relationship.

  5. How to handle someone with borderline personality disorder?

    Setting boundaries can help you manage your loved one’s expectations during the idealization and devaluation cycle. Don’t feel guilty if you don’t agree with every request. Set limits and stick to them. If you maintain your commitment in other areas, your loved one may understand that your boundaries aren’t equivalent to rejection or lack of love.

Search Borderline Personality Disorder Topics & Mental Health Resources
Sources

[1] Chapman J, Jamil RT, Fleisher C. Borderline Personality Disorder. [Updated 2022 May 2]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430883/

[2] Borderline personality disorderU.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health

[3] Brüne M. Borderline Personality Disorder: Why ‘fast and furious’? Evol Med Public Health. 2016 Feb 28;2016(1):52-66. DOI: 10.1093/emph/eow002. PMID: 26929090; PMCID: PMC4782519.

[4] Kulacaoglu F, Kose S. Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD): In the Midst of Vulnerability, Chaos, and Awe. Brain Sci. 2018 Nov 18;8(11):201. DOI: 10.3390/brainsci8110201. PMID: 30453675; PMCID: PMC6266914.

[5] BPD – National Cancer Institute

[6] Borderline Personality Disorder – U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

[7] Personality DisordersU.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health

[8] Treatment of Suicidal Women With Borderline Personality DisorderU.S. National Library of Medicine

[9] An Introduction to Co-Occurring Borderline Personality Disorder and Substance Use Disorders – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

[10] Mental Disorders – Adult – Social Security Administration