When Borderline Personality Disorder Begins Affecting Your Friendships

Borderline personality disorder is a severe mental illness marked by unstable mood, difficulties with behavior, and problems functioning. There are nine possible symptoms of borderline personality disorder, but one only needs to meet five of the symptoms to be diagnosed with the illness. This means that there are two hundred and fifty-six possible variations of the disorder, making the illness appear quite different from person to person.

However, one commonality that tends to show up across all variations of borderline personality disorder is a difficulty maintaining healthy relationships. In my personal experience with borderline personality disorder, I have found that my fear of abandonment plays a large part in the turmoil that I experience in my relationships. If I don’t receive an answer to a message or call right away, or if I can see that someone read my message but didn’t respond, I struggle deeply with feelings of abandonment that lead to anger and intense fear – and sometimes instances of suicidal ideation. I often find myself acting out of these emotions by unloading my fear and anger onto the other person, and subsequently pushing them away so that I feel like I have some control over the situation.

Unfortunately, my actions sometimes cause me to lose those who are close to me. The pain I experience from the fear of abandonment causes me to purposefully push away those in my life because I often feel like I would rather be alone than experience the pain from trying to maintain healthy relationships. However, this is something that I am actively working on, even though it is a constant work in progress.

Most of the time, when it comes to relationship problems with those who have borderline personality disorder, I find that romantic relationships are the only form of relationships that are openly discussed. While it is true that it can be difficult for those with borderline personality disorder to maintain healthy romantic relationships, friendships can be just as challenging – if not more. We rely on friendships for social support; but in my experience, we can often become too attached which can cause difficulties with maintaining healthy friendships. Sometimes I tie my self-worth to my friendships, and if I feel abandoned, my thoughts of myself can become extremely low.

One of the best ways to improve our friendships is to have an idea of what the other person can do to support us or at least understand our actions. I have friends who will often ask me how they can support me, and I have tried to learn ways to answer them by providing them with ways on how they can better understand what I am experiencing. I have also found dialectical behavior therapy to be beneficial in helping me communicate my feelings better with my loved ones, rather than lashing out, to help me have productive conversations about what I am experiencing.

Learning how to better navigate our friendships and verbalize to our loved ones how we are feeling is a process that we frequently need to practice. If you are a loved one of someone with borderline personality disorder, I would highly encourage you to be patient with your loved one and try to reassure them that you will not abandon them. Ask them what you can do to better support them and invite them to express how they are feeling.

If you have borderline personality disorder and are trying to manage your friendships better, I will invite you to jot down some ideas on how your friends can better support you. Try to verbalize how you are feeling with them to help them better understand your experience and inspire empathy. Maintaining healthy friendships is a process of trial and error, so try to be kind to yourself and remain patient. What you are feeling and experiencing is okay, and it will just take time to understand your symptoms and improve your social skills.

Friendships are a vital part of life, but having borderline personality disorder can deeply impact how one is able to maintain social relationships and the emotions that go along with them. We tend to experience emotions more intensely, and pain is often something that we experience in conjunction with our friendships if we feel as though we are being abandoned. Patience is key when learning how to express our emotions, and if we can verbalize to our loved ones how they can better support us, the better our relationships can be.

Published by Ashley Nestler, MSW

Ashley Nestler, MSW is a survivor of Schizoaffective Disorder, Quiet Borderline Personality, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, multiple eating disorders, and Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Ashley has dedicated her life to educating others on mental health and illness, as well as providing online resources for those who may experience barriers when seeking help for their mental health. Ashley is also the author of "Beautiful Nightmare", "Into The Fog", and "Behind Broken Glass Walls". Her short stories and horror poems have been published in various anthologies. She is an educator on writing and loves to help authors through her book critiques and reviews.

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