If you or someone you know has Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), you may be familiar with sudden and unexpected outbursts of anger. People with BPD experience all kinds of mood swings, but anger is especially prevalent. We’ll explore what anger is and how to get it under control.
What Is Anger?
Anger is a real and often physical response to unsatisfactory conditions in our life. When we experience something that makes us angry, adrenaline and cortisol surge through our veins and our heart begins to pump faster. Our breathing may become more rapid and our muscles can clench.
It is important to remember that anger is normal and healthy. It often spurs us to correct something that is not going right. However, not everything can go our way all of the time, and sometimes anger can become unreasonable or dangerous.
Managing Your Anger
People with Borderline Personality Disorder have difficulty regulating their emotions, so dealing with anger (which can be a blinding emotion) is especially challenging. But there are many ways to prevent anger from becoming a debilitating problem. Here are just some suggestions:
1. Diffuse it with humor. Instead of immediately responding to a situation with anger, try to find something humorous about it. If the airline you are flying has lost your luggage, imagine your bags falling into the wrong hands or getting switched. Imagine that a man in the mafia is taking your suitcase, thinking it is full of cash, to his boss. He opens the case and, voila – your underwear! Although these humorous imaginings may not be realistic, they can offer a moment’s reprieve from intense anger.
2. Anticipate and plan. Do you usually get the most angry when you first arrive at work? Establish a policy with your coworkers and supervisor not to bombard you until you’ve had 30 minutes to settle in, catch up on email, and check your messages. Do you always get frustrated during the same leg of traffic? Do some research and plan an alternate route. Even if you don’t get to your destination any faster, the change of scenery may provide a healthy distraction from feelings of anger.
3. Indulge in the magic of exercise before, during, and after. Exercise helps regulate stress and provides us with mood-stabilizing chemicals. If you exercise regularly, chances are you won’t blow your lid when faced with an upsetting situation. In a moment of anger, try taking a 20-minute walk before responding to an upsetting email or last-minute demand made by a boss. A short burst of exercise can help you to feel calmer and respond to a situation more rationally.
4. Use “I.” When we’re angry, we tend to accuse. You may express your anger by saying, for example, “You always leave me at home alone!” Instead, try this formula: “When you go out without me, I feel that you don’t love me and I would like it if you would call me at least once.” Rephrasing your concerns in this way can force you to pause and think about a situation before responding with anger. It can also help to keep a problem from escalating because you are expressing your feelings in a more productive way that the other person is sure to better respond to.
Adverse Side Effects of Anger
In the Saturday morning cartoons of yesteryear, characters that got extremely angry would, on occasion, explode into pieces. While that doesn’t happen in real life, the metaphor is a pertinent one: anger destroys your body. Cancer, heart attacks, and stroke have all been linked in one way or another to negative feelings over a prolonged period of time.
The steps you take today to better control your anger may save your life tomorrow. Whether or not you have Borderline Personality Disorder, finding ways to keep your anger under control can help you to have a healthier and more productive life.