Borderline Personality Relationships Cycle: Understanding the Rollercoaster of Emotions

People with borderline personality disorder (BPD) often face intense emotions and unstable relationships. They may struggle to regulate their emotions, behave impulsively, and experience a persistent fear of abandonment. These symptoms can make it challenging for individuals with BPD to form and maintain healthy relationships. In this article, we will explore the cycle of relationships in BPD and how it can affect the lives of those who live with the disorder.

What is Borderline Personality Disorder?

Borderline personality disorder is a type of mental health disorder that affects the way a person thinks, feels, and relates to others. People with BPD experience intense and unstable emotions, with feelings of emptiness, anxiety, anger or depression. They may also have difficulty with their self-image and sense of identity. These symptoms can lead to dysfunctional coping mechanisms, such as self-harm, substance abuse, and reckless behaviour.

The causes of BPD are complex and can involve a combination of biological, environmental and genetic factors. Individuals with BPD may have experienced trauma, abuse, or neglect, which can contribute to their emotional instability and hypersensitivity. Additionally, they may have a genetic predisposition to emotional difficulties, which could make them more vulnerable to developing the disorder.

The Cycle of Relationships in BPD

One of the most challenging aspects of BPD is the difficult and often tumultuous nature of relationships experienced by individuals with the disorder. The pattern of unstable relationships and intense emotions is often referred to as the ‘Borderline Personality Relationships Cycle’. In this cycle, the person with BPD becomes emotionally attached to a partner, friend or family member, but then feels abandoned when the other person cannot meet their emotional needs.

The cycle begins with idealization, where the person with BPD views the other person as perfect or ideal. They may put the other person on a pedestal and become intensely attached to them. However, when the other person does not meet their needs or live up to their expectations, the person with BPD can feel disappointed, rejected, or angry. This can trigger the second phase of the cycle, devaluation, where the person with BPD starts to criticize, blame, or devalue the other person. They may become resentful and hostile, having an intense reaction that seems out of proportion to the situation.

The final phase of the cycle is the rejection, where the person with BPD feels abandoned or rejected by the other person. This phase can be very painful for the person with BPD and can trigger intense feelings of loneliness, despair, or anger. They may try to win back the other person’s affection or seek revenge for what they see as a betrayal.

How the Cycle Impacts Relationships

The Borderline Personality Relationships Cycle can have a significant impact on the relationships of those with BPD. The intensity of the idealization phase can create an unrealistic image of the other person, leading to disappointment and frustration when the other person does not live up to their expectations. The devaluation phase can cause significant emotional harm to the other person, leading to a breakdown in the relationship or even alienation.

The rejection phase can be especially challenging for the person with BPD as they experience feelings of abandonment and loss. They may react with anger or self-destructive behavior, which can further damage the relationship. This cycle can lead to a pattern of unstable and unhealthy relationships, with the person with BPD struggling to maintain lasting connections with others. They may push people away or set up tests to see if the other person truly cares about them, leading to a perpetuation of the cycle.

Treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder

Treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder typically involves psychotherapy, medication, and support from loved ones. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help individuals with BPD identify and challenge negative thinking patterns, improve emotional regulation, and learn how to manage impulses and self-destructive behaviors. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is also a well-established form of therapy for BPD. It helps individuals to develop new coping skills to address the intense emotions and difficulties in relationships.

Medications may be used to help improve mood, reduce anxiety, or manage impulsivity. However, medication alone is not sufficient to treat BPD and should be used in conjunction with psychotherapy.

Loved ones can also play a role in supporting individuals with BPD. By becoming educated about the disorder and offering their support, they can help the person with BPD develop a more positive self-image and learn to trust others. All people in the relationship may need to learn how to set healthy boundaries and communicate effectively to prevent further damage to the relationship.


The Borderline Personality Relationships Cycle can be a damaging and painful experience for individuals with BPD and those close to them. The intensity of emotions, coupled with fears of abandonment and rejection, can lead to a perpetuation of this cycle, making it difficult to form and maintain healthy relationships. Fortunately, with the right treatment and support, individuals with BPD can learn how to manage their emotions, reduce impulsive behavior, and improve relationships with loved ones.


FAQs about Borderline Personality Relationships Cycle

What is Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)?

BPD is a mental health disorder that affects a person’s emotions, behaviour, and relationships. It can cause intense mood swings, impulsivity, poor self-image, fear of abandonment, unstable relationships, and self-harm behaviours.

What is the relationship cycle of someone with BPD?

People with BPD often experience an intense pattern of relationships called the “BPD relationship cycle.” The cycle includes three phases: idealisation, devaluation, and discard. In the idealisation phase, the person with BPD sees their partner as perfect and ideal. During the devaluation phase, they start to see their partner as flawed, causing conflicts and instability in the relationship. Finally, in the discard phase, they may end the relationship abruptly or push their partner away.

How can people with BPD manage their relationships better?

Counselling and therapy can be helpful for individuals with BPD to learn healthy coping mechanisms and communication strategies. They can also practice self-care and self-compassion to improve their self-image and reduce their fear of abandonment. Finally, developing a support network of friends and family who understand and accept them can be beneficial.


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3. Linehan, M. M. (1993). Cognitive-behavioral treatment of borderline personality disorder. New York: Guilford Press.