Intense and sometimes inappropriate rage is a characteristic of borderline personality disorder (BPD). A person with this condition has difficulty regulating their emotions or returning to their baseline. Extremes of rage and other intense emotions may last longer than might be expected, from a few hours to a few days.
BPD is a deeply misunderstood disorder. People who have this disorder may be labeled manipulative, selfish or clingy. Psychologist Marsha Linehan, who developed Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) specifically to treat women with BPD, compares a person with BPD to a person with third-degree burns over 90 percent of their body: Because of their lack of emotional skin, the slightest touch can cause extreme agony.
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The Emotional Dysregulation That Characterizes BPD
Emotional dysregulation is the hallmark of BPD. This mental health disorder impacts the way a person thinks and feels about herself and others. This leads to difficulty managing emotions and behaviors and to a pattern of unstable relationships.
Usually beginning in early adolescence, a person with BPD has an overwhelming and intense fear of abandonment and may go to extremes to try to avoid separation, which may be real or imagined. Other people and situations are viewed in black-and-white terms as all good or all bad. Seemingly minor disappointments or experiences can set off wide mood swings and rage, and may also lead to self-harm or suicidal threats.
Relationships and BPD Rage
Anger that is intense, uncontrolled or inappropriate can be a devastating symptom for someone who has BPD. They may be driven by a desire to be connected to others, yet loss of emotional control frequently drives others away. In some cases, the level of rage experienced can lead to violence.
Rage in a person with BPD can occur suddenly and unpredictably, often triggered by an intense fear of being alone. Fear of rejection can be so intense that they begin to anxiously expect rejection. Subtle cues that they associate with rejection can set off unexpectedly intense reactions. Besides fear of rejection, a person with BPD views things and people as either extremely good or extremely bad, and their opinion of someone can quickly change from friend to enemy.
Treating Rage in BPD
BPD was once thought of as a condition that was very difficult to treat, but evidence-based therapies can help people experience reduced symptoms and improved quality of life. Psychotherapy can help a person with BPD learn to manage rage and other emotions that feel uncomfortable as well as reduce impulsivity. It’s possible to learn to observe feelings rather than act on them.
Types of therapy that have been successful in treating BPD rage include:
- Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) – This form of treatment consists of both group and individual sessions. It attempts to reconcile apparent contradictions, specifically acceptance and change. It helps identify thoughts and beliefs that are ineffective and teaches patients how to manage emotions, improve relationships and tolerate distress.
- Schema-focused therapy – This type of psychotherapy helps patients to shed their life views that aren’t working and replace them with healthier behaviors and positive life patterns. Therapy includes role-playing, guided imagery and assertiveness training.
- Transference–focused psychotherapy – This therapy works toward helping patients integrate their views of themselves and others and has been found to significantly reduce anger.
- Mentalization-based therapy – This form of therapy helps a person with BPD separate their thoughts and feelings from people around them. It emphasizes thinking before reacting.
These and other forms of treatment can help a person with BPD experience less intense rage and other symptoms. With treatment, a person with BPD can gain control of out-of-control emotions and improve their ability to function.
If you or a loved one are struggling with a borderline personality disorder or anger issues, please contact us at (855) 409-0204 or submit the form below and a treatment specialist will contact you.