20 Examples Of What NOT To Say To Someone With BPD

Last Update on July 27, 2022 : Published on April 26, 2022

Having a loved one with a borderline personality disorder (BPD) isn’t easy. This personality disorder makes it difficult for a person to process or manage their emotions. Living with BPD means dealing with self-image issues, mood swings, behavioral changes, insecurity, and instability.

A borderline personality disorder usually begins to show during teenage years and early adulthood. Did you know that women are more likely to be diagnosed with BPD than men? Well, some experts believe that this could be because men are less likely to seek professional help. In other cases, a borderline personality disorder can also be mistakenly diagnosed as post-traumatic disorder (PTSD) or depression.

In this article, let’s take a look at 20 examples of what not to say to someone with a borderline personality disorder or BPD. Before we begin, let’s take a quick overview of what BPD is, its symptoms, and its causes.

An Overview Of Borderline Personality Disorder

If you suspect a loved one or if you believe you have a borderline personality disorder then you can start by understanding some of the common symptoms of BPD:

  • Having self-harming behavior
  • Having a pattern of unstable relationships – personal or social
  • Worrying about abandonment
  • Having a poor self-image
  • Engaging in impulsive behavior such as impulsive shopping, binge-eating/drinking, etc.
  • Experiencing feelings of emptiness
  • Having trouble trusting other people
  • Experiencing feelings of paranoia
  • Having anger issues
  • Experiencing feelings of dissociation
  • Experiencing frequent mood changes
  • Having suicidal thoughts

Please note that many symptoms of a borderline personality disorder may overlap symptoms of other mental health disorders such as PTSD or depression. It is recommended that you talk to a professional mental health counselor for an official diagnosis.

The causes of BPD are not exactly known but mental health experts believe that factors that may cause BPD could include genetic factors or having grown up in a stressful or traumatic household.

Borderline personality disorder can be unpredictable and the symptoms can frequently change. While there might be no issues in your life, you may still be having a hard time coping with BPD. I believe that because of the unpredictability of BPD, many people living with this personality disorder struggle with holding stable jobs and relationships.

Below, let’s take a look at what NOT to say to someone with a borderline personality disorder. Using these phrases can mentally and emotionally harm your loved ones so, avoid using these below phrases.

What NOT To Say To Someone With BPD

1. “You’re emotionally unstable”

A borderline personality disorder can also be known as an emotionally unstable personality disorder as the emotions felt during BPD can be fluctuating. Unstable mood swings are a symptom of BPD so telling someone with BPD that they are emotionally unstable could be the wrong thing.

2. “Why can’t you hold on to a relationship?”

What not to say to a person with BPD is this phrase. Because of frequent and unstable mood swings, people with borderline personality disorder often find it hard to hold on to a healthy, stable relationship. People struggling with BPD often need a lot of reassurance that, unfortunately, can lead to more arguments and disagreements in a relationship, ultimately leading to the inability to hold on to a healthy relationship.

3. “You don’t have to be angry all the time”

Holding in anger can be burdensome especially when someone is struggling with BPD. People with borderline personality disorder struggle a lot with anger management and impulse control. Their emotions are often ruled by anger and impulsivity. If your loved one has BPD, then you need to be supportive instead of confrontational.

4. “Get your act together!”

Another phrase on what not to say to someone with BPD is this. People with borderline personality disorder have their emotions displayed and exposed. They feel all emotions- good and bad – deeply. Often, others mistake this as overreaction or not having everything together, however, for someone with BPD it is an honest expression of what they are feeling.

5. “Why can’t you think about the consequences before spending all your money?”

Impulsivity is another symptom of borderline personality disorder that you can’t ignore. It’s not as if someone with BPD does not care about or think about the consequences of spending their money on impulse buying, it’s just that they do so after the action. So when wondering what not to say to someone with BPD, avoid this phrase.

6. “Isn’t borderline personality disorder the same as bipolar disorder?”

Borderline personality disorder and bipolar disorder are different diagnoses with different symptoms. Bipolar disorder causes mood swings but they last longer (weeks or months) and are less likely to be affected by external factors. In BPD, the mood swings are abrupt and frequent. However, in some cases, a bipolar and borderline personality disorder can be diagnosed in the same person.

7. “Stop being paranoid all the time”

Another phrase when it comes to things not to say to someone with BPD is this. Saying to someone with a borderline personality disorder that they are being paranoid can make them more paranoid. The best thing you can do to help your loved one with BPD paranoia is to reassure them and tell them how much you care about them. Be sensitive and supportive of their symptoms, not ignorant.

