As you probably already know one of the diagnostic criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder is rage and the way in which these patients deal with it. In my case, I was always angry: at someone or something or a situation. It was endless. I would spend my days literally going from one rageful moment to the next. I had volatile outbursts often for no apparent reason and quite often even I did not know why I was angry. Or I would deny even being angry even though I was throwing things or breaking things. My anger seemed to rule my life on every single level. I raged at my children, my husband, my children’s teachers and even strangers I encountered at the grocery store. In short, even though I hate the word, I was a raving lunatic.
Difference between the way men and women with BPD express anger
This is a common problem for women with BPD. Their anger is usually vitriolic, long-lasting and hateful. They words they use are often extremely hurtful and painful for the person to whom they are being directed. I know this all too well.
In men, this anger usually displays itself differently. Men tend to be more physically confrontational and violent. This is one of the reasons that men with BPD tend to end up in the criminal justice system: they get into physical altercations and assault someone. The bottom line is that most people with BPD have an extremely short fuse. I used to be able to go from zero to absolute nuclear in thirty seconds or less and most of the time the people around me had no idea what set me off.
BPD anger is different from so-called "normal" anger
BPD anger is a whole different beast than other more general or so-called “normal” anger. Because most people with BPD describe it as utterly uncontrollable. They talk about the way it takes them over completely and they go into a “blind rage”. They are unable to exert any control over it whatsoever. This exhibits itself (in men) in behaviour such as punching walls or damaging other property. Women will sometimes engage in self-harming behaviour such as cutting which they quite often describe as one way to “let the pain out”.
BPD anger is often very reckless. Sometimes people will get into their cars and drive off when they are raging. They may get into an accident because they are so distracted by their feelings.
The expression of BPD anger is often highly dramatic because the person is feeling such intense emotions and the only way they can express them is to be dramatic so that someone “pays attention”. This causes them to lose relationships with significant others and friends because it frightens people. Most people have no idea how to respond to a person who is experiencing BPD rage so they distance themselves from it.
For someone who love a person who has BPD, it is important to distinguish the difference between BPD anger and the histrionics. The outward expression of anger is simply an expression of utter frustration and despair. Quite often the anger is expressed over matters which are trivial to the observer but highly important to the person with BPD. In my case, I usually just wanted a hug from my husband or kids -- someone to say that everything would be okay. Even though I appeared to be having a grown up temper tantrum that was not what was going on at all. I felt so lost and hopeless and out of control but did not have the words to vocally express how I was feeling or felt that no one would listen or care.
All this said, I am not trying to find reasons to excuse my past behaviour. I am merely trying to explain it now. Today when I feel angry I ask myself, “Is this something I am going to care about six months from now?” If the answer is “no” (and it usually is) I let it go. Easier said than done, I know. I also realize and appreciate now that there are many things which are beyond my control and I do not sweat them in the same way. The things I can control, I do my best to control them. If not, I let it go.
BPD and anxiety
I am firmly convinced that BPD is rooted in what is called anticipatory anxiety. We are anxious that people won’t love us. We are anxious that we will be rejected. The best defense is a good offense.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. People can change. They can learn to manage their anxiety. I can teach you how to do this.