By Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) can seem like an enigma, even to family and friends, who are often at a loss for how to help. Many feel overwhelmed, exhausted and confused.

Fortunately, there are specific strategies you can use to support your loved one, improve your relationship and feel better yourself.

In Part 1 of our interview, Shari Manning, Ph.D, a licensed professional counselor in private practice who specializes in treating BPD, shares these effective strategies and helps readers gain a deeper understanding of the disorder.

Specifically, she reveals the many myths and facts behind BPD, how the disorder manifests and what mistakes loved ones make when trying to help.

Manning also is Chief Executive Officer of the Treatment Implementation Collaborative, LLC, and author of the recently published book Loving Someone with Borderline Personality Disorder. (It’s a must-read!)

Q: What are the most common myths about borderline personality disorder (BPD) and how it manifests?

Q: What mistakes do you see loved ones make when trying to deal with someone with BPD?

Family members often try to encourage their loved one but inadvertently invalidate them and increase their emotional arousal. For example: the person with BPD says, “I am a terrible person” after seeing hospital bills from a suicide attempt. The family member responds, “No, you’re not a bad person.” The contradiction makes the person with borderline personality disorder more distressed.

Instead, try acknowledging the feelings/thoughts behind the statement then moving into something else. Say instead, “I know that you feel badly about how you acted and that makes you think you are a bad person.”

Another error is that family members give the person with BPD more care and attention when they are in crisis and then withdraw when they are not. This may inadvertently reinforce the crisis behavior and punish non-crisis behavior.

Q: In your book, you discuss the importance of gaining a deeper understanding of how BPD manifests so loved ones know what to expect and don’t feel so lost. You also note that Dr. Marsha Linehan, the founder of dialectical-behavior therapy, classified the disorder into five areas of dysregulation. Can you briefly describe these categories?

Q: You say that BPD, at its core, is an emotional problem. Why are people with BPD so much more emotional than others?

Our emotional sensitivity is something that is hardwired into us. Some people are more emotional than others. People with BPD are usually among the most emotionally sensitive people. Anyone who is emotionally sensitive must have skills to regulate those intense emotions. Skills are learned not hardwired.

In Part 2 of How to Help a Loved One with Borderline Personality Disorder, Manning discusses how to help defuse your loved one’s intense emotions, how to handle a crisis, what to do if your loved one refuses treatment and much more.