Tolerating Mysterious Behaviours in BPD

by Sarah Myles

I am becoming frustrated with my understanding of my Borderline Personality Disorder.

I am a huge advocate of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and Dialectical Behaviour Therapy as a means of learning about, and managing BPD on a daily basis. I have spent several years learning the techniques and applying them regularly, and I am a particular fan of the logical approach to uncovering, and working through, the causes of the disorder. My entire philosophy has been that, in order to manage it, I have to understand it. In order to understand it, I have to know where it comes from. Otherwise, how am I going to recognise triggers and stop spirals before they start?

I think I understand a lot of it. I know why I have Borderline Personality Disorder, and I know why I have OCD and anxiety problems. Because I understand the causes, I know, in broad terms, what sets off a crisis for me. I am aware of the warning signs, and I know which techniques to apply to head it off at the pass. It’s still exhausting, and hard work, but I’m in a much better position than I was before I began to understand.

But, there are two ‘cause and effect’ situations that remain a total mystery:

  1. Specific sounds = rage
  2. Repetition = despair

Certain sounds enrage me instantaneously. And I don’t mean feelings of great irritation or frustration – I mean full-on, put-your-fist-through-the-wall, rage. Instantaneously. For example – and this may sound bizarre - I cannot be in the same room as someone eating cereal. Eat any other food in my presence, and it will not even register in my consciousness, but eat a bowl of cereal and it’s like flicking The Hulk Switch.

Now, obviously, that particular example is easy to manage – I just leave the room. Problem solved. But it bugs me, because it is such a specific reaction to a specific circumstance. Try as I might, I simply cannot figure out what the cause is. It frustrates me, because it means there is a part of my mind that is unknowable. It must have such a simple explanation, but I just don’t know what it is. I experience a similar reaction to the sound of car or motorbike engines ‘revving' - something I have less control over, clearly. I once lived next to an airport, and I can listen to aircraft engines all day – but ‘rev’ your BMW anywhere near me and I become a hulking rage-monster. Why is that?

The other thing I cannot fathom is my relationship with repetition, or routine. On the one hand, doing the same thing over and over again – for example, our household’s normal morning routine – drives me to despair. I’m not being overly-dramatic with my word usage there – I literally become overwhelmed with an intense feeling of hopelessness. I start the school term full of positive determination, and usually by day three, the monotony has ground me down. I simply have no tolerance for it. However, on the other hand, I need routine in order to function properly. During the school holidays, I enjoy the lack of routine for about three days, and then I lose all motivation descend into a period of low mood. Leaving the house at all becomes very difficult.

Despite trying to figure that one out for years, I still have no real explanation for it, so I attribute it to the contradictory nature of BPD – vehemently wanting something and not wanting it simultaneously. That allows me to accept it, and try to manage it. It’s quite a difficult one to manage, but I try to alleviate it by mixing things up a little – trying to create a balance between routine and no routine. Perhaps we’ll do one thing slightly different during the morning routine, while the overall process remains the same. Or, maybe we’ll plan to go somewhere on certain days during the holidays, but choose the destination the night before. It sounds obvious, but when your natural inclination is to become set in one extreme or the other, it's actually quite a difficult one to get your head around.

That approach – that ongoing quest for balance – is the general management approach that applies across the board for BPD. This disorder that creates extreme thinking and emotional dysregulation requires a constant search for the middle ground within oneself. Perhaps that explains my lack of tolerance for the mysterious behaviours. If I’m going to understand my behaviour, I have to understand all of it, immediately, or none at all. Anything in between just drives me nuts.


I too have been diagnosed with b.p.d..... I switch my emotions towards ppl on & off.... I do not or can not do any routine whatsoever ... appointments are getting easier as I've gotten older and I don't push ppl away now but I used to always. outbursts of angry still emerge just the other day I am diabetic type one have been for almost thirty years so my ability to walk is getting almost impossible. I was almost home n this scrawny man asked me if I had any change.... god after the morning I'd had I exploded on him telling him I'm on benefits I can hardly walk go n get a FUCKING job etc etc etc... my partner could hear me n told me everyone was staring at me from their cars I DON'T CARE!! SHOULD I

Thanks for your comment. Good luck with your treatment.

