Emotional Dysregulation in BPD

by Sarah Myles

As a parent with Borderline Personality Disorder, I am hyper-sensitive to the emotional health of my children. This in itself can cause a problem, as it sometimes leads me to over-compensate. The trick, as with everything in BPD, to find the appropriate balance - the Holy Grail for BPD sufferers!

During my diagnosis and subsequent treatment during 2010, I often described my life as being a tightrope walk. It requires intense focus and concentration to maintain the balance needed to stay on the wire - and therefore function. The slightest thing can come along and knock me off balance, sending me spiralling down, hitting the mat and getting caught in a non-stop cycle of re-bounding. Bouncing off the walls, floor and ceiling - going from one extreme emotion to the next within minutes. It then takes a huge amount of work to bring this perpetual motion back under control, get back on the wire and concentrate again.

This is why Emotional Dysregulation is a core feature of BPD, and any treatment should address this in order to be effective. Regardless of the cause of your BPD, the Emotional Dysregulation you experience exacerbates all other symptoms. Developing skills and strategies to self-regulate emotions makes management of other symptoms easier, and exploration of the real causes safer.

I have struggled with Emotional Dysregulation for as long as I can remember, and felt huge relief when it was finally explained to me by my Mental Health Team. It can be terrifying when every emotion you experience is an extreme one, but you are unable to articulate it, understand it, or identify where it comes from. I didn't feel happy, I felt manically ecstatic. I didn't feel angry, I felt rage. I didn't feel sad, I felt dangerously low.

With Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, I developed an understanding of my emotions and where they come from, which helps me to self-regulate and stay focused on functioning. It's not easy, and some days I am still caught off-guard and end up bouncing off the walls again. But, with practise, it becomes a bit easier to stay on the tightrope.

So, learning about emotional self-regulation and the way it should develop in childhood makes me work hard to ensure the emotional development of my own sons. I use the skills and strategies from DBT to teach them how to identify their emotions, accept them and, crucially, to tolerate them. It's another thing that requires balance because in this case, balance is important to teach them perspective.

We are learning these skills together, and the goal for both myself and my children is emotional well-being. I'm glad to say that, so far, they're doing pretty well.

Sarah Myles

 

 

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