Has Anyone Dealt with a Person with Borderline Personality Disorder?

Updated on July 31, 2015
A.D. asks from Chicago, IL
14 answers

Found out recently that my daughter has borderline personality disorder, although the diagnosis is unofficial since she has not taken the "test" for it. I asked the therapist she has been seeing for over a year for a diagnosis earlier this month, she told me she thought my daughter had borderline personality disorder, but that most insurance companies don't cover treatment for it, however, they do cover treatment for depression and anxiety. The therapist suggested I look up information on borderline personality disorder and sure enough, I thought there should be a picture of my daughter: self-harm, thoughts of suicide (at one time she had a plan), enhanced sense of abandonment and dysphoria are only few of the many characteristics I read about. I thought there should be a picture of my daughter. I think she inherited borderline personality disorder from her father; he committed suicide 13 years ago, I think he inherited from his mother who was in and out of bad relationships, exposed him to abusive relationships.
I am not certain what to do half the time, walking on eggshells. I started seeing a therapist, but don't feel like it is helping since her schedule doesn't seem to fit with mine, working full-time. I actually changed jobs a couple of years ago (taking a huge pay cut) after my daughter’s depression sunk in (I was afraid to leave her alone) and I have been unhappy with my career change since.
My daughter is 18, just graduated high school, doesn't have a job or hasn't decided on a college. The mere mention of college and the conversation turns sour. For a lack of a better term the high school’s enthusiastic college/university philosophy, she attended had an adverse effect on her and her views on college as a scary place. I am okay with her putting off college but I don’t like the idea of her, in her room all day and all night. I thinking volunteering some place may help her self-esteem. I am trying to be patient but then again at what point am I enabling? My teenager is very aware of her "mental illness" but I am afraid she is going to let it define her. Not taking the prescribed medications is a problem. She is not aware of the borderline personality disorder since that might become a permanent crutch and there would be no desire for recovery. For example, she never learned to ride a bike because she didn’t have a father to teach her. She has polycystic ovarian syndrome that can be minimized by diet and exercise but she disregards this information. I talked to my therapist about borderline personality disorder; she said that therapists may not divulge the diagnosis to the patient since they might write off BPD behavior as acceptable, instead of trying to change. Weekly therapy appointments, appointments with her psychiatrist, medications (which I have to send reminders and coax) are part of the normal day to day.
Am I expecting too much of my daughter? Go to a community college, take 2 or 3 classes…get a part-time job or volunteer somewhere.

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So What Happened?

Yes, I'm guilty...I changed my post... Thank you those of you with kind and understanding words. Mental illness isn't something to take lightly. The time right after high school can be very scary since the question of what will I do for the rest of my life comes to mind. My daughter will continue with therapy and medications. I will read up on borderline personality disorder and will go to therapy myself. I've read and heard about recovery for BPD and hope there is such a thing. Otherwise, I will do everything I can to support my daughter.

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answers from Anchorage on

You need to have her assessed by a professional. People like to slap the borderline label on a lot of things that are not BPD (such as many self harm disorders ect). You can not look at a list on the computer and diagnose and form a treatment plan. If she does have BPD or any other mental illness that requires treatment (like bipolar ect) then she needs to get that under control before she starts to worry about college. Get her in to see a professional.

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answers from Columbia on


It's a very good resource. Better than asking here.

Telling a person with BPD that they have BPD is an exercise in futility. Persons with BPD are never the cause of their own problems. Everyone else and every other circumstance, in their minds, is at fault. They are but victims. "Poor me, I don't understand why this always happens to me," is their mantra.

The best thing you can do is to read up on managing your own codependent behaviors and ensure that you have good boundaries.

Read: "Stop Walking on Eggshells." and "Codependent No More." Both are excellent books.

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answers from Norfolk on

She's getting professional help - let them do their work.
Not everyone is destined for college whether they have issues or not.
If her education is done, then she needs a job.
At some point the professionals might recommend her for living in a half way house where she can learn some independence and how to manage on her own in a somewhat supervised situation.

Her condition is not a crutch.
She needs to learn how to cope with it.

You could probably benefit by a support group where you can discuss your experiences/concerns with others who are going through something similar.
You need to learn how to cope with this too.

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answers from Washington DC on

