If you have a loved one with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), you may have found yourself in the role of the BPD Favorite Person. This means that you are the person that the individual with BPD identifies as their most important support and source of emotional validation. While this can be a rewarding and meaningful role, it also comes with unique challenges and responsibilities.
Through my time as a mental health nurse, I often saw how stigmatized people with BPD were by fellow patients and professionals alike. It’s a difficult condition to manage and equally difficult condition to support too. In this article, I want to shed some light and explore what it means to be a BPD Favorite Person and three main ways to support your loved one through their mental health journey with compassion.
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Understanding Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a complex mental health disorder that affects approximately 1.6% of the population in the United States, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. It is a condition that is marked by intense and unstable emotions, impulsive behaviors, and a fear of abandonment.
People with BPD often struggle with regulating their emotions and may experience extreme mood swings that can last for hours or even days. They may also have difficulty forming and maintaining stable relationships, and may engage in impulsive behaviors such as substance abuse, binge eating, or self-harm.
Key symptoms of BPD
While the symptoms of BPD can vary from person to person, there are some key symptoms that are commonly associated with the disorder. These include:
- Intense mood swings
- Black-and-white thinking
- Fear of abandonment
- Unstable relationships
- Impulsive behaviors (such as self-harm or substance abuse)
- A distorted sense of self
It’s important to note that not everyone with BPD will experience all of these symptoms, and that the severity of symptoms can vary greatly between individuals.
The role of a BPD Favorite Person
The “Favorite Person” is a term used in the BPD community to describe the person that an individual with BPD relies on for emotional support and validation. This person often becomes the primary source of stability in the face of chaotic emotions and conflicted relationships.
For someone with BPD, the Favorite Person is more than just a close friend or family member – they are often seen as a lifeline like a romantic partner. The individual may become obsessed with their Favorite Person, constantly seeking reassurance and validation from them. They may also become extremely anxious or upset if they feel that their Favorite Person is pulling away or abandoning them.
It’s important to note that the concept of the Favorite Person is not recognized by mental health professionals as an official symptom or diagnosis of BPD. However, it is a common experience reported by many individuals with the disorder.
If you or someone you know is struggling with BPD, it’s important to seek professional help. With the right treatment and support, it is possible to manage the symptoms of BPD and lead a fulfilling life.
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(1) Establishing a strong emotional connection
If you want to become a BPD Favorite Person, or happen to have been automatically chosen, the first step is to establish a strong emotional connection with your loved one. This can be challenging, but with patience, understanding, and compassion, it is possible to build a deep and meaningful bond that can withstand the ups and downs of life.
One way to establish a strong emotional connection is through active listening and empathy. This means giving your loved one your full attention, showing that you care about what they have to say, and empathizing with their emotions. By doing so, you can create a safe and supportive space where they feel heard, understood, and validated.
Active listening and conditional empathy
Active listening involves paying attention to what your loved one is saying, both verbally and non-verbally. It means avoiding distractions, such as your phone or other devices, and focusing solely on the conversation at hand. By doing so, you can pick up on subtle cues, such as changes in tone or body language, that can help you better understand their emotions.
Empathy involves putting yourself in your loved one’s shoes and imagining what it must be like to experience their emotions. It means acknowledging their feelings and showing that you care about their well-being. By doing so, you can create a sense of trust and mutual understanding that can help strengthen your emotional connection.
For example, if your loved one is experiencing intense emotions, you might say “It sounds like you’re going through a really tough time right now. I’m here for you and I want to help in any way I can.”
Validating their feelings consistently
Validation is a crucial part of building a strong emotional connection with someone who has BPD. Because individuals with BPD often struggle with intense and difficult emotions, it can be helpful for them to hear that their feelings are valid and understandable.
Try to acknowledge and validate their feelings, even if you don’t necessarily agree with their perspective. You might say “I can understand why you feel that way, it makes sense given what you’ve been through.” By doing so, you can help them feel heard and validated, which can go a long way towards building a stronger emotional bond.
