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Are They Mood Swings or Borderline Personality Disorder?

March 15, 2021 Kate Beveridge

Mood swings are common for many people, whether as a part of adolescence, during menstruation, or in a stressful period. Mood swings are also a symptom of borderline personality disorder (BPD). So, how can you tell if you are experiencing mood swings alone or as an indicator of BPD?

Mood Swings Vs. BPD

I was on hormonal contraceptives for almost seven years straight. While they helped me feel like I was in control of my body, they also interfered with my daily emotions. Once I quit the contraceptives and settled into a natural cycle, I soon noticed that my emotions fluctuate in a pattern across the month.

A few days before my period starts, and for a few days after, I experience stronger than usual mood swings. I am more irritable, likely to cry over small things, and generally feeling more down. During this time, I am conscious that my brain is not performing at its best because of the hormonal changes. 

I also notice mood swings become more prevalent when I am under stress. If I am working more than usual in a week, worried about money, or dealing with personal issues, my emotions are stronger. I find myself quick to anger, slow to calm down, and generally in a negative mood. 

This experience of mood swings is distinct from the tumultuous emotions that I experience with BPD. When I am triggered by past trauma, experiencing feelings of abandonment, or having conflict in a relationship, the emotional experience is more extreme. My emotions may change rapidly in several seconds, leaving me screaming and crying, with my brain yelling at me. It can take me up to an hour to decompress after an emotionally stimulating event.

The main difference is the intensity of the emotions. While mood swings may still significantly affect me, I can largely ignore the emotions and get on with my day. If I am having what I would call a BPD episode, I cannot focus on anything else until the experience has passed. It is so all-consuming that I cannot brush it aside without working on calming myself down. 

Coping with Mood Swings and BPD

It becomes extra challenging if you live with mood swings and BPD. I have to pay extra attention to my emotions to identify my triggers and manage my mental state. My natural and stress-related mood swings leave me more open and sensitive, meaning that I am more vulnerable to a BPD episode. If I allow my poor moods to get the better of me, I can quickly spiral and end up in a much more negative place than before.

These are the strategies I use to cope with mood swings:

  • I identify my moods. Once I notice that mood swings are happening, I check to see if they correspond with my menstrual cycle or different stress. I also identify the emotions I am experiencing, so I know what I am dealing with. 
  • I care for my physical needs. During these times, it is more important than ever that I get enough sleep, drink water, and eat regularly. If I don't care for my physical needs, I leave myself more vulnerable to emotions. 
  • I avoid conflict. I am more likely to look for an argument if I am experiencing mood swings. However, fighting in my relationship is more likely to trigger a BPD episode. Therefore, I alert my husband that my emotional state is compromised and try to avoid any arguments. 
  • I seek out solitude and nature. Being calm, alone, and surrounded by greenery is an excellent way to reduce my emotional stimulation. Because I live in the mountains, I can easily access quiet places to decompress. 
  • I monitor my ongoing mental state. By staying on top of how I feel, I can track my moods and know when I am most sensitive to my emotions. Therefore, it allows me to implement my coping strategies when needed. 

Do you have both BPD and mood swings as I do? Do you notice mood swings and sensitivity to your emotions? What strategies do you use to cope and prevent the situation from getting worse?

APA Reference
Beveridge, K. (2021, March 15). Are They Mood Swings or Borderline Personality Disorder?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, July 27 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/borderline/2021/3/are-they-mood-swings-or-borderline-personality-disorder



Author: Kate Beveridge

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Lizanne Corbit
March, 16 2021 at 5:06 pm

Thank you for sharing your strategies! These can be so helpful for other people to see. Not only to help them create ones that will work for themselves but to perhaps recognize areas where they could use a little extra support.

March, 17 2021 at 10:25 am

Hi Lizanne,
Thanks for reading. I'm glad that you found my strategies helpful! Do you use similar methods to cope with your emotions?

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