Coping with BPD at work: strategies and helpful advice

Borderline personality disorder (BPD), also known as Emotional Personality Disorder is a mental health disorder that can affect a person's thinking patterns, behaviours, personal relationships and emotional stability. It is the most common personality disorder in Australia and affects around 1-4 in 100 people at some point in their lives.

If you're living with BPD and finding it hard to cope at work, support is available.

Having the right professional help and coping strategies in place can help you feel empowered to succeed in the workplace.

Coping with BPD at work

It's important to work closely with a mental health professional to find treatments and coping strategies that work for you. You can also try self care strategies at home and in the workplace to help manage symptoms.

Here are 12 strategies for coping with BPD at work:

1. Talk to someone

It may feel like you have to hide your feelings or manage things on your own, but talking with someone about what you're going through can help.

Try opening up to someone you trust like a family member or a colleague at work. Communicating your experiences can help you feel more seen and supported.

Talking therapy with a mental health professional is often an important part of recovery for people with borderline personality disorder. There are many types of talking therapy, including:

  • Dialectical behaviour therapy
  • Mentalisation-based therapy
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy

2. Create a crisis plan

It's important to plan ahead for times when you aren't feeling well. When you're struggling with your mental health it can be hard to communicate what you need from those around you.

A crisis plan is a document that explains how you can help yourself and how you would like others to help you in the case of a crisis. The plan should contain information about possible triggers, self help strategies and how to contact professional help.

You should have a copy of your crisis plan, as should your treating health professionals and any other people in your life that provide a caring role. For example, a family member or a trusted co-worker.

3. Look after your physical health

Physical health and mental health are closely linked. Looking after your physical health by exercising regularly, eating a nutritious diet and getting enough sleep can help you better manage mental health issues.

Avoid drugs and alcohol. While it might be tempting to use substances to cope with low feelings, they can make you feel worse in the long run.

4. Take a break

Experiences at work such as negative feedback or conflict with a colleague can cause intense feelings. Instead of responding in the moment, take a step back and give yourself time to process the situation. When you feel calm, you'll be able to explain your emotions more accurately.

Taking a break can also help with managing stress and anxiety at work. If you find yourself overworking or always 'switched on', taking regular breaks throughout the day may help. Going for a short walk during your lunch break or grabbing a coffee with a colleague can help you reset before getting back to work.

5. Set boundaries around work

An all or nothing mindset can lead to overwork and upset your work life balance. Setting boundaries around your work can help with managing stress and burnout.

If you find it hard not to look at emails after work hours, set your devices to “do not disturb” or mute notifications until the next day. Use timers and alerts to manage day to day tasks and speak up if your workload is too much.

6. Take time for yourself

Being around people can be tiring if it triggers intense emotions. Taking time to be by yourself during the week may help you process your emotions and manage mood swings.

Prepare a box of self-care items for when you're feeling low or stressed. Your box could contain things like your favourite movie, a nice smelling candle, a face mask or photos with good memories.

Bingeing and impulsivity can be an issue if you work from home. Try channelling your energy into creative outputs instead such as yoga, baking, video games or playing an instrument.

7. Keep track of your mood

Keeping track of your mood swings in a mood diary can help you spot patterns and triggers later on. Writing down your feelings can also be a helpful way to express your emotions without impacting your interpersonal relationships.

8. Write letters that you don't send

If you feel intense emotions towards someone at your work, try writing a letter to the person without sending it.

The act of writing can help you feel like you've expressed yourself. Not sending the letter can help protect your interpersonal relationships.

9. Try peer support

Connecting with other people who are going through similar challenges might help you feel more supported. Look for peer support groups and therapeutic communities in your local area.

10. Consider disclosing to your boss

You don't have to tell your boss that you have BPD, but some people find that being transparent actually improves relationships at work. You may find it easier to explain your mood swings and impulsive behaviours or ask for help when you need it.

Before disclosing, it's a good idea to seek professional advice and weigh up the possible outcomes.

If you're looking for work or considering a career change, check out our guide to good jobs for people with BPD.

11. Ask for accommodations at work

Australian employers are required to make reasonable changes in your job role and the work environment to help you do your work safely and properly. Some employers may be eligible for funding to make accommodations.

Workplace accommodations are unique to your situation and your needs. They could include things like:

  • Flexible work schedule
  • Time off for mental health appointments
  • Work from home
  • Private office
  • Redesign large job tasks into smaller tasks
  • Use to-do lists and checklists
  • Set long-term and short-term goals with your supervisor

12. Get support to find work or keep your job

If you're finding it hard to get work or need help coping with BPD in your current job, you could be eligible for government-funded support.

Disability Employment Services

Disability Employment Services is a program that helps people living with injury, illness or disability find and keep a job. Many mental health conditions, including borderline personality disorder, are supported through the program.

APM employment consultants can help you with finding suitable job opportunities, accessing workplace accommodations and getting support to overcome barriers you might be facing.

Work Assist

Work Assist helps people who feel their job is at risk because of an injury, illness or disability. Work Assist providers like APM can provide advice about workplace changes, help you have your workplace assessed and access modifications and special equipment to help you do your job well.

Whether you're looking for a career change or need help to stay in your current role, APM is here for you. We help thousands of people like you get the support they need to succeed at work and reach their goals.

Chat with our friendly team today on 1800 276 276 to get started.