The Intense Emotions of Borderline Personality Disorder
If you have borderline personality disorder (BPD), you might relate to me when I describe my intense emotions as being on full volume. Rather than feeling a little sad or mildly happy, I tend to feel intense despair or ecstatic joy. Often when I feel an emotion, it's all-consuming as if the emotion has taken over me completely.
I often explain how it feels to have intense emotions by describing it as drowning in emotion or overflowing with feeling. Although it sounds enjoyable to experience intense joy, it can be painful for me. Any emotion, whether it's happiness, sadness, shame, fear or something else, can be so strong that it feels as if I can't contain it in my mind and body.
How Intense Emotions Affect My Life
My emotions can go from being low-level to all-consuming in just a few seconds. As my intense emotions tend to be activated by social and interpersonal triggers, this can make social situations and relationships challenging for me. I can be mid-conversation with someone and suddenly be filled with shame so intense that it makes me tear. I've left social events early many times due to feeling very emotional and needing to go home to calm down.
Frequently, I find myself crying or panicking when I'm on the street or on public transport. When my intense emotions have been activated, I cannot hold them back, and doing so wouldn't be helpful anyway. In these situations, I try to ignore any possible judgments from others and apply skills from dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). This normally involves noticing my thoughts, feelings, and sensations without judging them, as well as observing the world around me.
Intense Emotions and Other Borderline Symptoms
My intense emotions are very much linked to thinking in extremes, as well as my fear of abandonment. For example, someone not replying to a message might trigger the thought, "They hate me," which could consequently activate feelings of enormous shame and despair.
Similarly, intense emotions can lead to impulsive behaviors, such as frantic texting and reassurance-seeking. In the past, I've self-harmed because the intensity of the feelings felt unbearable.
When I'm having an emotional meltdown, my immediate thought is that I've always felt this way and always will. It's hard to think clearly, or even care, about the long-term consequences of my actions when I can't envisage an ending to the pain.
How to Help Someone Who Has Intense Emotions
My intense emotions are often triggered by events that might seem unimportant or even trivial to others. It's important to me that people in my life understand that my emotional dysregulation is a result of invalidation and difficult life experiences.
The main way people can help me is to validate my emotional experiences. I find it helpful when people close to me adopt a curious stance and ask non-judgmental questions.
"What happened to make you feel emotional?" is one such example.
Dismissing or silencing me only heightens my intense emotions and causes me further pain.
Cappuccino, R. (2019, July 3). The Intense Emotions of Borderline Personality Disorder, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, July 3 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/borderline/2019/7/the-intense-emotions-of-borderline-personality-disorder