How To Overcome Trauma From Dating Someone With BPD
Breakups are hard.
This is especially true when that breakup leaves you unable to trust your own judgment.
But that is exactly what can happen when you leave a relationship that is inherently chaotic and unstable.
If you’ve recently ended a BPD relationship, you might be wondering what to do next. How do you overcome the trauma of dating someone with BPD?
The first step is knowing you are not alone. There are people out there who’ve been where you’re at and made it through, which is my hope for you as well.
We’ll talk about the dynamics of BPD relationships and how you can start the healing process and learn to trust again.
- What is Borderline Personality Disorder?
- How Your Ex With BPD May Act During a Breakup:
- What Does The Makeup/Breakup Cycle Look Like When Dating Someone With BPD?
- Can I develop PTSD from dating someone with BPD?
- Why Are BPD Relationships So Hard To Move Past?
- Overcoming The Trauma From Dating Someone With BPD:
- You Can Rebuild Yourself and Your Life:
What is Borderline Personality Disorder?
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a serious mental health disorder that affects roughly 5 million Americans every year.
BPD is characterized by a pattern of instability in moods, behavior, and self-image, with symptoms that often appear before age 20. It can occur as early as childhood but usually begins by late adolescence or early adulthood.
What causes someone to develop Borderline Personality Disorder?
Borderline Personality Disorder is thought to have a strong genetic component.
It can also result from traumatic life events like abuse or neglect. There is also some research that suggests that differences in brain structure and function may contribute to BPD symptoms.
Lastly, there may be social and cultural influences at play. Children of BPD parents can also inherit some of their parents’ emotional difficulties even if they do not develop BPD themselves.
For example, if they were raised by a parent who had trouble controlling their emotions and impulsivity, they may have inherited some of those traits themselves, even if they don’t have a formal diagnosis of BPD.
No matter the reason, it’s important to understand their behavior is not a result of anything you’ve done.
How do I know if my ex had Borderline Personality Disorder?
Did your ex have an official BPD diagnosis, or are you wondering if they may have undiagnosed BPD?
In either case, it’s likely you experienced some behaviors commonly associated with BPD and are wondering how to overcome that experience.
People with BPD may have trouble regulating emotions, controlling impulses, and trusting others. While these symptoms may sound similar to other mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety, they are distinct.
If your ex checks off multiple symptoms from this list, they may be living with borderline personality disorder:
- Extreme mood swings
- Impulsive behavior
- Explosive anger
- Self-harm or suicidal thoughts
- Fear of being alone
- Difficulty trusting others (even their partner)
It’s important to note that many people living with BPD act this way out of a deep-rooted fear of abandonment or chronic feelings of emptiness.
It’s equally important to note that you can’t fix these issues for them. So much of our trauma from BPD relationships is rooted in self-blame.
What did I do to cause this? Could I have behaved differently? Did I trigger this?
The answer is “no.”
But there’s still a lot of healing that needs to be done.
We’ll start by understanding some potentially alarming behavior that occurred during your breakup and relationship cycle more broadly.
How Your Ex With BPD May Act During a Breakup:
People with BPD can exhibit behaviors during breakups that are confusing or even frightening to their partner.
These behaviors can include manipulation, guilt-tripping, blaming, and threats of self-harm or suicide. They may also lash out verbally or physically when they feel hurt or threatened.
While these behaviors can be intimidating, it’s important to remember that they stem from fear and insecurity rather than malicious intent. It doesn’t excuse their behavior, but it does provide important context.
What Does The Makeup/Breakup Cycle Look Like When Dating Someone With BPD?
Relationships with people who suffer from BPD can often be volatile. This is largely due to their difficulty regulating their emotions, which leads them to act out in extreme ways—such as lashing out or withdrawing completely—to cope.
The makeup/break-up cycle in BPD relationships looks different for everyone but generally consists of extreme highs and lows.
For example, people with BPD exes often report extreme love bombing one day and the next, being inundated with accusations of not caring or loving them. This rollercoaster of emotions can leave both people feeling exhausted and confused.
BPD partners tend to cycle through periods of idealization and devaluing, leaving their partners feeling discarded along the way.
Some partners have described the initial honeymoon phase as “being loved more than I’ve been loved in life,” only to have their BPD partners reject and devalue them soon after, often without warning.
This leaves non-BPD partners feeling confused, unloved, and unable to make sense of what happened.
As soon as they get the sense to move on, the BPD love bomb cycle begins again.
Can I develop PTSD from dating someone with BPD?
The short answer? Yes!
It is possible for someone to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from dating someone with BPD.
This happens when the relationship has been particularly tumultuous or when your partner has exhibited abusive behavior such as gaslighting or manipulation.
These experiences can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, insomnia, flashbacks, nightmares, and more, all of which are symptoms of PTSD.
Why Are BPD Relationships So Hard To Move Past?
Ending a relationship with someone with Borderline Personality Disorder can be difficult and traumatic. BPD relationships are often intense, filled with conflicting emotions, and characterized by frequent arguments and breakups.
After the breakup, you may enter a (short-lived) honeymoon phase, only to be hurled back into chaos and dysfunction.
It’s hard for a lot of people to get off this rollercoaster.
This can be especially true for people who know their partners have BPD and thus disconnect the person from the behavior in ways that makes them stick around in a clearly abusive relationship.
