Published On: February 3, 2023
Reviewed On: February 3, 2023
Updated On: November 2, 2023
Emotional instability is a key symptom of borderline personality disorder (BPD). It can be difficult for people with BPD to manage emotions, leading to intense outbursts, and one of the most glaring BPD symptoms is BPD rage attacks. While not everyone with borderline personality disorder struggles with anger, it’s a known and highly challenging symptom.
Due to emotion dysregulation, people with BPD tend to feel intense emotions. Their mood swing also tends to be more extreme than people without the condition.
Expert Insight“BPD rage is classified by extreme or intense anger coupled by the inability to manage the range of an emotion typically disproportionate to a given incident or circumstance.”
It’s normal for people to feel angry at times, but borderline rage is different from the anger that most people deal with. For someone with BPD, anger can be extreme, sudden, and incredibly difficult to control.
People with BPD often struggle to control their emotions, leading to intense and inappropriate anger. Even a minor inconvenience or perceived slight can trigger aggressive behavior in someone with BPD. Although these rage attacks can go on for hours or more, BPD anger can just as easily fade away as quickly as it appears. During an outburst, people with BPD engage in unhealthy behaviors, including yelling, physical violence, and self-harm.
From the outside, borderline personality disorder anger may appear out of nowhere. While these outbursts are sudden and generally inappropriate, they’re usually a reaction to a trigger — which can be either an internal or external event.
So, what triggers a person with borderline personality disorder? Following are some of the most common triggers for rage in people with BPD.
Many people with BPD are terrified of rejection or abandonment and have difficulty forming interpersonal relationships. Their fear of abandonment can be so intense that it makes them paranoid, causing them to see even ordinary events as potential threats. When someone with BPD believes they’re being abandoned, they may panic, leading to eruptions of anger and other volatile behavior.
Another typical behavior people with BPD engage in is a form of black-and-white thinking known as splitting. BPD splitting can cause people to view things as all good or all bad without any middle ground.
During a splitting episode, someone with BPD can go from loving to hating a person (even the BPD favorite person), seemingly in an instant. This extreme shift could even leave them feeling betrayed, which could potentially be a trigger for rage.
Once someone with BPD becomes angry, letting go of their rage can be challenging. After exposure to BPD rage triggers, they tend to fixate on the situation or event that upset them, replaying these thoughts repeatedly.
Ruminating on negative emotions can increase aggression. When someone with BPD becomes angry, they hold on to that emotion, and research tells us that prolonged anger can trigger intense emotional reactions.
Since BPD rage attacks can appear suddenly, the anger can be challenging to manage. Even though dealing with your emotions can be tough, a variety of effective coping techniques can prevent your anger from escalating. These emotional regulation methods can help keep your rage from spiraling.
Once you learn to identify your triggers and recognize the signs of an outburst, it’ll be easier to control your anger. Then, the next time you’re exposed to a trigger or start to feel angry, you can confront and challenge your negative thoughts.
Don’t be afraid to remove yourself from a situation if you’re feeling angry or upset. It can be really hard to manage your emotions when you have BPD, but by taking a self-enforced time out, you’ll be able to find relief from potential stressors and calm down.
Once you’ve stepped away from a situation, grounding techniques — like meditation, deep breathing, or stretching — can be another great way to soothe and control your emotions. Researchers have found that mindfulness meditation can prevent people from obsessing over angry thoughts.
Anger isn’t inherently unhealthy, but borderline rage is more than just being angry. Of course, this doesn’t mean you can’t ever get mad or upset. When you feel that anger surfacing, learning to accept your feelings and expressing them in healthy ways is important.
For example, you might find it useful to write down your feelings. Journaling for mental health is not only a way to get your emotions out, but it can give you a better idea of where your feelings are coming from in the first place.
It’s hard to deal with anger when your emotional regulation skills are limited. A really effective BPD treatment is therapy. A therapist can help you find ways to manage challenging emotions and express your feelings more appropriately. In addition, therapy for BPD can help you learn more about your triggers and develop the skills you need to build healthy relationships.
It isn’t easy to witness borderline personality disorder anger or to be the target of these outbursts.
Expert Insight“No one feels good, safe, or ok after a display or expression of disproportionate, heightened, intense, or extreme anger. It doesn’t feel good to express it or be subject to it, especially when triggers are unforeseen and unexpected and a feeling of vulnerability looms.”
Remember, though, these behaviors are a symptom of a mental health condition. Being on the receiving end of a rage attack doesn’t mean that you did anything wrong.
While you should encourage your loved one to seek professional help, taking care of yourself is equally important. Be willing to set boundaries and remove yourself from distressing situations. Learn more about BPD to understand where the rage is coming from and discover ways how to help someone with BPD.
Expert Insight“It’s difficult to do but learning about BPD can certainly help you impart some firm and necessary boundaries later. After that, it becomes easier to validate and, in some cases, operate from an educated, empathic stance about the vulnerability behind the anger.”
Whether you’re struggling to manage your BPD anger or have a loved one prone to rage attacks, Talkspace can help.
Talkspace allows you to talk with licensed mental health professionals from the comfort of your home. We’re making online therapy affordable, accessible, and, most of all, convenient.
Working with a therapist can help you find better ways to cope with BPD rage, and you deserve that. Get started today and learn how to deal with BPD.
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Licensed Talkspace Therapist, Elizabeth Keohan has enjoyed working with clients in communities from Washington DC through rural Maine over the course of her career. While she has worked extensively with those experiencing anxiety and depression, she embodies a unique comfort working with the bereaved. Elizabeth combines a compassionate, holistic approach with Cognitive Behavioral Theory (CBT), to help clients counter their somatic response to stress, anxiety, mood, grief and loss.