Anger and Borderline Personality Disorder – Why it Happens & How to Manage It

Anger and Borderline Personality Disorder - Why it Happens & How to Manage It

People who have BPD often have tremendous issues with anger — both expressing it and being the recipient of it. They will often go to extreme lengths to make people happy in order to avoid having people get angry at them. The flip side of that is that they themselves can go into a drop dead rage at the drop of a hat. I will examine why this happens.

Some psychiatrists believe that people have intense issues around anger because when they were children, they were not “allowed” to express it and, in some cases, told that even feeling it was somehow bad. As they grow up, they learn that anger is a “bad” thing and so learn to go to great lengths to avoid having it in their life.

If they have grown up in a setting where anger is not okay, it becomes just one more “bad feeling” they feel and they will either try to run away from it or will be so overwhelmed by it that it boils over because they do not know how to contain it. In many cases, though the person feels anger on a regular basis and engages in expressing it negatively they are unaware that they are even feeling this emotion and can not even identify it as a feeling. For them, it “just happens”. They feel victimized by it because they don’t know where it comes from or how to stop it from happening.

Sometimes anger can be felt more remotely in terms of low-lying irritation or annoyance which is then displaced onto other people. This is a partial explanation for why people with BPD are always “pissed off” at the world. Most people who have this kind of unaddressed anger channel it into extreme feelings of anxiety because they have to express it somehow. In some cases, it can be expressed somatically — that is as irritable bowel syndrome or extreme headaches caused by tension.

The crux of the matter here is that almost everyone is afraid of anger because we are not taught how to express it properly. Anger is simply one of many emotions. It is neither good nor bad. The way you choose to deal with it is what attributes a value to it. When you are able to understand and accept that anger is an emotion like so many others and that it has no power to hurt you, you will be on your way to setting yourself free. The only thing negative about anger are the consequences involved if you deal with your anger inappropriately by lashing out and yelling at people or breaking things or turn it in on yourself.

People like to say that depression is anger turned inwardly. I think depression in people with BPD is caused by years of neglect and not feeling heard, being scapegoated by the family of origin and feeling bullied. Yes, all those things can lead a person to feel angry but that anger is reactive in nature. The resulting “depression” is just the way the person with BPD chooses to express those angry feelings.

One of the ways to deal with anger issues is to learn and practice assertiveness. When you become an assertive person you learn how to stand up for yourself so you don’t get walked all over by people. Learning how to stand up for yourself assertively allows you to have a voice so you can express yourself in a rational manner and, hopefully, be heard by the people with whom you are interacting with.  It can alleviate some of the feelings of helplessness a person can feel in an intimate relationship.

The other way to learn to deal with anger is to learn conflict negotiation skills. This is not for the faint of heart because it requires you to look closely at both sides of an argument and figure out what you really want rather than hiding behind what you think you want.

Another reason that a person may be afraid of anger is because they fear retaliation from the other person. They worry that the other person will abandon them if they are “not nice enough”. We are taught from childhood that “nice girls don’t “do conflict” and told to suppress our angry feelings. But the bottom line is that conflict is found in every single relationship be it an interpersonal one or a work relationship. So, it is imperative that we learn how to approach conflict so that it can be productive and not confrontational.

A third way is to learn anxiety reduction techniques such a mindfulness meditation and box breathing. In my experience, my anger was always anxiety-fueled feelings that had completely run amok. Once I learned how to get better control over my anxiety, my anger levels began to diminish.

Being able to express anger in an assertive, productive manner will help your relationships a great deal. As with all things related to BPD, one of the first steps in recovery is learning to take responsibility for your feelings, words and actions. Without that component you will stay stuck.

[irp posts=”6667″ name=”Recovering from Borderline Personality Disorder Means Learning To Change The Way You Think (by Dee Chan)”]


About the Author: Dee Chan

Dee Chan was diagnosed with BPD more than 35 years ago back when the diagnosis was still fairly new and not very well understood. She has been living with it and coping with it ever since and finding ways to thrive despite it. She has been able to put it into complete remission and turned her life around completely through the practices of gratitude, forgiveness and accountability. Find out more about Dee’s work on her website bpdnomore.com.

3 Comments

Martha

I want to share this article via email with some friends.
I was diagnosed with childhood PTSD late in life; depression. Then introduced to BPD. Scary all the labels. Went to class for BPD. Hard work, lots of homework then in class felt very judged. That was 6-2014. I believe the materials have been improved since then. May face having to get in a BPD group again; not sure I’m willing. I did EMDR therapy for PTSD. Helpful but recently let myself out of my boundaries; am in a mess. Gonna get through it though. Now that I’ve seen I’m not willing to stay long.

