I’m sure you do everything you can for your friends — you help them through breakups, drag them out for a good time after work, and show up with pizza on moving day. But never is help (and understanding) more necessary than when a friend has borderline personality disorder (BPD).
The thing is, you might not even know they are suffering from a disorder. You may simply be convinced your friend is kinda dramatic, or kinda depressed. It may not seem like a big deal; simply part of their personalty. And yet true BPD symptoms are nothing to ignore. “BDP is a serious mental illness that manifests through personal relationships indicated by severe emotional dysregulation and instability,” says Dr. Michele Barton in an email to Bustle.
As a friend, you may take the brunt of your BFF’s instability, outbursts, and anger. As Barton says, “Unfortunately the closer you are to the BDP individual, the more likely you will be affect/effect by their behavior.” But look at the bright side — this puts you in the perfect position to be there for your friend, and offer as much help as possible. Does that sound like something you’re willing to do? Then keep an eye out for these signs your friend might have borderline personality disorder.
1. They Love You, Then They Hate You
Perhaps the biggest sign of BPD is a tendency towards mood swing-like behavior. “BPD individuals have a lot of trouble regulating their thoughts and feelings, often oscillating from extreme warmth and adoration to ice cold disdain,” says Barton. “One day you are the best friend they ever had and love you to pieces, the next day you are the worst person they ever met and hate every morsel of your being.”
2. They Are Incredibly Impulsive
A friend with BPD may show very little forethought when it comes to how he or she interacts with you. “The BPD individuals are very reactive and impulsive,” Barton explains. “There is little thought to the long-term consequences of their actions on themselves and those around them.” This can, of course, lead to conflicts and fights galore — none of which you’re likely to win.
3. Their Personality Is Always Shifting
People with BPD have a distorted senses of self, so don’t be shocked when your friend’s personality seems to shift with the wind. “The person doesn’t truly understand who he or she really is, so he or she tries on different behaviors,’ said Carol W. Berman, M.D., on HuffingtonPost.com. “It is not uncommon for them to be distant, authoritative, friendly or hostile with the same person in the same day.”
4. They Are Easily Enraged
Does your friend bubble over with rage, seemingly out of nowhere? According to Barton, this happens because your friend is trying likely looking to you for help regulating her emotions. When you can’t come through (and you can’t expect yourself to), she’ll likely become enraged that her needs aren’t being met. It really ends up being a “game” nobody can win.
5. They May Even Get Violent
Because your friend has a lot of emotional needs — most of which are unlikely to be met — then her rage is going to flow forth. And when it does, things can get violent. “[The] rage can be targeted inward or outward,” Barton says. “These reactions could include threats of physical violence, suicidal threats … [or] a depressive breakdown.” It can be quite scary for all involved.
6. They Are Super Needy
Everyone wants to be wanted, but your friend with BPD may takes it to a whole different level. “[They] may act overly needy when their support system is removed, even temporarily, such as when a close friend goes on vacation,” Berman said. Cue late night phone calls, and frantic attempts for attention.
7. They Complain About Feeling Empty
We all feel a little down at times, but your friend always seems to be swimming in the deepest depths of human emotion. He or she might complain about feeling empty, or like they “aren’t really there,” according to Berman. It all goes back to that missing sense of self.
8. They Drop A Lot Of Dough
Is your friend constantly dragging you out for shopping sprees, where he spends money like there’s no tomorrow? “Spending money carelessly and in excessive amounts is a risky and impulsive behavior that is characteristic of someone having an episode of borderline personality,” said Diana Rodriguez on EverydayHealth.com. If this is happens a lot, take it as a sign of a problem. ”
9. They Have Intense Romantic Relationships
It seems like every other day your friend is running to you with their latest relationship drama. In fact, you can’t remember a time when their relationships didn’t seem intense, or unstable. Such issues with partners can be a sign of borderline personality disorder, according to an article on HelpGuide.org.
10. They Abuse Drugs Or Alcohol
Lots of people like to go out for a drink. But we all know there’s that line between having fun, and having a problem — especially when drugs are involved. Abusing drugs and alcohol goes along with the aforementioned risky behavior. But it could also be an attempt for your friend to get some relief from their stress, according to Rodriguez.
11. They Have Tried To Hurt Themselves
While there are lots of reasons why people get upset to the point of wanting to hurt themselves, BPD is definitely one of them. If your friend is hurting herself, or threatening to do so, call 911 right away. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
You can also offer your help, even if it hasn’t gotten to this point. Barton says you can suggest support in a positive way. Your friend may be willing to see a therapist for DBT Dialectical Behavior Therapy, which has been indicated as the most effective treatment modality.