i have. and yeah, it involves the eggshell thing. i've been fortunate enough to not have it directly under my roof so i don't have experience dealing with the day-to-day managing of it, however.
it's difficult to deal with, as the BPD folks in my life tend to think that new people they meet are AMAZING, up on pedestals, can do no wrong, their new BFFs and the best thing since the wheel was invented. then when the paragon lets them down, as is inevitable since a 'let-down' can be something as simple as not returning a phone call quickly enough, it's a catastrophe, and the former superstars are relegated to the bowels of hell.
since i myself am incapable of dancing that hard all the time, my strategy is to be cheerful, loving and adamant about NOT doing the dance. to try and be honest in a positive fashion, but remain honest, and not accept either the accolades heaped upon me, nor the shocked outrage and hurt when i don't 'measure up.' nor will i indulge them in listening to the rapturous outpourings nor the furious denigration of the flavor/enemy of the week. i've tried what seemed reasonable to me- pointing out patterns and suggesting moderation, and it's been received.....well, very poorly. but that might be on me. tact isn't my strong suit.
but that's just my own coping techniques. i don't think i either help or harm my own BPD people, and as a parent, i know you're looking to help. i absolutely agree with you that the diagnosis is dangerous as it can easily tip over into a crutch, but it also sounds as if you're doing everything as right as can be done. the only other thing i might suggest would be counseling for YOU so that you can remain strong and calm, and not allow yourself to be sucked into the whirlwind of opposing emotions. it would hard NOT to when you're living with it.
good luck, hon.
ETA after reading the other responses, i realize that i glided over the 'unofficial' part of it. yeah, if she hasn't been diagnosed and you're just picking this off wikipedia, you're doing your now-adult daughter a huge disservice. if she has weekly therapy sessions, a psychiatrist, and meds, why are you diagnosing something the experts apparently haven't?

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answers from St. Louis on

The lady doth project too much me thinks.

You do realize you can only see the imperfections of others and not of yourself. Google that, okay. Your in laws are imperfect, your child is imperfect, everyone but you are imperfect.

At some point you need to address your mental issues or your daughter's goals will be get the hell away from mom at all costs. This means poor decisions and probably ending up with some douche bag for a husband that kind of reminds her of mom yet she doesn't know why

Here is the thing, I know I am projecting when I answered this. But as a child of a mentally ill mother I know what it feels like. That you would change your posts, over and over so that everyone sees you as perfect without any regard for how it makes others feel shows a very strong bit of narcissism in you. That you project this onto your daughter shows that you are the borderline, not your child. Well that and most borderlines are flaming narcissists.

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answers from Boston on

I think you have to give therapy and any medications a chance to work. You have to get counseling yourself to learn how to help implement the recommended therapies and find out how to support without enabling, how to have boundaries. I think forcing someone to deal with college if they aren't mentally or socially ready is difficult; same with holding a job. But that doesn't mean you let her run the show either, spending your life trying to avoid offending her. She's not stable right now, she may have mood swings, and until you fully understand those with expert help, you won't know how to proceed. The therapist should help you and her figure out what is expected of each of you, and what isn't. This can also change over time as she gets into a good behavioral program with strategies and successes/failures, and as medication kicks in or is adjusted.

Mental illness is not a crutch. It's an illness. Whether it responds or doesn't remains to be seen. If her therapist or doctor doesn't want to tell her the diagnosis, that's one thing. But you're saying it's "unofficial" so she's not in a position yet to take any action. She's 18 so I don't know that anyone has the right to withhold info from her, unless she's a danger to herself and others. I don't know why you think she wouldn't want to get better if she knew the name of her condition. For most people, the diagnosis is a relief because it means that what they have is real, it has a name, and it has a number of treatments. Most ill people don't really want to stay ill. If the professionals handling your daughter's case feel that she would want to stay sick forever, then work with them. If it's something you've come up with on your own, set that aside. I think working with those most familiar with your daughter's case would be more accurate and helpful than being on Wikipedia, "Dr. Google" or even a forum like this. Hearing others' stories can be helpful and empowering, so that's a good thing, but you can't make your decisions and gauge your actions/behaviors based only on what worked for another family.

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answers from Detroit on

This is quite the comprehensive post. I know it's difficult to compartmentalize an entire human being but I would like to make one specific point.

Personality disorders are not mental illnesses. They are listed in the DSM-V because often they are treatable by mental illness professionals, such as behavior modification techniques or biofeedback training. However, a personality disorder has to do with how a person percieves and responds to the world.

A mental illness is a brain based issue that includes a chemical imbalance component which is why they most often respond so readily to medication. Depression, anxiety and OCD are all examples of a mental illness.

A person can suffer from both simultaneously and I have no doubt she may be exhibiting signs of both. My best advice to you is to be very careful to define your terms and try to apply the best solution to each of her difficulties.

So, for example, you can find her a psychiatrist that can not only prescribe some appropriate medication (for her depression and suicidal ideation) but can also provide the talk therapy that will help her realign her perception of herself in this world and how the world affects her (to address the possible personality disorder).

Don't walk on eggshells. She may be 18 but you are still her first and foremost advocate. Take her into your arms, show her you're on her side and that she has a partner in you to unravel these revolving and competing issues she's suffering from and take as many proactive steps you can to demonstrate this to her.

My thoughts are with you and your daughter. :-) S.

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answers from Dallas on

Get this book:


My husband just finished a psych rotation for med school. I believe my SIL is BPD. The attending physician specifically recommended this book.

I just started the book so I can't offer more, but I hope it helps.

