Borderline Personality Disorder: A New Definition of Family

March 15, 2011 Becky Oberg

I have two baby nephews, who both have managed to wrap me around their fingers before mastering full use thereof. We recently dedicated one of them in a Christian ceremony. Fourteen of us relatives attended, and that still didn't include all the aunts, uncles and grandparents. As my brother said, "They say it takes a village to raise a child--we actually have one!"

Some hear that saying and argue "No, it takes a family." That leads to a question that may be painful for people with borderline personality disorder (BPD): What is a "family?"

[caption id="attachment_396" align="alignnone" width="170" caption="Leon Brocard's photo of two hands forming a heart shape symbolizes love."]Leon Brocard's photo of two hands forming a heart shape symbolizes love.[/caption]

Rejection and Abuse From "Family" By Blood

According to Wikipedia, many studies have shown a strong correlation between abuse by a caregiver and a person's risk for a BPD diagnosis. The abuse can be physical, emotional, verbal, or sexual. In our culture, few things are more horrific than abuse by a blood relative, especially a parent or grandparent. It is unthinkable that a family member--one who is supposed to love you and care for you--would do the exact opposite.

Yet it happens, and I cringe every time I hear another story of a child's mistreatment. I guess it hits too close to home. When I look at my nephews, when I hold them, I want to do everything I can to be a loving and supportive aunt--even if I have no idea how. I can't understand how anybody could feel any different, especially toward his/her own child.

I have no personal experience in dealing with an evil parent, a parent who abuses the child just because he/she can. While some people say I experienced verbal and emotional abuse growing up, I look back on it and understand it was due to confusion, lack of knowledge and stress. We didn't understand our own feelings, let alone anyone elses, and we didn't know how to communicate.

Ignorance and confusion can be forgiven with time and support. But can one forgive pure evil from someone so close? And who do abuse victims turn to in the meantime?

Love and Acceptance From Non-Relatives

There are many people who are not related to me that I consider my family. My definition of "family" is "a group of people who love and accept each other more than they deserve". In this sense, my closest friends are family. My church is family. They love me. I love them.

These friendship-based families are important regardless of one's relationship with blood relatives. People need each other, and I'd go so far to say that we need at least one friend who is not related to us. We need to have someone to trust not because of a blood tie, but because we've chosen to trust him or her.

We all need love, acceptance, and understanding. They're among the most powerful and profound blessings in this life. If we get them from our family of origin, we are fortunate. If we get them from our family of choice, we are blessed.

Support During Treatment

Managing BPD symptoms is a full-time job for people with BPD. It is aided greatly with the support of family, whether they are related by blood or chosen to walk alongside us.

When I was in the BASE program, staff often invited family members to workshops designed to help them help us. The belief: we needed people we could trust to help us moniter our symptoms. Some of us had helpful family members, some didn't. I don't know about the other patients, but based on my own experience, my family and I became able to communicate. We were finally able to understand the other person's point of view.

People can and do change--I've seen it myself. I've also seen people refuse to change. That's why family relationships can be tricky. That said, we all need people we can call family--we need someone to walk alongside us, someone to love us and someone to let us love them.

APA Reference
Oberg, B. (2011, March 15). Borderline Personality Disorder: A New Definition of Family, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, April 20 from

Author: Becky Oberg

August, 30 2013 at 2:18 pm

The thing is I have been diagnosed with BPD for 4 years now but I have never been abused. My dad is an emotionally shut down man that is quite miserable and would mess me about when I was younger with not coming to see me when he was supposed too but that is not abuse. So it makes me wonder why I developed the illness

April, 19 2012 at 1:57 am

I was dx with BPD 8 years ago. I hate to say that I am seeing signs of the disorder in my oldest child. Her father was abusive towards me, before I left him. Because of my BPD I lost custody of my girls to him in the divorce. There dad then went to abusing me to abusing them, sexually and physically he was arrested and convicted and the girls were returned to me. She was in consuling, but I need to find her another one she can go to with out being pulled from school to go. Her school alast year almost held her back due to the fact she missed 1 1/2 hour a week for counsiling and time because of the court case. She passed barely due to attendence, and everything was documented with therapist note and court supenias.
Not so sure what to do. I just got to love her is all and make sure she stays safe. yes looking into finding help for her that wont jeopordize her education in the process.

Dr Musli Ferati
March, 29 2011 at 5:23 am

To grow up from bosom of origin family is a great nature's gift. But, most of us are faced with troublesome family milieu, that destroy our well-being. As regards to people with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), the situation became more compassionate, when dysfunctional inter-relationship harms mostly the psycho-social integrity of vulnerable members, such are mentally ill ones. So that, it is very important for everyone to learn healthy coexistence and to maintain pleasing relation, particularly in family life. Otherwise it would happen an emotional spoliation of family system, in which every member will suffer from mutual disregard. Members with this personality failure should experience a dreadful exemption from benefits of community, because they couldn't developed elementary social and professional performances in hostile family environment. And the circle, inevitably, will finish with their social and intellectual cremation.

March, 18 2011 at 5:32 pm

I have BPD. I was diagnosed with this illness when I was hospitalized for depression. It is the most painful thing that I've lived with all my life. My father was an abusive monster. My mother was very cruel to me growing up. She would make fun of me. She was so mean that I use to write hate notes about her and leave them around the house. When she found them she would yell at me.
I've had some counseling which helped me. I struggle daily with it. I have to shut down emotionally every day just to make it through each day.
At least there is a place here where I can express my feelings safely.

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