Coping With Borderline Personality Disorder During COVID

What is Borderline Personality Disorder?

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a condition characterized by difficulties regulating emotion. This means that people who experience BPD feel emotions intensely and for extended periods of time, and it is harder for them to return to a stable baseline after an emotionally triggering event. This difficulty can lead to impulsivity, poor self-image, stormy relationships and intense emotional responses to stressors. Struggling with self-regulation can also result in dangerous behaviors such as self-harm (e.g. cutting).”

With an estimated 1.4% of the adult U.S. population diagnosed with BPD, the prevalence is relatively widespread. While that number may seem small, given the size of the U.S. population, over four million people have BPD in our country alone.

How have people with BPD been impacted by COVID-19?

 An individual with BPD has sporadic ups and downs often triggered by fear of, or perceived abandonment by loved ones, chronic feelings of emptiness or boredom, dissociative feelings, and impulsive behaviors, which can often include self-harm.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our nation’s collective mental health is staggering, with unprecedented unemployment rates, widespread restrictions on social and physical interaction, and drastic lifestyle changes, all leaving millions scrambling to adapt to a starkly adverse reality. With those implications comes a parallel and even greater sense of instability for those with existing mental illness, including BPD.

Those with BPD may be experiencing immense stress, anxiety, and helplessness during this time. While much of our population likely identifies with those keywords right now, those with BPD may experience heightened and sometimes debilitating versions of these states. With the fear of abandonment being a prominent characteristic of those with BPD, it is important that loved ones understand the impact that isolation may have on someone with this disorder. 

As with any other personality disorder, the current circumstances are primed to foster high tensions and relational discord, especially when sharing a household. BPD can manifest as irritability, dependency, and/or quick-changing moods, according to the National Education Alliance for Borderline Personality Disorder.

How can people with BPD and loved ones cope during COVID-19?

  • Compassion and understanding from loved ones is impactful when it comes to maintaining a relationship with someone who has BPD. This is a difficult time for everyone, so learning to channel validation and your own sense of humanity will pay off in all relationships regardless of a personality disorder. Those with BPD may have their own ways of coping that they’ve harnessed through therapy. It can be helpful to ask what works best for them in tense situations, or better yet, before those situations arise.

  • Mindful communication melds that compassion with a preventative mindset helps to avoid potential mood swings. This goes for both the individual with BPD as well as their loved ones. Operating on this level may take practice and can be taxing at times, but the more you do it, the more natural it becomes even during these unparalleled circumstances.

  • Emily R. Edwards, Ph.D., from the National Education Alliance for Borderline Personality Disorder, suggests “radical acceptance.” She says, “First, acknowledge your feelings about the situation. Is the situation stressful? Causing anxiety? Anger? Remind yourself that these feelings make sense given the situation you’re in. Next, focus your attention on the facts of the current situation. We can’t always change these facts – and we need to accept them anyway to be effective. Last, make the conscious decision to approach the situation from a place of openness. When you find yourself drifting back into fighting reality, choose radical acceptance again and again.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with Borderline Personality Disorder, it is important that you or your loved one seek professional treatment. The Collective is ready to talk through resources at 888.717.9355

Written by: S. Mishkin