How Having Borderline Personality Disorder Can Affect Your Friendships

The fear of being abandoned is a big part of BPD, and when the abandonment is both real and frequent, it has a devastating impact. Some people will end friendships and relationships because they think the other person is going to leave them. Even years later, this university experience haunts me.

I will never forget feeling unsafe and unwanted in the shared house I lived in, where people would stop talking as soon as I came into a room. If a friend does something to hurt me, I go into an animal self-protect mode. I try to keep myself safe by cutting people out of my life with the speed of Usain Bolt smashing the 100m. A common element of BPD behaviour is called ‘splitting’ or black and white thinking. It means that you tend to see people as either all good or all bad, without room for nuance or shades of grey.

In terms of friendships, you might make a connection very quickly, think someone is amazing and want to be their best friend and know everything about them. It feels as exciting as the first flush of a new romantic relationship to meet another person you think is wonderful and want to spend all your time with. However, these feelings can change as rapidly as they arrived. If the other person does something hurtful or fails to reciprocate in the friendship, it feels like they’ve betrayed you and you might cut them off entirely.

This is a particular risk if you’re asking someone to give more in the relationship than they are willing to. The mental health charity Mind lists having unrealistic expectations of people or contacting them very frequently as a difficult part of BPD. It’s easy to see how this might be overwhelming for someone right at the beginning of a friendship, particularly when they don’t know about the BPD diagnosis.

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