Learn / Resources for Healing From Borderline Personality Disorder
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is hugely stigmatized, and not well understood by the general public. There are many resources for the loved ones and family members of people with BPD. But if you’re the one living with this condition, it can be hard to get the help you need—and deserve.
BPD is a serious mental illness, not a personal failing. You are not to blame for your symptoms. That said, you are responsible for your own recovery process. It’s not all on you, though. You can and should get expert support. You might even attend rehab for BPD. And even before you start treatment, these resources can empower you to start healing.
As the name says, BPD is in a class of mental illnesses termed “personality disorders.” But, according to psychiatric researchers at Monash University, the name is harmfully inaccurate. “Rather than as a personality disorder,” they write, “BPD is better thought of as a complex response to trauma.1 It’s time we changed its name.”
BPD is defined by 9 diagnostic criteria.2 If you exhibit 5 or more of these symptoms, you might have BPD. Unlike some other mental illnesses, a lot of the criteria are behavioral, and not just internal. For example, the first item on the list is “frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment.” Even with treatment, your fear of abandonment might never go away. But you can learn to manage that fear, instead of acting out and damaging your relationships.
This has powerful implications. In short, it means that it’s possible to recover from BPD.3 In one study, “slightly more than one-half the patients with BPD achieved recovery” in the long term. Experts note that there is always a risk of relapse. You may need ongoing therapy or other treatment to stay in remission. Wherever you are in your healing journey, you can use a variety of tools to support your mental health.
There are several workbooks designed to help people living with borderline personality disorder. You can even go through some of these on your own. Others are more advanced, and can be very triggering if you don’t have expert support. Talk to your therapist about which ones are right for you, right now. As you work through these books, try to be gentle with yourself. You don’t need to move quickly, or prove you’re a “good student.” Instead, think about gradually integrating these ideas into your daily life. Move forward slowly and sustainably, instead of going so fast that you fall.
This book is a great introduction to recovery from borderline. It contains worksheets, case studies, and in-depth descriptions of the diagnosis. If you’ve just been diagnosed, these materials to learn about your recovery options.
Dialectical behavior therapy, or DBT, is a therapy designed to help people with BPD. DBT is structured like a class, with group sessions and homework assignments. You may also see a 1:1 therapist. This is the latest edition of the textbook that most DBT groups use. If you’re planning to start DBT soon, it might be helpful to flip through the book on your own beforehand. But don’t dive in too deep. Instead, wait for your therapist to guide you through the assignments.
This is an advanced workbook. If you’re already working with a therapist to treat your BPD, you can ask whether they think it would be helpful. The subject matter can be triggering, especially if you’re new to this diagnosis. But if you’ve been in recovery for some time, these insightful worksheets can take your healing process to the next level.
With a therapeutic deck of cards, it’s easy to integrate mental wellness into your daily routine. Each deck contains bite-sized tips and activities, founded in a specific healing modality. You might try drawing a new card every morning, and thinking about it throughout the day. Or, you can keep the deck on hand, and shuffle through it whenever you need support. This format makes recovery more accessible, even on days when you don’t speak to your therapist.
This is a companion deck to the workbook by the same authors. It’s organized into 4 suits, which correspond to the 4 modules of DBT:3 mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, emotion regulation, and distress tolerance. Each card describes an activity you can do to practice your DBT skills.
This deck uses the same 4 modules of DBT, and it adds a 5th: Dialectics. In that suit, you’re asked to hold 2 opposing ideas in your mind at the same time. For example, one card reads: “Think about someone’s ideas or perspectives that are disagreeable to you. Now find the kernel of truth in those ideas or perspectives from that person’s vantage point. Is there a middle ground between the extremes?”
The second edition of Pederson’s DBT deck contains even more ideas and activities for people living with BPD.
If you learn best by reading, you might want to check out these books about mental health. And you don’t only have to read about borderline personality disorder. In fact, learning too much about BPD too fast can interfere with your healing process. A lot of information can be triggering, especially if it perpetuates stigma. If you’re just starting your recovery journey, they can wait. Instead, you might want to start with more practical guides to improving your daily life. And of course, if your therapist recommends you read more about BPD, there’s always more to learn.
Written by a psychotherapist, this book is based on the principles of acceptance and commitment therapy (or ACT, pronounced like the word “act”). Harris teaches that you can live a meaningful life when you stop trying so hard to be happy. The pressure to achieve some imaginary goal can actually get in your way. You’ll also learn about mindfulness exercises, which can be especially helpful for people for people with BPD.
There’s a difference between codependency and borderline personality disorder,4 but they often co-occur. According to BPD specialist Dr. Daniel Fox, ““Those with BPD are at a high likelihood to have dependency and codependent traits.” This book is considered the gold standard for recovery from codependency. But it’s rooted in the principles of 12-Step recovery, which aren’t a great fit for everyone. Specifically, the author writes from a spiritual perspective, often referencing a Christian higher power. The practical tools in this text might still be helpful, even if you don’t share those beliefs.
It can be hard to find respectful representations of people with borderline. And there are all too many movie villains who exhibit BPD symptoms. When you’re entering recovery, it’s best to avoid these harmful narratives. Fortunately, there are a few examples of main characters who are actively trying to heal from this serious condition.
Don’t let the title fool you. In fact, the writers use it as a tool to highlight the stigma against BPD. The main character, Rebecca Bunch, often talks about how hurtful it is to be referred to this way. The series begins before her diagnosis, and follows her through a mental health crisis and early recovery. Critics agree that Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is a deeply empathetic look at life with borderline personality disorder. This is a fictional portrayal of BPD, and it certainly won’t resonate with everyone. (Especially if you don’t like musical theater.)
In her memoir, Gelder fearlessly confronts some common experiences of people with BPD. First, she describes the instability of life before her diagnosis. Her healing journey is non-linear, with bouts of therapy, remission, and relapse. Her self-compassion may be inspiring for people just starting to think about recovery.
Therapy is an essential part of healing from many mental illnesses. Borderline is no exception. And since BPD is often related to childhood trauma,5 healing can be complex. While you’re learning new skills, you may also have to work through painful memories. But with the right support, healing can be empowering—and even joyful.
Not every therapist is qualified to treat people with BPD. If you’re just getting started, look for a provider with experience in some of these areas:
If you have BPD, it’s important to take your recovery seriously. With the right support, you can absolutely go into remission. And you can go on to live a full and meaningful life. In time, the criteria for this diagnosis might not even fit you any more.
But healing isn’t simple. And a lot of your work in therapy will center around learning to accept contradictions. One of these is: you are doing your best, and you can learn to do better. Living well is hard work, but it’s worth it. And there are plenty of resources to help you get started.
Reach out to a rehab center that treats BPD to learn more about their types of therapy, pricing options, aftercare programs, and more.
Reviewed by Rajnandini Rathod
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