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Borderline Rage: What I Wish People Knew About BPD and Anger

January 3, 2012 Becky Oberg

I will be one of the first to admit I have a fiery temper. Whether it's just my nature or a character flaw or the borderline illness, I don't know. But every so often, given the right (using the term loosely) mixture of provocation, physical state and emotions beforehand, I explode into a fit of rage. Think Donald Duck meets Incredible Hulk meets a doorslammer and you've got an idea.

One: Borderline rage is extremely powerful.

According to Healthyplace.com, one of the symptoms of borderline personality disorder (BPD) is "inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger." That's like referring to a tornado as an "air disturbance"--an accurate understatement of epic proportions.

The wrath of a person with BPD often comes on quickly. The intensity of the rage is extremely strong; it can quickly escalate into homicidal thoughts. Depending on the self-control of the enraged person, people or property can be damaged.

Two incidents from my time at Larue D. Carter Memorial Hospital come to mind. In the first incident, a female patient began throwing things. As objects shattered and the pieces ricocheted, we sought shelter. I closed the door to my room and used my body as a weight to keep her from coming in. The tantrum then went into the kitchen, where she destroyed two or three five-gallon jugs of water and overturned the chairs and tables. The episode was so bad that armed police officers were dispatched to the unit.

In the other incident, a 400-lb. patient cussed me out. I was about one-third her size, and I told her I didn't appreciate it. According to my friends and staff (I don't remember much about what happened), she shoved me. I went airborne, sailed back "a good four feet" and bounced upon landing. I suffered a concussion and multiple bruises. Staff were surprised I didn't crack my head open. This rage, especially when uncontrolled, can be destructive.

Two: Borderline rage is scary for the patient.

Although rage is a familiar feeling for me, it still scares me every time. I'm afraid of my anger. I'm afraid of what I might do, what the consequences might be, of what might happen if I actually tried to hurt someone. Factor in that I'm a pacifist and it becomes especially distressing.

Because I'm scared as well as angry, it does very little good to tell me to calm down. I'm terrified that I won't be able to. I'm frightened that I'll lose control. What does help is offering medication, offering to listen to me, trying to keep me talking until I calm down. Be with me, stay with me. Help me calm down, don't just tell me to calm down and expect me to be able to do so.

The rage, thankfully, does not last long. However, for a person with BPD, sometimes an extreme emotion overrides memories of feeling any other way. We literally forget that we won't always be angry. This is why it helps for us to talk--it allows time for the anger to dissipate, and it allows us to feel something else. Time is critical in calming an enraged person with BPD.

Three: We can improve on our angry reactions.

My temper was a lot worse as a child than it is now. I've had a lot of therapy and for the most part have learned to control my anger. It takes considerably more to set me off now than it did when I first began treatment. Although I still get angry, I've improved. I don't fly off the handle all the time.

Anyone can improve given the right combination of medication, therapy and anger management techniques. But first they have to believe change is possible. Counseling can help a person get to that point. So can spirituality (it did in my case).

We're not doomed to go through life constantly ready to explode.

APA Reference
Oberg, B. (2012, January 3). Borderline Rage: What I Wish People Knew About BPD and Anger, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, April 16 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/borderline/2012/01/what-i-wish-people-knew-about-bpd-and-anger



Author: Becky Oberg

May, 23 2018 at 6:04 pm

Hi there, Thank you for sharing your experience. I'm not the author of this blog, but I am the author of the More Than Borderline blog today. I do agree with you that BPD is not a choice, neither is the anger, self-harm, depression, or dissociation that come along with it. I have found that as I have gone through treatment, I have changed and increasingly am able through use of DBT skills and other skills, learned to think about my own role in rage explosions. Although, to your point, it can take me some time to cool down before I can think about that and it usually isn't immediately in the moment. Thank you for sharing your experience. I know BPD isn't easy for families, either. -Whitney

