Coping with the intense mood swings, impulsive behavior, and extreme anger characterized by borderline personality disorder can be difficult to say the least. BPD is not uncommon; in fact, it affects twice as many people as the much more well-known mental disorder of schizophrenia as published by The New York Times.
An unstable and highly changeable self-image, along with impulsivity leading to reckless behavior and extreme highs and lows lead to difficult interpersonal relationships for those suffering from BPD. Understanding what can lead to these explosive episodes, or the trigger can be the first step in managing the disorder. A trigger refers to an internal or external source that leads to a heightening of symptoms.
COMMON BPD TRIGGERS
If you or a loved one suffers from borderline personality disorder, you are well aware of the emotional rollercoaster ride the disorder incurs. With a hairpin emotional trigger, navigating these emotions and avoiding the outbursts and BPD episodes can seem impossible. While triggers will vary from person to person, these are some common ones:
- Perceived or real abandonment
- Rejection of any kind
- Loss of a job
- Locations that invoke negative memories
- Reminders of traumatic events
- Ending a relationship
The most common trigger for someone suffering from borderline personality disorder is any perception of abandonment or rejection. For example, if someone with BPD leaves you a voicemail and you don’t respond immediately by calling back, this can lead to inappropriate feelings of self-loathing and low self-image which can trigger episodes of anger and self-harm. Triggers are highly individual, and recognizing them is the key to minimizing the symptoms and episodes of BPD.
RECOGNIZING A BPD EPISODE
In order to understand what a trigger for an individual’s BPD episode may be, it is important to be able to recognize what an episode may look like. Again, these episodes are specific to each individual, but there are many common themes. Intense outbursts of anger are indicative of an episode of BPD as are bouts of depression and anxiety. Eighty percent of those suffering from BPD experience suicidal thoughts and behavior while in the throes of an episode as well. Someone with BPD may go to great lengths to feel something, as well as becoming increasingly withdrawn and avoidant during an episode. Thoughts of everyone being out to get them and hating them are common during these times also.
On the flip side, episodes can also be extreme highs, bursts of euphoria and positive emotions. Due to the highly impulsive nature of those suffering from BPD, it is important to realize these emotional highs are also episodes of the disorder. Risk-taking behavior is also a symptom of a BPD episode. Reckless driving and traffic accidents are common as are impulsive spending and even substance abuse.
Psychiatric Times estimates that as many as 50 to 70 percent of those suffering from BPD also suffer from a substance abuse disorder, making the symptoms exaggerated and episodes more volatile and unpredictable.
HOW TO MANAGE TRIGGERS
There are ways to cope and manage symptoms of borderline personality disorder, thus avoiding triggers that lead to episodes. Once you are aware of what the specific triggers are, you can take steps toward learning how to manage them. In the throes of an episode, it may best to attempt to diffuse the situation and avoid escalating it. Try to not get pulled into the extreme highs or lows but instead work to distract from the issue or situation at hand.
If you suffer from borderline personality disorder, here are some ways to help cope with the symptoms that can lead to or trigger an episode:
- Take a warm shower or bath.
- Play music that relaxes you.
- Engage in a physical activity.
- Do brain teasers or problem-solving activities.
- Talk to a sympathetic loved one.
- Draw, paint or write; creative expression can help.
- Seek comforting environments and surroundings.
- Try relaxation exercises.
- Attend a therapy session.
Engaging in an activity that takes your mind off the swirling and intense emotions both physically and emotionally can really help to diffuse an episode. Also don’t be afraid or ashamed to seek help. A professional who understands borderline personality disorder can help you to set realistic goals, break up big tasks, teach life skills to help foster healthy relationships, and help you work to understand and cope with your personal triggers.