Loneliness and the need to self-isolate are common in borderline personality disorder. Here’s how you can overcome these feelings.

If you live with this condition, you might crave close connections with others — but you might also find it challenging to interact with them.

You might then withdraw, or you might come on too strong and push others away unintentionally. This can leave you feeling alone and unworthy of others’ attention.

It’s estimated that borderline personality disorder (BPD) affects 1.6% of the general population. It’s often characterized by intense or uncontrollable emotions, sudden changes in mood, and difficulty maintaining close relationships.

No matter the cause, this loneliness doesn’t have to be permanent. There are many ways you can overcome these feelings, from finding ways to interact with others to working with a trained professional.

Research from 2017 points out that feelings of loneliness are common in people with BPD.

Many people with BPD have a strong desire to be close to others. However, fear of abandonment or a skewed sense of self may cause them to act impulsively or aggressively in an effort to keep loved ones close to them.

This can make interpersonal relationships challenging for those with BPD and increase their risk of feeling alone, according to a 2020 study.

They may also push others away, either through a need to self-isolate or due to extreme changes in mood and temperament. These actions may be intentional or unintentional.

Withdrawing from social situations or from other people can conflict with a strong desire for connection.

A 2019 study found that those with BPD were at higher risk of self-isolation than those with other personality disorders.

Emptiness is also a common symptom of BPD — and a common cause of loneliness. In a 2021 study, researchers found that chronic feelings of emptiness created a sense of disconnection, both from oneself and from others.

Not only can this disconnect cause loneliness, but it may also lead to feelings of helplessness or depression.

While each person experiences BPD in their own unique way, other common symptoms include:

  • fear of abandonment
  • feelings of emptiness
  • a history of unstable relationships
  • sudden shifts in self-image or how you self-identify
  • paranoia related to stress
  • harmful, reckless, or impulsive behaviors
  • extreme mood shifts
  • inappropriate bursts of anger or hostility
  • antisocial behavior
  • compulsive behavior
  • comorbid depression or other mood disorders
  • self-harming behaviors, suicidal thoughts, or both

Loneliness isn’t limited to BPD — it’s also a common symptom of many other personality disorders.

A 2022 review identifies several themes linking personality disorders with feelings of loneliness or isolation, including:

  • feelings of disconnection
  • conflicting needs for both distance and closeness
  • unsuccessful attempts at closeness and connection
  • experiences of alienation in childhood

Living with BPD doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself to a life of loneliness.

With the help of a mental health professional, many people can access BPD treatment that lets them better manage their symptoms, leading to a more fulfilled and comfortable life.

Many strategies can help you manage loneliness and other symptoms of BPD, such as:

  • Engaging in therapy. Psychotherapy, also called talk therapy, is the most common form of treatment for BPD. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) uses mindfulness to help you understand emotions and learn strategies for coping with emotions, expressing yourself, and interacting with others.
  • Joining a support group. You aren’t alone in your loneliness — or any of the other feelings you experience from BPD. A support group gives you the chance to engage with other people going through similar challenges while sharing strategies for coping with the condition.
  • Participating in anger management. Intense or inappropriate bursts of anger are common symptoms of BPD. Anger management can give you tools and techniques to manage feelings of anger and hostility, which can help improve your ability to start and maintain relationships.
  • Doing activities you enjoy. Your hobbies can help you meet people with a common interest. Taking a class, attending a group event, or joining a club offer opportunities to escape isolation and engage with (and form relationships with) others.
  • Using communication tools. Taking advantage of different communication tools — such as your phone, computer, or video messenger — offers a way to connect with others without having to participate in large social situations.
  • Taking care of an animal. People aren’t the only companions you need in your life. Having a pet or volunteering at a shelter can help ease feelings of loneliness and give you a sense of a connection.
  • Taking medication. There isn’t currently a medication for BPD itself, but there are prescription drugs available for some of its symptoms (like chronic mood shifts) or for comorbid conditions (like anxiety or depression).

BPD is a personality disorder that affects your ability to control your emotions, distorts your self-image, and makes social interaction challenging.

You may experience intense emotions, sudden outbursts, or feelings of loneliness — you may even have a need to withdraw from others, despite craving closeness.

Loneliness may be common with BPD, but it’s not impossible to overcome. There are many strategies you can use to feel less alone, such as joining a support group, taking classes, caring for an animal, and finding new ways to communicate with your loved ones.

You may also want to consider engaging in therapy. A mental health professional can work with you to develop strategies specifically for your unique symptoms. By being proactive and taking steps to combat your loneliness, you can feel less alone over time.

Want to learn more about starting therapy? Psych Central’s How to Find Mental Health Support resource can help.