Things that do not help
- Do not take over control of their life. Support them to make their own choices. Avoid conflict or arguments over these.
- Avoid the temptation to try to rescue the person from a particular situation. Don’t imagine that you can fix their life for them.
- Avoid being drawn into their conflicts with other people, including their psychiatrist (e.g. cancelling appointments on their behalf instead of expecting them to do so themselves, or being drawn into one side of a family conflict).
- Don’t try to be their therapist. Instead, help them find the right treatment and support them to follow their treatment.
- Try not to get defensive in the face of accusations and criticism. When they get emotional or angry, it is not just about you or about the situation – they are trying to deal with BPD at the same time. Try to distinguish the person from the illness.
What if the person doesn’t want help?
Generally, an adult has the right to refuse treatment. But they can be treated without their consent if their life is in danger or if they lack the capacity to consent.
If the situation is not an emergency, tell the person that you are concerned. Let them know that you care about them getting effective treatment.
Keep giving support and acknowledging their point of view. Be open, approachable and non-judgmental.
Sometimes a person with BPD doesn’t want to attend their appointment with their psychiatrist or other 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 health-care team for advice.
Looking after yourself
Caring for someone with BPD can be emotionally and physically exhausting.
If someone close to you has BPD, this does not mean that you are a ‘bad’ parent, partner, brother, sister, child or friend.
You will feel pain, suffering, sadness, guilt or despair of your own. Being a support person can be hard work and it may sometimes feel that you are getting nowhere.
Never blame yourself. You are not alone.
More about caring for someone with a mental illness
Support and information for families