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Carole

I think have this disorder,and how can I get it diagnosed please?as I want a better relationship with my only daughter as she does not want my behaviour being passed on to my grandsons (3yrs&2 months).

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Karen Young

Carole a good starting point would to speak with a doctor. He or she will be able to refer you to someone who can diagnose your symptoms and help manage them.

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One of our rituals was in the week before Christmas, we’d go shopping and each kiddo would choose a keepsake decoration for the tree. This would forever be their decoration. To make sure we’d remember who owned what (a year is a long time!) I wrote their name and year on the box. The idea is that when they leave home, they’ll have a collection of special decorations for their own tree, plump with throwbacks (‘Oh I remember when we bought this!).

Then of course there was Christmas morning. Santa would leave a note on the table and bootprints on the front path, which smelled remarkably like talcum powder. So magical the way the snow was under the boot and never melted, even in an Australian summer! But that’s the magic of Christmas, right?!

We often put so much pressure on ourselves to make Christmas magical. Rituals can make this easier. They get the special memories, you get to make the ‘magic’ without having to come up with something new and different each year.

It’s very likely that there will already be Christmas rituals happening in your family, even if you don’t realise it. Ask them what they remember most, or what they loved most about last Christmas, aside from the presents.

They might surprise you with things you’d completely forgotten about, or which at the time didn’t seem to be a biggie. It can be the simplest things. Maybe they loved the way they were allowed to have ice-cream with pancakes at breakfast last Christmas. (Ice-cream at breakfast?! Told you Christmas was magical!!). 

If it’s what they remember, and if it lights them up, let it become a ‘thing’. Maybe they loved the magic ‘neverending carrot’ sprinkles you put on the scrawny carrot you found in the vege drawer (remembering reindeer groceries can be so hard sometimes!)

You’d be surprised what they find special. It doesn’t have to be big to feel magical.

What are your Christmas rituals? Let’s share ideas in the comments.♥️
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There's no need to enter a code. The books and bundles are already marked with their special sale prices. You'll find them all there - plushies, books, bundles - doing shopping cartwheels, beside themselves excited about helping your young ones feel bigger than anxiety, and shimmy on to brave. 
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It can feel as though the only way to strengthen them against their anxiety is to make sure they have nothing to worry about, but when their worries are real this might not happen quickly. 

Instead, we need to focus on helping them know that even though those worries are there, they will be okay. ‘Not worrying’ isn’t the antidote to anxiety, trust is. This will start with trust in you and your belief that they will be okay, and trust in your reaction if things don’t go to plan. Eventually, as they grow this will expand into trust in themselves and their own capacity to find their way through challenges to a place of hope and strength. 
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Strong steady breathing will reverse the fight or flight physiology that causes nausea, butterflies, or sick or sore tummies during anxiety. BUT telling an anxious brain to take a strong steady breath will potentially make anxiety worse unless strong steady breathing feels familiar. Practising during calm times will make it familiar. 

During anxiety we’re dealing with their amygdala, and it wants short shallow breathing to conserve oxygen. It doesn’t want strong steady breathing and will work hard to resist this. 

An anxious brain is a busy brain and it will be less able to do anything unfamiliar. A few minutes of strong steady breathing each day will set up a strong neural pathway to make strong breathing more automatic and accessible during anxiety. 

In the meantime though, you can do it for them. This is the magic of co-regulation. When you do strong steady breathing during their anxiety, it will calm your nervous system which will eventually calm theirs. You will catch their anxiety, and this will feed into their anxiety. Your strong steady breathing is the circuit breaker. They will catch your anxiety, but they will also catch your calm. Don’t worry if this takes a few minutes (and maybe a few more after that). Anxious brains are strong, powerful, beautiful brains working hard to protect. Breathe and be with. This will open the way for that distressed young nervous system to find its way home. And you don’t need to do more than that.♥️
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Needs and behaviour can get tangled up and treated as one. When you can, separate the need from the behaviour. Give voice to the need - let it find a way to breathe - and redirect the behaviour. 

The need might always be clear, especially if it’s being smothered by angry shouting words. If we stifle the behaviour without acknowledging the need, the need stays hungry. Help usher it into the light by making it clear that you’re ready to receive it. Then wait. Wait for the big behaviour to ease, for bodies to calm, and angry voices to soften - but keep the way to you open. ‘You’re a great kid and I know you know that behaviour wasn’t okay. Talk to me about what’s happening for you.’

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