Using the Senses to Soothe Borderline Personality Disorder

November 13, 2019 Rosie Cappuccino

Is it really possible to soothe borderline personality disorder (BPD) with your senses? As an emotionally sensitive person and someone with a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder, it is easy for my emotions to run wild. Only last week was I doubled over sobbing during a panic attack following a small mistake that I had made. My therapist has taught me how to use the senses to ground myself during such moments of panic, and overwhelming shame and sadness. Let me share some of the techniques I use with you. Before I begin, however, I want to acknowledge that not every sense will be available to every person or may need to be used in an individualized way.

Using the Senses to Soothe BPD


Focus your eyes on what you can see around you. Notice the colors from the deep navy of the sofa cushion to the milky white of the wall and the wisp of dusky pink thread on the carpet. Save a picture reel on your phone or paste some magazine clippings on your fridge of images you find soothing. I love Japanese gardens so I save photos on my phone to look at during moments of distress.

My emotional pain is always heightened when I’m cold so I make sure to grab my hot water bottle or take a warm shower when I feel upset. The heat sinks into the center of my body and it makes me feel more able to cope. Conversely, I know that some people find crushing ice between their fingers helpful when they are having urges to self-harm. Noticing where my limbs are in relation to other parts of my body and tracing the fingers on one hand with the fingers, on the other hand, can also ground me when I am in a flight of panic. 

As someone who used to have an eating disorder, this sense can be a tricky one. However, I enjoy eating a lot and find that recognizing taste can be soothing, in particular, hot drinks such as fresh mint tea, spicy ginger tea and rich, aromatic coffee. I love to cook curries with coconut, coriander, and chili. The taste of the various spices always tastes so much better after an hour of chopping, stirring, and simmering.

The hardest time for me by far is night. For this reason, when I go to bed I listen to sounds that conjure peaceful imagery for me such as rainfall or forest birdsong. Having background noises that invoke a cozy feeling or remind me of nature stops my mind from dwelling on worries about the day ahead. It can be helpful too for me to tune into the sounds around me, even if it is the humming of the fridge, a dripping tap or a car beeping. By listening to the world around me, I can momentarily pause my internal monologue and participate in my environment.


This sense is uniquely hard to capture in words or images and yet is perhaps the most evocative of them all. I have a perfume that reminds me of a family member and just lifting the lid evokes her reassuring presence. Similarly, the smell of a certain brand of shampoo or deodorant can transport me back to college days. 

Do you use the senses to soothe your borderline personality disorder? I would love to hear your experiences, so share them in the comments. 

APA Reference
Cappuccino, R. (2019, November 13). Using the Senses to Soothe Borderline Personality Disorder, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, April 14 from

Author: Rosie Cappuccino

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