Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), falls under cluster B of Personality Disorders according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Most of the BPD symptoms are intertwined with an individual’s identity, attachment style, and interpersonal relationships. Those with BPD often have an intense fear of abandonment and tend to present a pattern of unstable relationships and emotions.
Relatively recently BPD became popularized on social media, which naturally led to a lot of storytelling and sharing of experiences through different platforms between users. One of the concepts that were coined within the community is a “Favorite Person”. A favorite Person is characterized as someone highly significant to the one with BPD, someone they have an extreme attachment to. It can be a lover, a family member, or a friend – although it could be anyone who someone with BPD favors at the time. This extreme attachment leads to the borderline’s emotions being almost completely dependent on the favorite person, the smallest hiccup can trigger a borderline into a dangerous episode. At the same time, their favorite person becomes their source of happiness.
On one hand, someone with BPD will readily do everything for their favorite person, and love them like no other. If the love and care are mutual, the favorite person can make borderline feel like they are on top of the world. However, this attachment can easily expand into a mutually painful relationship. Someone with BPD will pay a lot of attention to their favorite person and can start reading into others’ behavior following jealousy and control.
While there is no scientific literature specifically on the concept yet, and it was coined and defined by the community, one can explain the Favorite Person in terms of attachment and other patterns associated with BPD. Below I will state some interesting research that is potentially related to the favorite person concept.
BPD symptoms are associated with romantic dysfunction, moreover, they mediate the relationship between the dysfunction and the attachment (Hill et al., 2011). In other words, the more intense BPD symptoms are, the more likely is the person to have a dysfunctional relationship. The favorite person concept, by its definition, is similar to codependency, which was shown to have a lot of overlap with BPD within the symptoms (Bird, 1996). As written above, a favorite person is often defined by the sense of emotional dependency of borderline on them. More studies showed that negative interactions with significant others such as mothers and friends, do indeed enhance BPD symptoms (Hessels et al., 2022). However, there is good news as well, a favorite person could have healing potential. A recent study found that incorporating significant other interventions into therapy for clients with BPD has shown to be effective (Fitzpatrick et al., 2019).
Finally, it is important to note that such an intense, nearly obsessive relationship, can be harmful to both parties. While one should be cautious of their behavior toward someone with BPD, a favorite person should also be aware of their mental health. Although it is not a borderline’s fault when it comes to the emotional attachment of this kind, it is both parties.
Bird, H. P.(1996). The Relationship Between Co-Dependence and Borderline Personality Disorder. Dissertations, 228.
Fitzpatrick, S., Wagner, A. C., & Monson, C. M. (2019). Optimizing borderline personality disorder treatment by incorporating significant others: A review and synthesis. Personality disorders, 10(4), 297–308. https://doi.org/10.1037/per0000328
Hessels, C.J., van den Berg, T., Lucassen, S.A. et al. (2022). Borderline personality disorder in young people: associations with support and negative interactions in relationships with mothers and a best friend. Bord personal disord emot dysregul, 9(2) https://doi.org/10.1186/s40479-021-00173-7
Hill, J., Stepp, S. D., Wan, M. W., Hope, H., Morse, J. Q., Steele, M., Steele, H., & Pilkonis, P. A. (2011). Attachment, borderline personality, and romantic relationship dysfunction. Journal of personality disorders, 25(6), 789–805. https://doi.org/10.1521/pedi.2011.25.6.789