Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD): Understanding BPD and how to Appropriately Respond to Provocations as a Loved One

Living with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) not only affects the individual, but those with whom they have formed a relationship. Relationships are present and strong, but experience more turbulence due to key symptoms of BPD such as: intense reactions, self- doubt, extreme idolization or devaluation, fear of abandonment, mood swings, risky behaviors, etc. There is no one “cause” of a personality disorder like BPD, but studies show that patients with BPD come from families of severe pathology leading to their provocative behavior patterns.

People with BPD engage in provocative behaviors like making wild accusations, over- the- top demands, threatening suicide, etc., all with the intention of being invalidated by their counterparts as they have been their whole life. They feel invalidated (which fuels self- doubts) when they evoke one of three reactions from their counterpart: anxious helplessness, anxious guilt, or overt hostility. If these reactions are displayed, their poor behavior is rewarded and will continue, and feelings of self- doubt are reaffirmed.

When someone with BPD makes a wild accusation, resist invalidating them while disagreeing with the accusation. If they say, for example, “I can tell you hate me,” you can reply with, “I’m sorry you feel that way. I wish there was something I could do that would convince you I love you.” Here, you are disagreeing with the accusation while validating their feelings, and not showing one of the craved reactions. Their poor behaviors are thus not rewarded and feelings of self- doubt are not reaffirmed. Further, simply listen and be attentive. People with BPD most likely grew up being invalidated so they want to feel cared about. When talking to someone with BPD, incorporate the counseling technique “reflection of feelings”. This is defined by interpreting one’s feelings based on their verbal and nonverbal cues. When you’re able to interpret someone’s feelings, it demonstrates that you are paying attention and care, which is of utmost importance to someone with BPD.

If you or someone you know is seeking therapy for a codependent relationship, please contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, please visit


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