Know Your BPD Symptom Triggers and Manage Them Appropriately

December 26, 2011 Becky Oberg

BPD symptom triggers happen anytime and anyplace, but you can protect yourself from damaging effects. Use these tips to control BPD symptom triggers.

Many people with borderline personality disorder (BPD) have suffered from a traumatic event. As a result, their BPD symptoms are sometimes triggered by reminders of the trauma. Triggers can result in a flare-up of BPD symptoms, ranging from a mild depression to a suicidal crisis. So how do you face them?

Make a BPD Symptoms Trigger List

In her book I Can't Get Over It: A Handbook for Trauma Survivors, Dr. Aphrodite Matsakis recommends making a list. Divide it into three parts: Trigger, My Reactions, and Traumatic Event.

In the Trigger column, list what triggers your BPD symptoms. These can include sights, sounds, smells, people, places and even emotional states.

In the My Reactions column, write what your reactions are to the trigger. According to Matsakis, these can include:

  • anger or rage
  • isolating yourself
  • overworking
  • self-hatred or self-blame
  • increased cravings for food, alcohol or drugs
  • increased flashbacks
  • self-harm
  • depression
  • suicidal or homicidal thoughts
  • increased physical pain
  • flare-ups of a chronic medical condition

In the Traumatic Event column, try to identify the traumatic event or secondary wounding experience associated with the triggers and your reactions. (Secondary wounding is a wounding related to the original trauma that makes the original trauma feel worse, such as being interviewed by a hostile lawyer when your abuser is being prosecuted.) Don't worry if you can't do this. As Matsakis explains, the point of this exercise is to identify your BPD symptoms triggers and responses in an attempt to respond in a healthy way.

Stay Safe Despite BPD Symptom Triggers

As people with borderline personality disorder, we need to focus considerable energy on staying safe. A trigger can make this difficult. Matsakis writes,

No matter how much you have grown emotionally, you may fear slipping back into old behaviors. After all, you have practiced the old ways so much for so many years that they have become almost automatic. And, although these new ways of coping are better for you, they require effort, thought, and concentration. They take work. And if you are stressed or otherwise not feeling well, the normal temptation is to resort to the old dysfunctional behaviors, because at the time they seem easier.

When you face a trigger, try to talk to yourself.

  • Remind yourself to take it one step at a time.
  • Use positive coping skills such as muscle relaxation or deep breathing techniques.
  • Don't blame yourself for your feelings. You did not choose the trauma or your reactions.

You are only responsible for making sure you do not hurt yourself or others.

Something Triggered My BPD Symptoms! How Do I Cope?

In 2002, I was the victim of a violent crime. The Marion County (Indiana) Prosecutor's Office gave me a pamphlet with this advice:

First, tell yourself you are not going crazy. You are experiencing normal reactions to an abnormal situation. Just as everyone reacts to a crisis differently, not everyone recovers from a crisis in the same manner or within the same time frame. Recovery from the trauma of a crime depends on many of the same factors which affect recovery from any adult life crisis. This includes internal strength and coping mechanisms, support of family and friends, the way you were treated as a victim, and other stressors present in your life.

This is useful advice for a person with BPD. First, remind yourself you are not crazy. Your BPD symptoms are a normal result of an abnormal event. They may have served you well during the original trauma; that is why they are there. However, they are no longer necessary--that is why you are feeling distress.

You are not a failure if you've been triggered. As Matsakis writes,

If you can survive the trigger without hurting yourself, harming someone else, or regressing into some dysfunctional state, that is quite an achievement. Just because you feel anxious or otherwise uncomfortable does not mean you have failed. To expect yourself to cope with a potent trigger without any anxiety, anger, grief, or depression is too much to ask.

Remember, your goal is to survive the trigger, not wipe out all emotions related to it.

APA Reference
Oberg, B. (2011, December 26). Know Your BPD Symptom Triggers and Manage Them Appropriately, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 21 from

Author: Becky Oberg

March, 11 2019 at 12:44 pm

Hello, so Ive been researching triggers etc... about my bpd I was recently diagnosed with, but I cannot find anything on feeling as if your partner is the trigger and how to cope. Any suggestions please?????

March, 11 2019 at 12:46 pm

also I dont know how I would see an anser if posted on here please email me at if any answers on finding website or anything on feeling your partner is a trigger for my bpd

October, 22 2018 at 8:51 pm

The comments here are disgusting, this article exist to help bpd..not a rant forum of hatred towards bpd people. Someone at this article is trying best to stable after a very very traumatic event. I came for help and read hateful comments exactly the stuff that make a bpd regress.

Susan Byrne
August, 18 2018 at 4:53 am

That s a great help ..this is so difficult to manage thanks

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