Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a mental health condition characterized by emotional instability, impulsive behaviour, and difficulties with interpersonal relationships (National Institute of Mental Health, 2021). BPD can be challenging to manage, but there are evidence-based self-help techniques that can complement professional treatment and help improve overall well-being. Let’s discuss three self-help ideas for BPD, based on empirical evidence, which includes mindfulness practices, emotion regulation strategies, and building a support network.
Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations (Kabat-Zinn, 2003). Several studies have found that mindfulness-based interventions can be beneficial for individuals with BPD, by helping to improve emotional regulation, interpersonal effectiveness, and distress tolerance (Perroud et al., 2012; Neacsiu et al., 2018; Lavender et al., 2017).
One of the most well-known mindfulness-based therapies for BPD is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), developed by Marsha Linehan (Linehan, 1993). DBT combines mindfulness and cognitive-behavioural techniques to help individuals manage emotions, improve interpersonal relationships, and increase distress tolerance. While DBT is typically provided by trained professionals, incorporating mindfulness practices into one’s daily life can help to manage BPD symptoms.
Some mindfulness practices to try include:
- Mindful breathing: Focus on the sensation of your breath entering and leaving your nostrils, chest, or abdomen. Gently bring your attention to your breath whenever your mind wanders (Kabat-Zinn, 2003).
- Body scan meditation: Gradually move your attention through different body parts, noticing any sensations or tensions and allowing them to release (Kabat-Zinn, 2003).
- Mindful walking: Walk at a slow, deliberate pace, paying attention to each step and the sensations in your feet and legs (Kabat-Zinn, 2003).
Emotion Regulation Strategies
Emotion regulation refers to the ability to manage and respond to emotional experiences healthily and adaptively (Gross, 1998). Individuals with BPD often struggle with emotion regulation, contributing to impulsive behaviours and interpersonal difficulties (Linehan, 1993).
Cognitive reappraisal is an evidence-based emotion regulation strategy that involves changing thoughts about a situation to alter its emotional impact (Gross, 1998). For example, if someone with BPD becomes upset after receiving criticism, they might practice cognitive reappraisal by considering alternative explanations or viewing the situation as an opportunity for growth.
Another evidence-based strategy is opposite action, which involves acting contrary to the emotions one is experiencing to reduce their intensity (Linehan, 1993). For instance, if an individual with BPD feels overwhelmed with anger and has the urge to lash out, they could engage in a calming activity, such as deep breathing or listening to soothing music.
To practice emotion regulation, try the following:
- Journaling: Write down your thoughts and feelings to gain perspective and identify patterns in your emotional experiences (Pennebaker, 1997).
- Cognitive restructuring: Challenge and reframe negative thoughts by identifying cognitive distortions, such as all-or-nothing thinking or catastrophizing, and replacing them with more balanced perspectives (Beck, 1979).
- Opposite action: When experiencing intense emotions, engage in activities opposite to the emotion’s action urge (Linehan, 1993).
- Problem-solving: Break down complex or emotionally charged situations into smaller, manageable steps to help you navigate them more effectively (D’Zurilla & Nezu, 2007).
Building a Support Network
Social support has been found to be a crucial factor in the well-being and recovery of individuals with BPD (Gunderson & Links, 2008). Building a strong support network can provide emotional, informational, and practical assistance, helping individuals with BPD navigate challenges and maintain progress.
To build a support network, consider the following:
- Join a support group: Participate in local or online support groups specifically designed for individuals with BPD or related mental health conditions (National Alliance on Mental Illness, 2021).
- Reach out to friends and family: Share your experiences and needs with trusted friends and family members, and educate them about BPD to foster understanding and support (National Institute of Mental Health, 2021).
- Seek professional help: Engage with mental health professionals, such as therapists, psychiatrists, or psychologists, who are experienced in treating BPD and can provide guidance and resources (National Institute of Mental Health, 2021).
Borderline Personality Disorder can be a challenging condition to manage, but incorporating evidence-based self-help techniques, such as mindfulness practices, emotion regulation strategies, and building a support network, can complement professional treatment and contribute to improved well-being. Remember that these self-help ideas should be used in conjunction with professional treatment and support, as they are not a substitute for professional care.