Those with Borderline Personality Disorder Aren’t Just Being Emotional

There are many challenges associated with borderline personality disorder (BPD), but perhaps the hardest to accommodate is the sufferer’s emotional sensitivity. A person with BPD is emotionally vulnerable in a way that makes them unpredictable. Their feelings burst forth with incredible force and ferocity, triggered by what seems like a whisper.

Studies have shown that from infancy different personalities react differently to emotional stimuli. But the person with BPD doesn’t know how to regulate their intense emotions. This can make everyone around them tense and exhausted. So understanding a bit of what is going on inside the person with this condition may help to lessen some of the strain.

The person with BPD often demonstrates extreme emotional responses that seem to have no basis. Their reactions seem to erupt for no apparent reason. This is just as confusing for the person with BPD as it is for others around them.

Even when there has been some emotional trigger, the person may not be able to identify just what it was. This person’s emotions are so exposed and raw that the slightest touch can set off an intense response. Even when the trigger is recognized, the reaction is disproportionate to the situation. What might make the average person feel mildly disappointed sinks this person into a pit of despondency.

It has been long suggested that people with BPD act and react extremely in order to control others or their circumstances. Things like yelling and screaming in public or intentional self-harm are not really manipulations as much as they are escalations.

The individual with BPD reacts at a higher decibel right from the get-go because their emotional baseline is set higher compared to other people’s. What would trigger a flicker of anger from most people ignites a bonfire of rage in the BPD-affected person.

And as soon as they start to react they know that they are over-the-top. But this just heaps shame on top of the bonfire of emotions, like throwing gasoline on the flames. The feeling of being out-of-control is scary to them. But rather than say they are scared, they may express that fear as anger directed toward others.

Once the person explodes, they have a hard time regaining equilibrium. This is not merely anecdotal since research suggests that while a healthy brain manifests emotion for approximately 12 seconds, emotional activity in the BPD brain exceeds that by 20 percent. This means that it will take them longer to cool down and recover from their emotional response.

People with BPD can learn to regulate their emotions, but it’s hard work. A skilled counselor can provide needed tools to help the person gain control over how responses are expressed.