Original Research

Experiences of family members who have a relative diagnosed with borderline personality disorder

Marcia L. Kay, Marie Poggenpoel, Chris P. Myburgh, Charlene Downing
Curationis | Vol 41, No 1 | a1892 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/curationis.v41i1.1892 | © 2018 Marcia L. Kay, Marie Poggenpoel, Chris P. Myburgh, Charlene Downing | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 04 December 2017 | Published: 03 October 2018

About the author(s)

Marcia L. Kay, Department of Nursing, University of Johannesburg, South Africa
Marie Poggenpoel, Department of Nursing, University of Johannesburg, South Africa
Chris P. Myburgh, Department of Educational Psychology, University of Johannesburg, South Africa
Charlene Downing, Department of Nursing, University of Johannesburg, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: While working in a psychiatric hospital, the researcher observed the beneficial effects of the mindfulness programme offered to patients diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD). Little support was offered to family members who attempted to manage their relatives diagnosed with BPD. The family members often experienced stress, depression, grief and isolation.

Objectives: The purpose of this research was to explore and describe the experiences of family members who have a relative diagnosed with BPD.

Method: A qualitative, exploratory, descriptive and contextual study design was used. A purposive sample of family members aged between 24 and 74 years was made. Data were collected by conducting eight in-depth, phenomenological interviews, and field notes were taken. The interviews focused on the central question, ‘Tell me your experience of having a relative diagnosed with BPD’. Tesch’s method for data analysis was used, and an independent coder analysed the data and met with the researcher for a consensus discussion of the results. Measures to ensure trustworthiness were applied and ethical principles were adhered to.

Results: Four themes were identified. In theme one, family members described their relative diagnosed with BPD as experiencing emotional, behavioural, interpersonal and self-dysregulation. As a result, family members expressed negative feelings towards their relatives and experienced social humiliation, financial strain and marital discord. In theme two, they experienced a desire to move forward and improve their mental health. In theme three, family members experienced a challenging process of adaptation and coping. In theme four, family members experienced a quest for harmony and integration.

Conclusion: The results indicated that family members experienced disempowerment because they lacked knowledge about their relative’s BPD. More knowledge about BPD, the understanding and implication of the diagnosis, treatment and care are needed from mental health care professionals and service providers.


Keywords

borderline personality disorder; experiences; family members; relatives

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