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answers from Portland on

I strongly, STRONGLY discourage you from suggesting a diagnosis to yourself or your daughter which hasn't been professionally sussed out. It would be a cruel thing to suggest. This is something she needs to work out with her therapist or psychiatrist.You need counseling as well. I have a borderline parent and personally, I'm puzzled that you would find your daughter's illness to be a 'crutch' for her, and that you are afraid a diagnosis would become a permanent crutch so you aren't going to tell a grown adult that she has something very real. There are some therapies which work for BPD folks, but YOU as the parents are also going to need help and support.

I'm also thinking that you need to get better information about mental illness. It is a real struggle, not a crutch, and that suggests a scary lack of compassion. It sounds like she needs some life skills, some space about college. Do you know the drop-out rate of college students experiencing mental illness? Here's an eye-opener:

My guess is that your daughter is turning sour because your expectations and desires aren't taking into consideration some very real limitations, even if only temporary. If she is having a hard time managing herself, you need to give her space and grace to start small. Baby steps. If you are constantly reminding her to take medications, she's not autonomous enough to start a stunning college career.

Lastly, between this question and your other one, I do have to wonder how realistic your expectations are. Having had my own borderline parent, she too felt I was under-achieving and just needed to 'get my act together'. These problems don't live in a vacuum; things would have been a lot better if I'd had her understanding and support as to my own challenges and why I was struggling. Please, try to find a compassionate space for her. My own parent remains untreated, thankfully, I do not have to deal with it any more. But mental illness (I suffered anxiety for years) is a very real struggle. To act like it's just a way to be lazy... well, lets just say there's no joy in that for anyone. I hope your daughter can get the help she needs and you can learn to parent her where she is in life.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

You do realize there is no recovery right? It's a mental illness that she will have the rest of her life, period. Meds will help stabilize her moods but if she decides to stop taking them she will be back to her regular personality.

She needs to do the therapy so she can learn the ins and outs of her mental illness and what to expect. She will need to work closely with her psychiatrist as to what meds she tries on the journey to weeding out the meds that don't work on her and finding the one or combination of meds that work best for her.

Borderline personality disorder is one of the hardest to be around. They swing from being nice to manipulating others and to yelling and screaming and bossing people around.

I hope you can go with your daughter to the therapist so YOU can learn to understand and help your daughter but in the process learn how to manage your reactions to her and how you plan to support her the rest of her life when she's off her meds and when she's on her meds and when she's hating life and when she's wanting to use you and wanting to do things that are bad for her.

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answers from Chicago on

It's hard to diagnose certain things, even if they sound identical.
At that age my son went through very similar things, and eventually joined the military. How many of us aren't somewhat confused after highschool? Oftentimes people feel lost. It is quite possible she has borderline personality disorder and it is also possible she just can't decide without getting flustered. I have another son who truly was diagnosed bipolar.
So: Here is something to tell her: to make a choice and don't look back since you can always get regrets. Of course you can start appointments, etc. but perhaps just push her-take her perhaps before she hits nineteen and put her in a free class our state has to determine what jobs are there or what her abilities there are. I am not sure where you are located, but if you look-start with state departments, libraries...etc there are classes free and other wise everywhere, to help direct her.

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answers from Minneapolis on

You don't mention if your daughter is getting any "assistance" i.e., county/state help. Because she is 18, your options are limited unless she agrees (but if she is "aware" she may agree), but perhaps check into having an assessment done for mental health services at the county level. They may be able to help her get housing, monthly subsidies, etc. Also, this would be a great place to start working on getting an "official" diagnosis - unofficial isn't going to help you or her.

You also need to decide how much you are willing to "help" your daughter. It is really tough - believe me, I know. On one hand, you know these kids are really unlikely to be independently successful, on the other, they reject your help left and right. Only you can decide on what your limits are and how much you are willing to do. If she made it all the way through high school and graduated without a transition program in place, chances are she is capable of living independently (but only you know if that is true).

I hope things work out - good luck.

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answers from Miami on

Your daughter's "diagnosis" is unofficial, and she is 'very aware of her "mental illness"'...? Why are you asking US if you're enabling if you have therapy appointments and psychiatric appointments for her? Why aren't you asking her therapist?

How does she have time for a job or college with all the therapy appointments?

Why don't you tell her that she has to get a job regardless of her issues? Tell her that she can't live at home as an adult unless she is either working or in school. That's what parents are supposed to do - push the fledglings out of the nest. She'd learn what it's like to have to be nice to people and you wouldn't have to walk on eggshells anymore.

She's done with high school. Tell her to get a plan or she will have to move out and THEN get a plan.

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answers from Springfield on

sounds like you want your daughter to just be normal. and thats not going to happen. talk to the drs and therapists. get a diagnosis, and get her any help that the state can offer. college isn't for everyone. and may only make her situation worse so don't press it.
she should be made aware of her diagnosis (if she is diagnosed with a personality disorder) if she chooses to use it as a crutch then so be it, she will find out what the real world has to offer, she may not like it and change, or she may like it and stay the same. she is legally an adult now so you will have to step back and let her find out things for herself.

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