Sarah Myles

Do you think that you may also be on the autistic spectrum - some of their stuff might also help you!!? I'm not sure that really believe with the diagnosis of BPD. isn't just people who have grown up with parents who were unable to provide a consistent, compassionate and emotionally safe environment? i don't mean to be rude but it just seems to me that labelling people is always detrimental to their self esteem and when you consider that most be people with mental health problems have them because of damage done to them whilst they were growing up, doing more damage by naming and shaming is even more cruel. Sounds like you have made loads of progress tho and i can totally relate to the needing both routine and needing freedom to do what you want - life is such a fine balance i think. i have organised my 5 yearold a timetable of all the local play activities for the summer hols and hope that this way I can have a bit of relaxing time with him and relaxing time without him if you see what i mean!! good luck. :-)

Thanks for your comment.

In all the years I've spent being examined and assessed by all manner of health professionals, nobody has ever suggested autism, and so I have never explored that possibility. I will do some reading though - thank you for the suggestion.

I previously blogged about the 'label' of BPD - it's advantages and disadvantages. You can read it here:

I disagree with your comment that most people with mental health problems were damaged in some way during childhood. Of course, some will have been, but I think a generalisation such as that distracts from real scientific investigation. There are a number of new studies that suggest physical indicators for BPD in the structure and activity of the brain.

The studies discussed here, for example:

suggest that a reduction in activity in a frontal area of the brain "may be unique to BPD." Also that:

“This new report adds to the impression that people with borderline personality disorder are ‘set-up’ by their brains to have stormy emotional lives, although not necessarily unhappy or unproductive lives,” commented Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry.

I'm glad to hear about your summer holiday plan - planning ahead is definitely the key to making it go smoother :)

Good luck, and thanks for reading.

Sarah Myles

Hi - your post struck a cord with me on both counts- i have bpd and dont understand some of the origins of my behaviour. Certain noises drive me mad too- pen clicking or nail picking sounds- they make me want to strangle the person making those noises- and ticking clocks. I was much more intolerant of them when i was younger and used to fly at my sisters if they clicked their nails. All I know is that my mind is so restless anyway and something like that immediately draws my attention and i can't concentrate on anything other than the sounds and get immediately frustrated because my attention is not where I need it to be. I need routine or I just act according to my mood and everything feels out of control. The routine bores me though, despite me needing plans and stability because I feel a great emptiness inside me like a little child somewhere in there needs entertaining 24/7 or I get really bored then feel the pain of the emptiness and get out of control! I would like to have DBT- I taught myself a lot of the skills and they help but i feel i need the one-to-one therapy bit to really get anywhere further to investigate where my triggers and behaviours came from- like you said and I totally agree- you need to understand something properly in order to process it and put it to rest. take care, Ali P xxx
Hi Ali, My apologies - I'm only just seeing your comment now. Thank you for taking the time to post your experience. It all sounds very familiar! I would certainly recommend DBT - particularly if you are highly motivated. It's very difficult and a lot of hard work, but worth it in the end. Best of luck, and thanks for reading. Sarah Myles
It is quite interesting to read the symptoms you have are classified as B.P.D. I have all the similar triggers, but I was diadnosed with ADHD. Since i started taking medicattion three years ago, I have noticed a decrease in awareness of triggers and the irritation of routine etc. I understand completely what you are talking about. It is almost like the left side of your brain is playing tug of war the right side .Your structured side wants to stay creative and loose. Thought I would throw another diagnosis in, just to add to the chaos! TTFN

Hi there!

Thanks for taking the time to comment. That's not the first time ADHD has been suggested to me (though none of my doctors ever have).

It's certainly something I've been meaning to look at, since my BPD overlaps with many other conditions that flare up and down according to triggers and the severity of the overall BPD at that time (OCD, panic disorder, dissociation, binge eating, paranoia, etc), so a secondary condition wouldn't be a huge surprise.

