Borderline personality disorder (BPD) can cause strains on relationships due to certain traits and behaviors it can involve. Saying no to someone with BPD can be difficult, but certain strategies can help.

BPD is a mental health condition that affects a person’s ability to manage their emotions. The loss of control over emotions can negatively affect a person’s relationships.

It can be difficult for others to say no to a person with BPD. However, some strategies can help with communication and make it easier to say no.

This article lists and explains strategies for saying no to a person with BPD. It also discusses how BPD can affect relationships.

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The difficulty with emotional regulation that occurs in BPD can cause strain in relationships. As in any relationship, setting boundaries is important. BPD can make this difficult because someone who has BPD may find it hard to understand the other person’s point.

It may also be difficult to communicate in a way that does not trigger a BPD episode, especially when saying no.

A person can use certain strategies to ease communication and make it less of an issue to say no to someone with BPD.

Acknowledge their feelings

When speaking with someone who has BPD, it is important to try to understand where they are coming from and their viewpoint. A person with BPD can have various thoughts and feelings all at once and may find it difficult to express them.

This can make it difficult for people to understand each other’s feelings. One way to help is to acknowledge the person’s feelings, emotions, and thoughts. Let them know that their point is clear, and do so in a caring and patient manner.

Be clear, not vague

It is important for a person to be clear in their instructions and boundaries when interacting with someone with BPD. They should let the person know that they are not trying to push them away but that boundaries are good for one’s own health.

A person should be clear and vocal about their point of view in a way that leaves no room for confusion.

Keep calm

Saying no and setting boundaries may trigger a BPD episode. If this happens, it is important to stay calm. This can help prevent the situation from escalating. When interacting with someone with BPD, it is important to make them feel valued by listening to them and to validate their feelings, not their behaviors.

Learn about BPD triggers.

Try not to brush them off

People with BPD often worry that people will leave them and they will be alone. They fear they will push people away.

It is a good idea not to brush them off if they ask to have a conversation. Allow them to talk and help them feel valued and secure. This may make it easier when an occasion for saying no arises.

BPD is a mental health condition that affects a person’s ability to manage their emotions. Someone with BPD may experience intense mood swings. They may also feel uncertain about how they see themselves.

Other symptoms of BPD include:

  • a pattern of unstable and intense relationships with family, friends, and loved ones
  • an effort to avoid real or perceived abandonment, including quickly entering or ending relationships
  • a distorted sense of self and self-image
  • self-harming behavior
  • highly variable and intense moods, which can last a few hours to a few days
  • impulsive and dangerous behaviors such as substance misuse, reckless driving, and binge eating
  • difficulty controlling anger
  • thoughts of suicide and suicidal behavior

Suicide prevention

If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:

  • Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
  • Listen to the person without judgment.
  • Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
  • Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
  • Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects if it’s safe to do so.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 988. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can use their preferred relay service or dial 711 then 988.

Find more links and local resources.

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Not everyone with BPD will experience the same symptoms. The severity and duration of episodes also varies between individuals.

Learn more about BPD.

People with BPD experience emotions intensely. It can be difficult for them to return to a stable baseline after experiencing an event that is emotionally triggering. This is one way BPD can put a strain on relationships.

The authors of a 2022 review discuss another way BPD can affect relationships. They explain that someone with BPD will often have a favorite person, whom they grow heavily attached to and depend on. A favorite person can be a family member, a friend, or a romantic or life partner.

Someone with BPD can become more obsessed with their favorite person as their emotions grow increasingly uncontrollable. This can make the favorite person want to quit trying to fulfill the needs of the person with BPD and stop being responsible for meeting their expectations. This can lead to the end of the relationship.

BPD can also cause a person’s feelings toward other people to change quickly. This often includes swinging from extreme closeness to dislike. These swift changes can lead to emotional pain and unstable relationships.

Read more about how BPD can affect relationships.

The following are answers to some questions people frequently ask about BPD.

What happens when you reject someone with BPD?

Real or perceived rejection can trigger a BPD episode in many people who have the condition. An episode can involve extreme mood swings and anger.

How do you respond to someone with BPD?

There are various ways a person can respond to someone with BPD and help them. These include being patient, staying calm, and not being judgmental.

BPD can cause a person to have difficulty managing their emotions. This can lead to mood swings and issues controlling their anger.

BPD can strain relationships because a person with this condition may not be able to express and manage their moods and emotions.

There are various ways a person can say no to someone with BPD. These include being clear and concise, staying calm, and acknowledging the person’s feelings and thoughts.