Navigating a BPD Meltdown in a Codependent Relationship

This post was written by Rhonda Wasserman

Original content by Ashley Berges

The relationship between the co-dependent and a person with borderline personality disorder can be very complicated. A person with signs and symptoms of borderline personality disorder often shows emotional dysregulation. Often the person with BPD may melt down and explode and we are left trying to figure out what to do and how to handle the situation. Let’s dive deeper into what we can do when we find ourselves in this situation. 

So how do we deal with someone who is having a meltdown?

There is not one steadfast and true response to how to deal with someone who is having a meltdown. 

If the person is having a meltdown in public and runs out of a restaurant for example, it may not be best to chase after the person. By doing this we are not giving them space to self-soothe and calm themselves down. Often our codependency jumps in. We feel like we need to go after the person and find out what is happening, and try to defuse them.

We must remember that sometimes this is not our bomb to diffuse. The person may need to have a break. If we are constantly going after them to take care of them what does that say to them? What it does say to them is that they do not have to self-soothe or calm themselves down. We will be there for them to help them. This is enabling negatively. 

On the flip side, we may have to deal with a meltdown that takes place in our home. When a meltdown at home takes place at least the person is in a safer environment. When this happens, we need to analyze what type of meltdown we are dealing with. Is it yelling and screaming, is it them separating themselves from us, or are they hurting themselves? If they are hurting themselves, we can try to stop them, we must be aware that we may get hurt in the process.

Another possibility when someone is hurting themselves is to threaten to call the authorities. This can be difficult to do for many of us. There is a fear of what could happen but there needs to be some type of authority that can be brought in. The last thing we want is the person seriously hurting themselves.

When we resort to this, we don’t have to call the authorities immediately. We can say that if they don’t stop this type of behavior we are going to make that call. Sometimes this may wake the person up, causing them to see that this is happening. This is not a splitting situation; we need to bring them back into the current reality so that they realize this is truly happening. 

Another thing we need to be careful about is running out on the person with the signs and symptoms of BPD. Often, we feel that we are unable to handle the situation anymore. We need to walk out and leave the other person. When someone is having a meltdown, we do not want them to feel as though we are abandoning them.

It is one thing to race out of a restaurant to help them, but if you are in a house situation and you just walk out the door, it’s a bad idea. What you need to do is tell them you need to take a time out. Tell them where you are going and what you are going to do. Be specific and tell them to take some time and not follow you around. Setting a timer for an amount of time for a break may be very helpful. This way they know you are not abandoning them, you are in the house, and you have an agreement as to when you will come back together. 

When someone is in a rage, whether they have BPD tendencies or not, you are not going to get through to them. When someone is in a rage they are not hearing anything that is being said and are disassociating from the situation at that moment.

These are some techniques we can use. They are not always going to work, but sometimes they can diffuse the situation. Remember, it is not just about diffusing the situation, kits also about keeping yourself calm and focusing on what you need as well. You cannot be everything for that other person, you must center yourself to help them. We want to be careful not to enable someone to not take care of themselves. 

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