Do I Have a Borderline Friend?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Q. Very worried about my friend – is she borderline? I met a lovely woman at my new work when I started last year, we look after disabled teenagers. At first she was amazing, very sociable, bubbly, and made clear she wanted to be my friend. I loved spending time with her, we got close very quickly. This initial good time lasted about 5 month, and the first incidet happened on a staff night out, where she got very drunk and verbally abusive to me and other pals, accusing us of strange things, she accused one girl to secretly text her boyfriend, and of secretly making fun of her and liking the “popular crowd” better than her. our work is very social with a lot of staff working there, and my friend doesn`t like some of the “nasty” people as she calls them, who go drinking and socialising a lot. anyway, the day after this party she wouldn`t stop texting me for reassurance, she wanted to know if I`m still her friend, it was like she was very scared after that night. I was very much taken aback but tried not to show this to her. I didn`t like how she spoke to us all and it felt like she hated us.

It was fine again after, but i became a bit wary. she had started to snap at me at work, it was difficult because we were on the same team, and other colleagues never saw this side of her as much as i did, so i never said anything to other people to not look nasty. in february 08 her ex boyfriend committed suicide, of course this was hard for her and she was still very close to him. i tried to help her as much as i could but it got all very difficult. i felt like walking on eggs, one day at work she shouted at me in front of colleagues because she felt humiliated, she tended to constantly talk about her problems at work, but it became hard for me because work isn`t the place for this, and i told her we can`t talk there. she also thinks she`s overweight and ugly and that her boss doesn`t appreciate her, she likes to say that her and me are very similar and recently i don`t like to hear this anymore, she sometimes scares me. she is now leaving work, and it got so bad that i don`t know what do do anymore, she totally turned on me and basically accuses me of wanting to be part of the popular crowd now, only because i`m invited to a girl`s night out whom she seriously dislikes. i get on with everyone a work and would like to keep it that way, i had also asked her if we want to go for a team night out for her leaving, it was very strange but it is like she hates me, she is so rude to me, and seems so bitter. she sent me a text message apparently by mistake, which was not for me, but i`m not sure if she did it on purpose so i know how little she thinks of me, in that message it says, “hi, A. is trying to drum up support for a leaving night, but of course there won`t be any people coming, i know i`m not popular. A. only does it because she feels responsible because we`re on the same team.” I felt very hurt because first of all I had only asked two members of our team, secondly i don`t do it because i feel responsible but because i thought we are friends. i texted her back letting her know i got a “wrong” message and i always try and keep things as low key and cheery as possible, i like the woman i met but i`m scared of the one i see now. also important, a lot of people at work don`t like her much, i only found out recently. what is going on, can you help me? i really don`t want to lose her but i don`t want to get hurt all the time. i actually said that to her once, that she is hurting me, but that was making it so much worse, she snapped and just kept on saying that would be typical, she couldn`t do anything right, she knows she`s bad and not worth anything, and she better shuts up. so now i am scared to mention this again! a mutual friend had the same problems, she spoke to me about this, and our friend was rude to her as well, and called her two-faced for going out with the “wrong” people.

I feel like she is a volcano that could explode, but i just don`t know what to do now. Thank you a lot for reading this.

A. She may have borderline personality disorder (BPD) or some other type of personality disorder. You described her as a “volcano that could explode.” This is probably a very accurate description of what might happen with her in the very near future.

She is very unstable. It seems clear that she does not know how to behave in relationships. She may have never learned how to have friends or how to treat others. She probably has extremely low self-esteem and self-confidence. You said she became jealous of you and others very easily. When she does not get her way she becomes verbally abusive and blames others for her problems.

Unfortunately, it is probably not possible for you to remain friends with her and to expect her to behave rationally or “normally.” Unless she undergoes intensive therapy she will likely not alter her behavior. She may not realize how she is behaving or does not have the ability to know that how she treats others is incorrect. Because of this, it may be difficult to maintain a friendship with her.

If you want to protect yourself from her “wrath” you might have to end all contact with her outside of work. The only relationship you might be able to have with her is a professional one in which you only interact with her at work, when it is required as part of your job.

If you wanted to spend time with her outside of work and you only wanted to do this occasionally (i.e. spend time with her one night and spend time with other co-workers without her on another night) she probably would not like this. If she is suffering from BPD, she may want you to befriend her all of the time. What I mean is that she may take the stand that all of your outside activities with co-workers should involve her or she will see it as a rejection. This type of logic is referred to as “all or nothing thinking” and it is a common characteristic of BPD.

An alternative way to handle this situation may be to suggest that she seek professional help. She may not be open to this but if you approached her gently and with compassion, she might be more willing to take your advice. For instance, you could say “I know that things have been difficult for you lately. You’re living through a terrible tragedy with the death of _____. This cannot be easy to deal with on your own and I see you struggling. It’s affecting your mood, your relationships, your health and your job. Most everyone would struggle if they had to face the loss of a loved one. I am not sure how I can best help you and I don’t like to see you suffer. I am worried about you. You should consider some support or a therapist to help you.” This might be effective to get her to into therapy.

I hope this helps. Please let me know how this turns out.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 28 Jul 2008

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2008). Do I Have a Borderline Friend?. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 21, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/07/28/do-i-have-a-borderline-friend/