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Dos And Don’ts For Living With Someone Who Has Borderline Personality Disorder

Dr. Phil’s podcast series, Phil in the Blanks: Toxic Personalities in the Real World, continues delving into borderline personality disorder, which Dr. Phil says is “the most stigmatized disorder of all.”

“One day, they’ll be full of vim and vigor, and confidence, and the next day, they’re wondering why they’re even in this world,” Dr. Phil says of the 18 million people affected by borderline personality disorder. “If you’re living with one of these people, there are a lot of dos and don’ts.”

This series addresses mental health disorders; how to recognize it, establish boundaries, and how to coexist with those in your life who may have it with tools and guidelines that can help minimize damage to oneself and loved ones.


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Take care of you: Get personal help or support because you have to take care of yourself. It's particularly important if you're living with someone that has borderline personality.

Use the two-way communication model when communicating: Use open-ended questions. You don't want to ask yes or no questions.

Ask for feedback: "Tell me what you hear me saying"

Take threats seriously:

If you or a friend or family member is experiencing suicidal thoughts or self-harming behaviors:

Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) toll-free at 1–800–273–TALK (8255), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The service is available to everyone. All calls are free and confidential. Contact social media outlets directly if you are concerned about a friend’s social media updates or dial 911 in an emergency. Learn more on the NSPL’s website.

Know your boundaries and assess your relationships: ask yourself who has borderline behavior in your life?

Write down the 10 key relationships in your life. Your best friends, your closest, co-workers, the siblings that you interact with the most, mother, father, spouse, etc.

Go down that list and see if anyone possess a lot of the characteristics of borderline personality disorder.

instability in personal relationships, intense emotions, poor self-image and impulsivity, fear of abandonment.

You have to decide if you are going to stand up for yourself and maintain healthy boundaries.


Take it personal

Get sucked into the blame game

Normalize their bad behavior

Allow your boundaries to be crossed

For more resources and guidelines:

National Education Alliance for Borderline Personality Disorder

Therapy for Caregivers and Family Members (Source: NIMH)

Families of people with borderline personality disorder may also benefit from therapy. Having a relative with the disorder can be stressful, and family members may unintentionally act in ways that worsen their relative's symptoms.

Some borderline personality disorder therapies include family members in treatment sessions. These sessions help families develop skills to better understand and support a relative with borderline personality disorder. Other therapies focus on the needs of family members to help them understand the obstacles and strategies for caring for someone with borderline personality disorder. Although more research is needed to determine the effectiveness of family therapy in borderline personality disorder, studies on other mental disorders suggest that including family members can help in a person's treatment.

What research is being done to improve the diagnosis and treatment of borderline personality disorder?

Research on borderline personality disorder is focusing on biological and environmental risk factors, with special attention on symptoms that may emerge at a young age. Researchers are conducting studies focused on adolescents at risk for borderline personality disorder to develop methods that help identify the disorder early. Borderline personality disorder research is also focused on the development and evaluation of psychotherapy and pharmacological interventions to prevent self-harming and suicidal behaviors, which occur at a high rate among people with borderline personality disorder.

How can I take part in clinical research?

Clinical trials are research studies that look at new ways to prevent, detect, or treat diseases and conditions, including borderline personality disorder. During clinical trials, treatments might be new drugs, new types of psychotherapy, new combinations of drugs, or new ways to use existing treatments. The goal of clinical trials is to determine if a new test or treatment works and is safe.

Although individual participants may benefit from being part of a clinical trial, participants should be aware that the primary purpose of a clinical trial is to gain new scientific knowledge so that others may be better helped in the future. Decisions about participating in a clinical trial are best made in collaboration with a licensed health professional.

To learn more about clinical trials, please visit NIH Clinical Trials and You ( To find a clinical trial, visit

Where Can I Find Help?

Mental Health Treatment Locator

For more information, resources, and research on mental illnesses, visit the NIMH website at The National Library of Medicine’s MedlinePlus website ( also has information on a wide variety of mental disorders.

For general information on mental health and to locate treatment services, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Treatment Referral Helpline at 1800662HELP (4357). SAMHSA also has a Behavioral Health Treatment Locator on its website ( that can be searched by location.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

Asking questions and providing information to your doctor or health care provider can improve your care. Talking with your doctor builds trust and leads to better results, quality, safety, and satisfaction. Visit the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality website for tips at

More information about finding a health care provider or treatment for mental disorders is available on our Help for Mental Illness webpage, available at