BPD tantrums, rages, and emotional fall out: what can one do?

People with Borderline Personality Disorder appear to have anger management issues. Frequent or volatile outbursts, tantrums, or physical violence are common ways in which Borderlines react when they feel angry. With women, BPD anger is vitriolic, hateful, and emotional. With men, it is more physical, confrontation, and out of control. Being fair, however, there are many cross-overs in terms of the kinds of anger experienced by BPD in both sexes.

I have found that I have a very short fuse, and that I blow up over little things after days or weeks of frustration have been pent up in my mind. In general, I’m a reserved person, so instead of showing negativity publicly around people in small amounts ( thus venting a little ) I tend to “save it” until I am home, around close friends, or others with whom I feel close to; because I feel that no matter what I do, say, throw, or break, they will generally still like me afterwards ( hopefully ).

But it is important to emphasize that BPD anger is different from “normal” anger or frustration. Here are a few examples from my own experiences:

  • BPD Anger is uncontrolable, the rage takes over and all self-control and emotional regulation evaporates.
  • With men, it is physical and confrontational. I will threaten, push, punch, or otherwise harm others when I am really going off the deep end. Other times, I will punch the wall, break things, or damage property.
  • BPD anger is reckless. I can remember a few episodes in which anger and driving made for a bad mix. One night, after finishing work at a restaurant bar, I was in a very angry emotional state. The result was disastrous: I got into my car and sped down country roads with little regard for posted speed limits or other people. When I approached a turn, I was going so fast that I completely went off the road and into a someone’s front yard. In a matter of seconds, I had ruined a stone wall, damaged a tree, spun 360 degrees around, and completely totaled the car. Had I been “in control” of my emotions, this never would have happened.
  • BPD anger is self abusive. In college and the years following college, I can remember getting so angry that I physically would cut myself in a vain attempt to express the pain I was feeling. One time, I was so mad at my parents that I took a dull dinner knife and slashed at my left arm in hopes of making them feel the pain I was feeling about myself. Of course, this didn’t work, and the result was a terrible incident which left me and them with terrible emotional scars.
  • Speaking personally, when I feel rage towards women, I have rape or sexual violence thoughts. *** LET ME BE CLEAR: I HAVE NEVER HIT, RAPED, OR OTHERWISE HARMED A WOMAN IN MY LIFE *** – but that doesn’t mean the thought hasn’t crossed my mind when I’m flying off the handle. The feelings of abandonment, failure, and loss of love that comes with love and emotional commitments to others tends to give rise to fantasies of showing them “who’s boss”, in a cowardly hope to control them and quell one’s own feelings of worthlessness.
  • BPD anger makes one say horrible things. When I am in a BPD tantrum, not only do I speak my mind, but also throw in the kitchen sink, using every emotional spade I can gather to harm the opposing party. I say horrible things, pass judgments, and often do so to the point that one single episode of my anger ruins the entire relationship forever. I have lost friends in a matter of minutes over BPD anger.
  • BPD anger is overly-dramatic. Because the BPD sufferer is feeling so emotionally charged, angry outbursts can give way to dramatic acts, words, or threats. Although most never come to fruition, on some ocassions, what would otherwise be a passing angry word erupts into a huge scene that troubles everyone in its wake.

For the victims of a BPD rage, I think the important thing to understand – coming from a person with Borderline Personality Disorder – is that for every 5 things a BPD does in anger, maybe only 1 of them are really genuine. The rest are just products of anger and frustration over peripheral issues that don’t have anything to do with the particular event that sparked the BPD rage in the first place.

That said, one should also realize that BPD rages are not necessarily like the temper tantrums thrown by a toddler who isn’t getting his/her milk and cookies before bedtime. It is quite the opposite: the BPD sufferer feels so lost, hopeless, worthless, and desperate that anger and rash emotional behavior feels like the only way out of the situation.

Don’t take a BPD rage personally, but do make sure that you process it and if possible, get help for the BPD person. If you feel anger in return and feel so detested that you can’t even speak to the BPD who threw the fit, it might be better that you talk to a professional and get advice about how to cope with the incident.

I don’t condone or make excuses for my BPD rages. In the days, months, and years following acute outbursts, I often feel guilt and shame. At the same time, I hope the people around me get past the anger and look between the lines for the pain I am feeling. If they can admit that they see the pain, and not the anger at its face value, they have made an enormous leap that is both laudable and extremely beneficial for me as a sufferer of BPD.

In the end, BPD sufferers are mostly motivated by fear and feelings of loss. If you remember this the next time a BPD person you know acts out, you’ll be that much closer to helping this person through the pain that they feel. In fact, by understanding and vocalizing the pain displayed in a tantrum back to the BPD sufferer, it may help prevent future BPD rages, which is the ultimate goal of everyone surrounding a sufferer of Borderline Personality Disorder.

1. Edited for clarity, grammar and spelling – 05/31/2015