How Understanding Neurodiversity in Borderline Can Help
Did you know that neurodiversity includes borderline personality disorder (BPD)? Most people associate the term with autism or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). But, the scope of neurodiversity is much larger than that. The term is new in the mental health community and evolving quickly. However, while information on it is plentiful in the ADHD and autism world, there is surprisingly little information on neurodivergence concerning BPD. So, how does neurodivergence manifest in BPD?
What Is Neurodiversity in BPD?
According to Aaron Rothstein, neurodiversity refers to a non-pathological uniqueness in brain function.1 Some common characteristics associated with the non-neurotypical include: feeling easily overwhelmed, sensory sensitivity or de-sensitivity, meltdowns or shutdowns when overstimulated, low frustration tolerance, and black and white thinking.1 Does that sound familiar?
If you have ever spent time with anyone on the spectrum, you might notice self-stimulating behavior (also known as stimming). Stimming becomes especially noticeable when used to cope with stress. This might look like, for example, repeating certain words, rocking back and forth, squeezing fists, or any other physically stimulating behavior. It wasn’t until I started researching neurodiversity that I realized that I also engage in these behaviors.
A quickly heated discussion with my partner, for example, usually starts with a relatively calm feeling. However, when I start to feel frustrated, my emotional intensity can go from zero to 100 in no time at all. My body temperature skyrockets, my muscles tense, and I swear my eyes turn red. To control my intense impulse to yell, interrupt, or throw something, I might put my fists over my eyes or hold my face or head. I have even found comfort rocking back and forth.
Unfortunately, calming down after reaching that level of intensity is difficult for me, if not impossible. No matter how hard I try to let it go, I usually end up in a pool of dissociated grief by the end of the day.
Sense Soothing and Neurodiversity in BPD
When I am trying to calm myself down, my go-to tool is often rational thought. However, there are two issues with attacking the problem that way. For one, emotions are irrational. For two, the emotional system is not the only system in chaos. My therapist once told me that the senses are a back door to the mind. What truth I have found that to be. These days, if I feel triggered, I will stop trying to talk myself out of the emotion and do some self-care.
I might set the brightness in my room (if I am at home) to something calm, dimmed, and cozy. Sometimes calming smells like a scented candle or lotion will do the trick. Essential oils such as lavender do wonders for my anxiety. There is even music made for the neurodivergent mind. (Check out 8D music.) Because I react differently to sounds, smells, touch, light, etc., calming my nervous system via my senses does work as a back door to my brain, where logic hits a brick wall.
- Rothstein, A., "Mental Disorder or Neurodiversity?" The New Atlantis, Summer 2012.
Brown, D. (2022, April 27). How Understanding Neurodiversity in Borderline Can Help, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, June 30 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/borderline/2022/4/how-understanding-neurodiversity-in-borderline-can-help