How To Better Manage And Live With Borderline Personality Disorder

If you have borderline personality disorder (BPD), you will know it can impact how you see yourself, and how you interact with people and respond in specific situations. You may have difficulty managing your emotions and a pattern of instability in personal relationships.

Learning how to self-manage BPD is important if you want to minimize the impact it has on your everyday life. There are several things you can do, in conjunction with your treatment, to help you manage it better and live a more fulfilling life. These are not instead of therapy and medication, but rather complement them.

Have you considered clinical trials for Borderline personality disorder?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Borderline personality disorder, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

Get educated

Understanding your condition is always important, but it is particularly so with BPD. There is, in fact, clinical evidence that psychoeducational group (PEG) intervention reduces symptoms¹.

Education helps you:

  • Identify your symptoms, so you can better understand them and how to manage them 

  • Better understand how your therapist and doctor are approaching your treatment, allowing you to advocate for yourself

You should ask your therapist key questions such as:

  • What symptoms do I present?

  • What can I do to manage my symptoms?

  • What may have caused my BPD?

You can also do your own research using reliable sources of information such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) or Johns Hopkins. Make sure your information comes from a credible source.

Finally, you can read books about BPD. There are some excellent ones available, but again, make sure the author is credible.

Express your feelings

Patients with a diagnosis of BPD can experience marked reactivity of their mood, often feeling intense irritability or anxiety within a few hours of each other. They also often have intense feelings of anger and emptiness.

If you have these experiences, it’s important to develop techniques for safely expressing them. These may include:

  • Journaling

  • Drawing

  • Painting

  • Making music

Art can be a very useful tool to help you express your feelings. You should talk to your therapist, who can help you work out the best activities and avoid ones that may make you feel worse.

Many patients also benefit from formal art therapy, which has been shown to not just help express emotions safely but also improve self-image². This will assist you in making choices and recognizing your patterns of thoughts and behavior that might be unhealthy.

Exercise

Exercise helps overall health and mood, and there is evidence that it improves BPD symptoms and day-to-day functioning. Specifically, exercise has been shown to improve emotional regulation (in everyone, not just people with a disorder)³.

Many people with BPD find that light to moderate exercise can help them get over a negative mood. While there has been no large-scale study to support this, there are enough overall health benefits of exercise to make it worth trying.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness can help you to self-manage borderline personality disorder symptoms⁴. Engaging in regular mindfulness meditation exercises helps reduce impulsivity, emotional irregularity, and relationship instability.

This kind of meditation is designed to improve your awareness of your thoughts and feelings, which can allow you to realize when you are starting to experience negative thoughts and prevent these from getting worse. It also helps reduce stress. Talk to your therapist about mindfulness techniques that may work best for you.

There are phone apps that will remind you to meditate and provide appropriate exercises. If meditation does not work, you can try other forms of mindfulness. Some people find coloring with pencils or markers helps.

Engaged listening

One of the biggest challenges for people with BPD is sustaining personal relationships. Emotional dysregulation often leads to bouts of anger, aimed at those you care about the most. BPD is associated with difficulties in relationships⁵, including:

  • Communication problems

  • Aggression

  • Lower relationship satisfaction

  • Possibly a higher risk of separation from a partner

Learning improved communication skills can help mitigate the impact of BPD on your interpersonal relationships. One which has proven particularly useful for many people is engaged listening, which encourages you to pay full attention to what the other person is saying.

It's also a good idea for couples, where one partner has BPD, to go to couples therapy and develop their communication skills together.

Keep a mood diary

Keeping a mood diary helps you track what might trigger your moods. A recent study indicated that using a phone app may work better than pen and paper⁶, possibly because most people keep their phones handy at all times.

A mood diary is key for knowing what treatments and self-help mechanisms are working for you; everyone is different.

Distract yourself

As you improve awareness of your mood, you will learn to identify early warning signs of any changes. When you feel your mood starting to alter, you can try exercise, or you can come up with a way to distract yourself.

Some suggestions include:

  • Watch a funny movie

  • Engage in a craft you enjoy such as knitting or drawing

  • Listen to music. You might want to put together a special playlist that helps shift your mood.

  • Do housework. Some people find cleaning a good way to manage their feelings.

  • Take a bath or do something else you find relaxing. 

  • Experiment until you find the best technique, which may depend on how you are feeling. If you are feeling down, for example, you may find wrapping yourself in a blanket and watching your favorite TV show can help. If you need to get out feelings of anger, you may prefer to do something active or physical, like walking or running.

Learn grounding techniques

Grounding techniques can help to distract you from your current feelings and bring you back to the present.

Some examples of grounding techniques include:

  • Walking barefoot

  • Using breathing techniques

  • Pick up or touch items near you

  • Using strong scents. Consider consulting with an aromatherapist to come up with a particularly effective blend.

  • Holding an ice cube

  • Lying or curling up under a weighted blanket

Try fish oil

There is some evidence that marine omega-3 fatty acids may reduce overall BPD symptom severity, especially emotional dysregulation and impulsive behavior⁷. The easiest way to get these in your diet is through a fish-oil supplement.

Other sources include:

  • Cod liver oil

  • Krill oil

  • Cold-water fatty fish

If you prefer not to eat animal products, the only source of this kind of omega-3 is algal oil.

Improve your sleep

Poor sleep increases stress and reduces emotional regulation. Individuals with a diagnosis of BPD may experience trouble with their sleep. If a person with BPD does not get enough sleep, this can impact their symptoms.

To ensure you get a good night’s rest, practice good sleep hygiene techniques such as:

  • Keeping your bedroom cool

  • Not using your phone in bed

  • Keeping your bedtime and wake times as consistent as possible, even on weekends.

  • Avoiding caffeine after mid-afternoon.

Your therapist or doctor can help you to improve your sleep.

Avoid alcohol

There is an overlap between BPD and substance use disorders. Individuals with BPD may turn to alcohol as a form of self-medication to help with their intense emotions. Impulsive behavior can also lead to binge drinking.

Although you may feel that drinking temporarily helps with your emotions, it will inevitably end up intensifying your symptoms or increasing your level of risk. The best course of action is to avoid alcohol altogether, especially if there is a history of substance abuse or addiction in your family.

The lowdown

Borderline personality disorder is a treatable condition. You must see your doctor or therapist to ensure you are receiving the correct treatment. In addition to the treatment recommended by your doctor, other aspects may help you to manage your symptoms.

These aspects, which include lifestyle interventions such as practicing mindfulness meditation and avoiding alcohol, can complement your other treatment and help to reduce the severity of your BPD symptoms.

Have you considered clinical trials for Borderline personality disorder?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Borderline personality disorder, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

Joining community groups and exercise programs for my condition made me feel empowered – but I want to be part of finding a cure.
Peter, 64

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