Struggling
February, 26 2016 at 7:57 am

Crys,
I feel for you. I too have BPD (diagnosed by a psychiatrist) but my counsellors and mental health workers and doctors that I see in the ER after a particularly bad episode always want to tiptoe around the real issue. The only help I've gotten is with one-on-one counselling and having a good counsellor to validate your feelings really helps. It's not a fix, I am not fixed after 10 years of counselling and trying to change. I also have "a lot of social anxiety issues and depression. It’s hard for me to truly connect to people" - I can relate to you for what it's worth. I actually think I am unable to truly connect to people - whenever something happens that I perceive as disrespectful towards me or my children I go back to not trusting that person no matter how close we've been and I become paranoid that they're using me or they're out to get me or they're in my life for some reason that suits them but not because they actually love me. I just can't believe that anyone actually loves me except my two children and my pets. I just can't believe why someone would love me so therefore I don't believe that anyone actually loves me, they're just using me for their own purposes :( I agree, it's a very lonely way to live. There are good moments though and we have to live for those. For the most part, I'm only alive right now because my kids need me - otherwise I would have offed myself a long time ago. I'm sorry this wasn't particularly uplifting, but I hope that knowing that there are other people out there who "get" you and your experiences helps a bit.

michael eades
February, 17 2016 at 7:12 pm

2 points.
1/ anger is just the 'froth' on top of the real feelings (& will be old long held feelings that are triggered - open the dam gate so to speak). learn to find these feelings &, slowly, deal with them & the anger, eventually, is dealt with. a long, difficult journey, but.
2/ anger doesn't have to be 'acted out' physically, it can be done just as well with speech (not yelling) that cuts deeply psychologically & hurts just as much as physical pain, if not more so

Kassie
February, 17 2016 at 2:18 pm

There is hope. Seek treatment and stay with it. My husband has BPD, we have been through hell but are still together. We love each other very much and have learned how to heal from his rages and move forward each time. Our faith is our strongest link. Don't give up, you deserve to be loved. You are not a mistake. Keep working on you and apologize when you calm down.

Crys
December, 13 2015 at 8:24 am

I hope someone will read this and respond, I could use some good advice and insight.

Crys
December, 13 2015 at 8:20 am

I have never been officially "diagnosed "as having BPD, but that's because every shrink and every therapist I get shrinks from personality disorders. It's like a mentality of don't label it and it will go away. Well, I can call a rose a dragon, but it want change the true nature of the flower. It makes me feel very defeated and depressed a lot because it's like I can't get any real help. I have all the symptoms, from inability to regulate mood, extreme mood swings, feelings of abandonment, excessive anger, etc. My boyfriend doesn't really understand. Sometimes I get so angry I can't even talk from fear of going off. I'm not a violent person by nature so I can control it a lot of times to an extent. But ultimately it's like I'm Mt. Saint Helens waiting to explode. Also I have a lot of social anxiety issues and depression. It's hard for me to truly connect to people. Pretty lonely life, but I try to stay hopeful.

Ted
November, 1 2015 at 4:55 am

It's true.
In therapy I've learned to recognize my behaviors, but controlling them is on another level entirely. Sometimes I can feel it coming on; a strong emotion my logical mind rejects, but it happens anyway. So it hits me like a wave, and I'm left trying to dig my way out of it. Logically, I know it's not appropriate. It's almost like being drunk. Somewhere in your head you know you're being really stupid and humiliating yourself, but in that moment, you are helpless to do much but minimize the effect until it passes. I'm getting better at it, but in a way that makes it worse for me, because whether or not I'm handling the urge to rage or cry, I absolutely feel like doing so. Sometimes the realization alone makes me lower my guard and burst into tears over the fact that it's still happening, even though I'm doing my best to act right.
I'm always either drowning inside or spilling my feeling everywhere.
BPD is hellish.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

K
May, 26 2018 at 10:13 am

Wow. You describe it perfectly.
How I wish I knew people irl that went through the same agony as me.

anonymous
April, 16 2015 at 7:12 am

my bpd has been ruining my life for almost 20 years and now my dad has committed suicide. i seriously have bad luck

nelson post
July, 19 2014 at 5:14 am

One simple statement.
My bpd sucks

nelson post
July, 19 2014 at 5:13 am

My bpd is devastating

nelson post
July, 19 2014 at 5:12 am

One simple statement.
My bpd shucks

sanrogers
February, 16 2012 at 2:28 pm

Reminds me of the book, "Stop Walking on Eggshells."

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