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What Do I Do If Think One of My Parents Has Borderline Personality Disorder?

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If you clicked on this blog, then you are most likely worried that your mother or father has Borderline Personality Disorder, or they have already been diagnosed with it. If there is no diagnosis, whether your concern is true or not doesn't really matter. A diagnosis is just a label. We base our worry on what we see, and having tools to figure out how to manage what we see is important. That is what you'll hopefully find in this blog.

It can be difficult living in your house with someone who is hard to predict. Often times in this situation, it can feel "normal" one minute, and the next minute you have no idea what happened to provoke such an intense argument. This may feel as if you are walking on eggshells. While there is nothing you can do to change the way your mother or father acts, there are things you can do to help you cope better.

First, What is BPD?

Overall, someone with Borderline Personality Disorder will have intense and unstable emotional responses to situations; they often misinterpret what is being said as a personal attack, which is why their responses may seem like an over reaction. The DMS 5 explains it as a pattern of instability that affects interpersonal relationships, as well as self image. It is expressed in at least five of the following ways:

  1. Intense efforts to avoid abandonment (whether real or imagined)

  2. Alternating their views between exaggerated positive qualities and exaggerated negative qualities within their relationships

  3. Unstable sense of self

  4. Impulsive behaviors that can be viewed as self harming

  5. Recurrent suicidal behavior

  6. Unstable mood (intense episodes of irritability, anxiety, etc)

  7. Chronic feelings of emptiness

  8. Difficulty controlling anger, or inappropriate anger

  9. Paranoia caused by stressful situations

Second, the following are some examples of what this may look like in your relationship:

  • You often feel like your mom/dad go in between viewing you as all good or all bad, and there is no area in the middle. You received mixed messages about many things.

  • You fear how your parent will respond/react, so you find yourself either hiding information or not speaking up to avoid an argument.

  • You feel confused because expectations change so often that you aren't sure what rules to follow, and you're pretty sure you'll get in trouble either way in the end. The standards were often too high.

  • You feel crazy because you're told that you did things you really don't think you did.

  • You're put down on a regular basis, and often blamed for the things that go wrong.

  • You feel responsible for your parents happiness.

  • You didn't feel like you had space to be yourself, and often had to hide your feelings.

  • You didn't feel like you were allowed to have privacy.

Third, How do you cope with this?

  • Seeking support from a therapist or a support group such as NAMI (national alliance on mental health) to help you process the things that come up at home, and find healthy ways of coping.

  • Being aware of the way you are talking to yourself. Sometimes this can make things more difficult.

  • Learning what your boundaries are and how to set them.

  • Understanding that while we cannot control how other people interpret what we say, we have full control over how we say it. Pay attention to what you are saying and how you are delivering it. Remembering that sometimes, there are things that are better left unsaid.

  • Having access to adults that you do trust in your life that can help you when you aren't feeling good.

  • Having a place that is safe and comfortable to go to when you need time away from your parent or the situation.

Fourth, Things to keep in mind:

  • You did not cause this - it is not your fault.

  • It may not feel like it, but your parent(s) do love you. They are not healthy, so they aren't going to show their love the way you would expect to see it. They are doing the best they can, and unfortunately, it may not be what you deserve.

  • You have a right to your feelings, as well as the right to communicate them in a place they will be respected and heard.

  • It is never okay for anyone to hurt you physically or put you down.

  • We may not get to pick our families, or how they treat us, but we do get to pick what kind of relationship we have with them, if any, and how we respond. You may never get the relationship you want to have with your parent, but you can have a relationship with them if you want one. It is okay if you aren't ready for that now.

Anytime you feel unsafe, overwhelmed, or that “gross” uncomfortable feeling, that is a good sign that a boundary needs to be set or was not respected. Setting boundaries will protect you, even if it may not feel that way. Sometimes we don't feel safe even communicating that a boundary needs to be set because of how the other person will react. If this is the case, do whatever you need to do to protect yourself. I am not saying to disobey your parents, but if what they are asking you to do is going to put you in harm's way, don't do it. For example, if a parent is calling you names, you do not have to fight back, even if it may feel really good to get that last word in. When someone is acting in an unsafe way, they are not in a rational space and you cannot reason with them. You will be safer if you walk away from the argument and take a break instead of engaging in it.

If you or someone you know is being abused, please get help. Abuse can affect the way you function on a day to day basis. It can negatively impact the way you think about yourself, the relationships you have with other people, and your motivation at school. If you find that you are struggling with these things, see an outside therapist, call a hotline, tell a trusted adult, or if you are feeling really unsafe - call 911.

Here are some resources you may find helpful:



  • Stop Walking on Eggshells: Taking Your Life Back When Someone You Care About Has Borderline Personality Disorder by Paul Mason & Randi Kreger

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