Borderline Personality Disorder,  Emotions

With Borderline Personality Disorder always look for the trigger

Look for the Trigger
Look for the Trigger

In When Hope is Not EnoughI suggest that when asking a validating question, the question that is most effective is: “What happened?” I recommend this because it is open ended and, more importantly, with BPD something usually DID happen to trigger emotional dysregulation. There is almost always a local trigger. This is why I don’t recommend attributing emotional dysregulation to childhood trauma or abuse. With emotional dysregulation, something typically just happened to trigger it.

While the conditioned responses – rage or running away – can sometimes be attributed to childhood and the interpretation of the precipitating event can be conditioned from childhood, the actual event is a trigger that sets off emotional dysregulation. If your loved one with BPD is raging at you or running for the hills, the emotions that fuel these actions were triggered by something.

Sometimes it is difficult to see the trigger. Sometimes the trigger will seem trivial to a non-BPD.

A quick example from my life. My wife is big about feeling safe and secure. She has a trigger around money. She’s afraid that we will not have enough money and will grow old on the streets. A few months ago we got a bill from the high school for exams for our kids. This bill was rather high and the feeling of insecurity around money triggered fear in my wife. That fear quickly morphed to anger at me (because I make the money in our household). She raged at me for not being successful enough, not making enough money.

The trigger here was the bill. Ordinary enough thing to come in the mail, but that triggered the emotional dysregulation.

My suggestion to non-BPDs is to look for that trigger. Understand what triggers the emotional dysregulation. If a trigger is coming down the line, be prepared for it. It’s impossible to avoid all triggers – and you might not want to in the long run. It’s no wonder though that forums for BPD and the related behavior (like self-injury) have MIGHT BE TRIGGERING warnings.

One Comment

  • Nick

    I have a question about this – I believe I have BPD. I was formally diagnosed with anxiety disorder and OCD 7 years ago, but I now believe that I have BPD, based on the symptoms (though when I get fearful I generally don’t react with rage). I have noticed recently that my anxiety medication has been present during nearly every single *major* flare-up of my BPD behaviors – a benzo. Anytime I’m on it for any sustained period of time so it builds up in my system, I truly screw up. Then I feel guilty and horrible about it. Then that feeling overwhelms me and I screw up again trying to deal with it. Etc. So my question, I guess, would be – has anything your wife does herself help with these triggers? I can’t afford regular psychotherapy (I might be able to afford once a month, if that), so I am focused on trying to help myself as much as I can. Obviously taking care when taking any medication for anxiety or avoiding it altogether if I can (difficult, because my anxiety truly does reach horrible levels occasionally) is a must. Trying to be mindful of my thoughts, emotions, and the resulting behaviors is also a must. I am introspective and very open to change. I don’t want to be “this way.” I absolutely do not want to “act up” or cause anyone any issues or pain. In the past, it sort of just happened – usually when being disinhibited due to my meds, which makes it even more difficult for me to try to regulate things – but now I want to be sure I am aware of what’s happening and try to stop it. Has anything helped your wife in dealing with triggers in the moment?

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