Encouraging regular open communication
Encouraging open communication is another important way to establish a strong emotional bond with your loved one. This means creating a safe and non-judgmental space where they can share their thoughts and feelings without fear of rejection or criticism.
You might say “I’m here to listen whenever you need to talk, and I won’t judge you for how you’re feeling. Let’s work together to find healthy ways to cope.” By doing so, you can help them feel supported and encouraged to express themselves, which can help strengthen your emotional connection over time.
Remember, building a strong emotional connection takes time, patience, and effort. But by actively listening, validating their feelings, and encouraging open communication, you can create a deep and meaningful bond with your loved one that can withstand the challenges of BPD.
(2) Setting healthy boundaries
While it’s important to establish a strong emotional bond with your loved one, it’s also important to set healthy boundaries in your relationship. Setting boundaries can help you maintain a healthy relationship and prevent you from becoming overwhelmed or burned out.
Here are some tips for setting healthy boundaries:
Knowing your own limits first
Recognize your own limitations and take care of your own mental health needs as well. It’s important to prioritize your own well-being and set boundaries around activities or conversations that may be triggering or emotionally draining for you.
For example, if your loved one tends to become emotionally intense during certain conversations, it’s okay to say “no” if you need to take a break or set boundaries around those topics.
Communicating your boundaries clearly
Communicate your boundaries clearly and assertively, while also being compassionate and understanding towards your loved one’s needs. It can be helpful to explain why you are setting a particular boundary, so that your loved one understands that it’s not a personal rejection.
For example, you might say “I can’t keep talking about this topic right now, but I’m here for you and we can talk more about it later.”
Maintaining consistency in your relationship
Consistency is key in a relationship with someone who has BPD. Try to maintain a consistent and predictable routine when spending time with your loved one, and be reliable and dependable in your support.
It can be helpful to establish clear expectations around communication and time spent together, so that both you and your loved one feel respected and valued in the relationship.
Remember, setting boundaries is not a sign of weakness or lack of love. It’s a necessary step in maintaining a healthy and fulfilling relationship with your loved one.
(3) Supporting their mental health journey
Living with borderline personality disorder (BPD) can be a challenging experience for both the person with the disorder and their loved ones. If you have a loved one with BPD, it’s important to understand the disorder and how you can support them in their mental health journey.
Borderline personality disorder is a mental health condition that affects the way a person thinks and feels about themselves and others. People with BPD often experience intense and unstable emotions, have difficulty with interpersonal relationships, and struggle with self-image and self-worth.
If you have a loved one with BPD, it’s important to remember that they are not defined by their disorder. They are a whole person with unique strengths and qualities, and with the right support, they can manage their symptoms and lead a fulfilling life.
Encouraging professional help
If your loved one is struggling with their symptoms, it’s important to encourage them to seek professional help. Therapy can be an effective treatment for BPD, and there are many therapists who specialize in working with people with this disorder. Encourage your loved one to talk to their doctor or mental health professional about their options.
It’s important to approach this conversation with sensitivity and empathy. Let your loved one know that you are there to support them, and that seeking professional help is a sign of strength, not weakness.
Being patient and understanding
Supporting someone with BPD can be challenging and emotionally draining at times. People with BPD may experience intense emotions, mood swings, and difficulty with interpersonal relationships. It’s important to be patient and understanding, and to avoid becoming frustrated or resentful towards your loved one.
One way to support your loved one is to practice active listening. This means being fully present and engaged in the conversation, and validating their feelings and experiences. You can also learn more about BPD and its symptoms to better understand what your loved one is going through.
Celebrating their progress
Finally, it’s important to celebrate your loved one’s progress and successes along their mental health journey. Recovery from BPD is a process, and it’s important to recognize the hard work and courage that your loved one shows in managing their symptoms.
You can celebrate your loved one’s progress in many ways, such as acknowledging their accomplishments, expressing your pride and admiration, and offering words of encouragement and support.
Becoming a BPD Favorite Person is a complex and rewarding process. By establishing a strong emotional connection, setting healthy boundaries, encouraging professional help, being patient and understanding, and celebrating their progress, you can be a source of stability and validation for your loved one with BPD.