Most websites for people with borderline personality disorder (BPD) will tell you how important it is to find BPD support. This is because social support is an important predictor of mental health. But, research suggests that people with BPD have difficulties developing good support networks. It is not easy to find support if you have strained relationships with friends and family. So, where can you find support? Here are some ideas.
BPD Support from Family
Yes, many people with BPD have strained relationships with family, either because of past trauma or because the symptoms of BPD can interfere with family relationships (or a combination of both). But, look a little closer. Maybe you can’t get support from your immediate family, but are there aunts, uncles, cousins, step-siblings, or other extended family members that you can get support from?
BPD Support from FriendsSome people with BPD have few friends because the symptoms of the disorder have gotten in the way of friendships. Others have friends but have difficulty reaching out to them for support. If you don’t have enough friends, keep reading for ideas on how to find and build friendships. But, if you do have some friends, consider leaning on them for support occasionally if you don’t already.
BPD Support from Online Support Communities
Do not underestimate the power of online support — sometimes this is just what you need to help you through a hard time. The BPD forum on this site is an excellent way to meet other people who understand where you are coming from.
BPD Support from Professionals
If you have BPD (or care about someone who does), the importance of professional support cannot be underestimated. People with BPD need professional treatment; the symptoms of this disorder are very intense and you should not go it alone. If you don’t already have a mental health professional that you work with, read this article on finding a therapist.
BPD Support Groups
In addition to online groups, there are support groups in most communities for people with mental health issues. For example, the National Alliance for Mental Illness runs support groups. See the NAMI website for details on where to find one near you. But, if you can’t find a support group focused on mental health issues, you can always attend groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous if you just need to be around people. You don’t even need to talk to feel supported sometimes!
Sometimes joining social groups that are not focused on support can help you make connections and friendships that can then turn into sources of support. For example, join a ski club, a hobby club, a book club, or a church group. Starting here will help you build a social network that you can turn to in times of need.
HotlinesSometimes the best source of support in a pinch is a telephone or online hotline. These are completely confidential and available twenty-four hours a day, something that is not always true for friends or other sources of support. One great hotline is the National Suicide Hotline (1-800-273-8255), but there are also online hotlines you can use (e.g., the RAINN hotline, which is a sexual assault and abuse hotline.)
Other Sources of Support
There are hundreds of other ways to find support, but it can be hard to come up with ideas when you are dealing with a crisis. Instead of trying to find support when you are under stress, make it a priority to think of ways to build support when you are not in a crisis. Where can you meet caring people who might make good friends?
For example, consider volunteering, or other activities where you will meet people who care about the well-being of others. Once you have some ideas, push yourself to actually try some of these activities. You will be surprised at how quickly you can start to build a social support network when you push yourself to get to know people.
Clifton A, Pilkonis PA, & McCarty C. “Social Network in Borderline Personality Disorder.” Journal of Personality Disorders, 21:434-441, 2007.
Lefley HP. “From Family Trauma to Family Support System.” In Understanding and Treating Borderline Personality Disorder: A Guide for Professionals and Families. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Publishing, 2005
Linehan MM. Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder. New York:Guilford Press, 1993.