The other factor that makes BPD relationships so hard to get over is the “trauma bond” that forms between two people when they are in an unstable and unhealthy relationship.
A trauma bond is an emotional attachment that develops between two people due to shared experiences of fear, stress, or pain.
This bond can make it difficult for both partners to let go of each other, even when the relationship is damaging or unhealthy for one or both parties involved.
The good news? Those trauma bonds can be healed.
Overcoming The Trauma From Dating Someone With BPD:
The most important thing to understand about a relationship with someone who has BPD is that their behavior is not your fault.
There are online groups and forums full of people who have walked in your shoes. A good first step is to connect with people who know what you’ve been through.
Here are a few key steps to help you on your journey:
1. Learn about the disorder:
Doing your research can help you understand why you went through what you did and how to avoid these relationships in the future.
Books are a great place to start. Here are a few recommendations for books on BPD and BPD relationships:
- “I Hate You, Don’t Leave Me: Understanding the Borderline Personality” by Jerold J. Kreisman, M.D. and Hal Straus
- “The Buddha and the Borderline: My Recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder through Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Buddhism, and Online Dating” by Kiera Van Gelder
- “The Borderline Personality Disorder Survival Guide: Everything You Need to Know About Living with BPD” by Alexander L. Chapman, Ph.D., and Kim Gratz, Ph.D.
- “Stop Walking on Eggshells: Taking Your Life Back When Someone You Care About Has Borderline Personality Disorder” by Paul T. Mason, M.S., and Randi Kreger
- “The Borderline Personality Disorder Workbook: An Integrative Program to Promote Recovery” by Alexander L. Chapman, Ph.D., and Kim Gratz, Ph.D.
You may also want to join Quora and Reddit forums for people with loved ones with BPD, join online support groups and listen to podcasts that discuss BPD and relationships.
2. Talk it out:
If you’ve been through a traumatic relationship with someone with BPD, I highly recommend talk therapy.
A therapist can help you:
- Understand your role in the relationship
- Learn strategies for boundary-setting
- Unpack what happened in your past relationship
- Develop trust and confidence
- Learn skills for coping with the aftermath of a traumatic relationship
Popular therapies used to overcome a traumatic breakup include:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): to help bolster self-esteem and restructure maladaptive thought patterns that resulted from the relationship.
- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT): Through therapy, clients learn how to acknowledge and accept their inner emotions, rather than trying to avoid, deny, or struggle with them. This helps them recognize that these feelings are normal responses to certain situations and does not hold them back from moving forward in their lives.
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): used to help patients deal with trauma and heal from the emotional distress of this relationship.
You can try traditional in-person therapy or a telehealth talk therapy program like BetterHelp.
You don’t have to figure this out on your own.
3. Forgive the person:
First, a caveat. Don’t conflate forgiveness with reconciliation. This isn’t about forgiving and trying again. It doesn’t even have to involve face-to-face forgiveness.
This is strictly about you letting go of anger and resentment. It’s about understanding that BPD makes people do bad things and knowing the person suffering from BPD doesn’t behave this way out of evil or malice.
It’s something they’re going through. Hopefully, they’ll choose to get treatment one day. You can wish them well from a distance.
This is something else you can work on in therapy or via a support group if that is something you choose to pursue.
4. Forgive yourself:
Nobody knows how they’ll act in a trauma-bonded relationship until they’re in one. Forgive yourself for all the second, third, and fourth chances you gave or the red flags you ignored. It’s in the past now.
Related: What Does A Trauma Bond With A Narcissist Look Like?
5. Stay no contact:
Setting boundaries and sticking to them is extremely hard! But it’s the most effective way to make a clear head start in your healing journey.
And that means maintaining a strict no-contact rule with your BPD ex.
You won’t recover from the trauma of your BPD relationship if you’re still in contact with your ex. You have to take this time for yourself and focus on your healing.
How To Take Care Of Yourself After The Breakup:
It’s important not to neglect your own needs during this difficult time. Self-care is essential for healing from trauma associated with bad relationships.
Find activities that bring joy into your life, such as taking walks in nature, playing sports, or hanging out with friends and loved ones. Even small moments of happiness throughout the day can help keep your spirits up while you work through your more challenging emotions.
Additionally, make sure that you are eating healthy meals, getting enough sleep and exercise, and engaging in other activities that promote wellness, like yoga, weight training, or meditation.
BPD relationships can be little vortexes. Maybe you lost yourself a little? This is the time to rediscover who you are and what makes you tick.
Some of these things may seem small or fruitless in the face of trauma, but these small acts compound and will lay the foundation of your healing.
When you hear people talk about trusting the process, this is part of it.
You Can Rebuild Yourself and Your Life:
Dealing with someone who has Borderline Personality Disorder is hard. It leaves its mark.
It’s important to remember that you are not alone in this experience and that there are ways to help yourself heal and move on from the trauma of your relationship.
Keep creating boundaries for yourself, reach out for support if needed, and practice self-care each day so that you transition into this next phase of your life.
If things become too overwhelming or if you need advice on how best to take care of yourself during this process, don’t hesitate to talk to a professional therapist or counselor—they will be more than happy to help guide you through this difficult journey towards healing and recovery.