Borderline Personality Disorder and Coping With Sudden Stress

October 3, 2011 Becky Oberg

Our degree of recovery comes and goes. Part of staying in recovery from borderline personality disorder (BPD) is learning how to manage symptom-provoking sudden stress. I had a crash course in doing so this past week due to a bank error that showed I had a balance of negative $10 million.


There are two types of people--those who find that hilarious and those who don't. I certainly didn't find it funny at the time. I was upset to the point of wanting to self-injure. However, that would have made things worse--so I relied on my coping skills to deal with it. While you have to find what works for you, here are some things I've found helpful.

Look for humor

At first I did not find the situation funny. Then I started thinking "What could I have done that resulted in that kind of balance?" Maybe it was the private jet and the international airport I bought to go with it. Maybe it was that trip around the world, complete with a visit to Antarctica. Or one heck of a pizza delivery--from Rome. More often than not, there is humor in what's going on.

Humor is not always appropriate, but sometimes stress can leave you laughing even at something serious. That's okay; it's a defense mechanism. When my Grandpa Oberg died, my youngest brother complained about the cold funeral home. Mom replied "They have to keep it that way in case they get a bunch of bodies in here." There was a brief pause, then the entire Oberg clan howled with laughter. Stress is strange like that. Don't belittle yourself for an uncontrolled laugh--you can always apologize and most people are understanding.

Talk to God

I am a Mennonite, so I prayed about the situation. I visualized my Higher Power, God, fixing the situation. I reminded myself of the Serenity Prayer: "God, grant me the wisdom to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference." I called the bank to straighten out the situation, and trusted God to fix the parts of it that were out of my hands. As I write this, my account is still frozen, but I'm not afraid. I was assured by the bank that the freeze would be lifted Friday, and I have enough cash to meet my needs in the meantime.

Your Higher Power may not be God. That's all right. Just do what you can and leave the rest up to your Higher Power. If you don't have a Higher Power, then control what you can and let go of the rest. There's no sense worrying about something you have no control over.

If you do have a Higher Power, be honest with Him/Her/It. Scream. Curse. Cry. Get it all out. Honesty is refreshing even when you're exhausted.

Talk about it

A police officer on the crisis intervention squad called a technique "the echo". Basically, the listener repeats the speaker's words--sometimes rephrased, sometimes verbatim. Many times, the officer said, people would start to calm down after hearing someone else say what was wrong.

Sometimes the listener doesn't need to say anything. Sometimes just talking about the problem helps it feel less overwhelming. Sometimes you don't even need a listener. Words are powerful, and sometimes just verbalizing what you're worried about can help.

Did you ever wonder why therapists sometimes fall silent after you stop talking? Silence is also powerful--in the silence, you're uncomfortable, and you are forced to look at--and often say--the root of the problem. Silence allows you to confront your deepest self, face your fears, and move on.

So, how should someone with BPD cope with a sudden stressful situation? Each person has to find what works for him or her, but looking for humor, prayer and talking about it have proven effective for me.

APA Reference
Oberg, B. (2011, October 3). Borderline Personality Disorder and Coping With Sudden Stress, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, February 29 from

Author: Becky Oberg

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