8. “You’re crazy”

Saying to someone with BPD that they are crazy is the worst possible thing. No one wants to hear this phrase when it comes to their mental health struggle. Never invalidate your loved one’s feelings. Someone with a borderline personality disorder is prone to feeling guilt, anxiety, and self-doubt but it’s not being crazy or egoistic.

9. “What caused your BPD?”

Asking or saying to someone with BPD what caused their disorder is one of the rudest phrases to say. Childhood abuse can be one of the causes of BPD so unless you know someone’s story, avoid using this phrase. Also, the causes of borderline personality disorder are still unclear so asking someone with BPD what caused their disorder can not only be rude but can also count as you being ignorant.

10. “You don’t have to tell others you have BPD”

What not to say to someone with BPD is to tell them about hiding their condition. There’s an intense stigma when it comes to borderline personality disorder but if you keep avoiding speaking about the disorder, the stigma will grow. These kinds of phrases also give birth to stereotypes which can be misleading. Avoid ignoring someone with borderline personality disorder and try to validate their feelings.

11. “It’s all in your head!”

It’s OK to talk about mental health disorders and saying “it’s all in your head” can be extremely patronizing to someone with a mental health disorder so avoid saying this to someone with a borderline personality disorder. Borderline personality disorder, along with other personality and mental health disorders, is real and not “in your head”. So when wondering about things not to say to someone with BPD, avoid this phrase.

12. “Try to be more positive”

Another one of the most patronizing phrases you can say to someone with BPD. Feeling positive can be helpful but for someone struggling with BPD, positivity can be almost impossible to find – even on the good days. The causes of BPD can be genetic, environmental, or a mix of both so telling someone with BPD to be positive can be counterproductive.

13.“You are overreacting”

People with BPD are often accused of having no emotional skin. Their emotions are raw and exposed and with such honest emotions, they feel everything – good and bad, very deeply. This might come across as overreaction while for someone with BPD it is just an honest expression of their feelings.

14.“You were happy a few hours ago!”

People with BPD experience frequent mood swings that can appear quite irrational to others. These mood swings can be triggered by small (seemingly trivial) things. From getting a slightly lower grade on homework or not passing an interview – little things can mean a lot to people with BPD, so avoid saying this phrase to them.

15.“Isn’t BPD impossible to recover from?”

Someone with BPD is often asked this question and while BPD can be hard to treat, it’s NOT impossible. There are many people with BPD who live relatively normal life. As their loved one, you should support them and encourage them to reach out to professionals instead of saying this to someone with BPD.

16.“I would never date someone with BPD”

People with BPD feel emotions deeply and this includes love and relationships. For someone with BPD, arguments are taken to heart and a lot of reassurances are to be given. Of course, the journey isn’t always easy but when truly in love, someone with BPD will give their all.

17.“You are just seeking attention”

As I’ve already mentioned above, people with BPD feel emotions deeply. They feel guilt, anxiety, fear, and self-doubt just like any other person. To others, the demands of a BPD person can look a lot like ego, however, in reality, their demands come from desperation and not from wanting attention.

18.“Do you think about self-harm? Have you tried it?”

This kind of question can be triggering and should be avoided at all costs. To someone with BPD, this question can be extremely difficult and uncomfortable. If someone is telling you about their disorder, then you need to give them space and let them talk about their issues at their pace. Pushing them to sate your curiosity is not OK.

19.“Everyone with BPD has a traumatic childhood”

While post-traumatic stress disorder can play a big role in developing a borderline personality disorder, there are many instances where PTSD or traumatic childhood is not a cause for BPD. Psychologists believe that BPD can be caused by various factors including genetics and environmental factors.

20. Lastly, Not Saying Anything

If you have a loved one with BPD, then you know that they won’t go to bed without resolving an argument. While you may casually dismiss their concerns, to them, it can be a source of great worry. So not saying anything is also a no-no when it comes to what not to say to someone with BPD. A simple, “It’s OK,” can also appease them. So be careful with your words (or lack thereof).

I hope these examples of what NOT to say to someone with borderline personality disorder help you take care during your next conversation with your loved one. For more, you can write to us at info@calmsage.com or DM us on social media.

 If you or someone you know needs help, you can connect to these suicide prevention helplines or connect with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1800-273-8255, and the Trevor Project at 1866-488-7386.

 Think we missed a phrase? Let us know in the comments below. Share this article with your friends and help them know what not to say to someone with BPD.

Take care!

About The Author

Swarnakshi Sharma
Swarnakshi Sharma

Swarnakshi is a content writer at Calm sage, who believes in a healthier lifestyle for mind and body. A fighter and survivor of depression, she strives to reach and help spread awareness on ending the stigma surrounding mental health issues. A spiritual person at heart, she believes in destiny and the power of Self. She is an avid reader and writer and likes to spend her free time baking and learning about world cultures.

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