I don't know very much about ADHD, though, so much more research is required on my part.

Thanks for the suggestion, though - very kind :)

Thanks for reading,

Sarah Myles


Hi, I can relate to everything but as for the routine it's more towards relationships that I struggle with routine. As soon as it's going fine, it's like I get bored so cause drama, make up problems to make it interesting; the thought of them wanting to leave and yet I can convince them to stay. I need that unstableness otherwise it is just monotonous. I don't know how to stop it though, I will forever be alone when it comes to love and I really don't know what to do, I can't stop myself from causing the drama as I don't even realise that I've started something till it's to late. If you have any advice would appreciate it. Thank you
Hi there, Thanks for your comment, and apologies to take so long in replying. Firstly, I would say that awareness is truly half the battle, though it doesn't seem like it at first. Recognising problematic behaviours is a huge thing to achieve. Secondly, I would suggest seeking the help of a mental health professional, as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy can be very effective in managing behaviour, provided you are motivated to apply the strategies thoroughly. There is an abundance of online resources available, too, if you search for Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. Best of luck :) Sarah Myles
Maybe it's not part of the BPD - Does this ring any bells for you? Misophonia is also sometimes referred to as selective sound sensitivity syndrome (can be shortened to 4S); a condition in which a person reacts irrationally to certain sounds that most people take little or no notice of. This disorder is not caused by a hearing impairment and is not the same as hyperacusis, which is an over-sensitivity to the volume of sounds. Misophonia elicits excessively negative and immediate emotional and physiological responses. This sensitivity to certain sounds can have a negative effect on a person’s life causing problems with activities of daily living. Interactions with significant people can also be affected in ways that create tension or interfere with personal relationships. The disorder can have a deleterious effect on one’s usual support system and the potential for social isolation exists. In an attempt to avoid problematic situations, a person can become withdrawn and shy away from others in general.
Thank you for that information - I had never heard of misophonia (if you'll excuse the pun!) I'll certainly look into it, as it not being part of the BPD would certainly explain the difficulty I have in getting to the bottom of it. Thanks again for taking the time to read and comment. Best wishes, Sarah Myles
There is an overwhelming bias in mental health to think of all problems as deriving from a chemistry set. This makes the insurance debaucle easier, but excludes options. I think of the brain as hardware and software and that the real corrective work is done by "patching" the code. I'm guessing that car revving could be perceived as aggressive. In your past someone might have thought it funny to scare a kid with their car. A childhood tormentor might have crunched cereal, or cereal crunching could have happened around someone's particularly nasty meltdown. I'm further guessing that you have nearly perfect recall of any interaction you perceive as threatening. It may be conventional wisdom that such trivialities should be ignored, but for us that's not an option, so what to do about it? I remind you that you have a choice and, if aware of what's going on - you can feel pain, absorb it, and not react to it. It's uncomfortable. It takes practice. The discomfort though, is generally less damaging than blowing up in public. For me, when a loved one truly needed me - I could endure this discomfort to save hers. Once I learned that discomfort can be endured, I stopped defaulting to fight/flight and started looking for ways to interrupt bad processes when they start. I will recommend these exercises: Learn to listen very carefully. To nature. To the city. To silence. The act of very careful listenning is cool in itself, but by necessity forces the narrative voice in your head to be quiet. I also recommend placing one's hand on a tree, to make physical contact with a very patient living thing. There is a connection that comes from a physical contact which reorients my mind to the external rather than internal, world. I recommend going on random excursions, letting chance guide you. "Walkabout" distracts your consciousness, so the watchdog in your head can take a much needed break. Constantly monitoring the world for dangers is making your poor brain cells very tired.
What was very enlightening for me was a great course available through audible called your deceptive mind. It's on how the brain works, the way all people's brains work poorly, and how bad our perceptions are. It's not a psych course, it's neuroscience. Neuroscience makes a lot more sense. What you are coping with are normal brain processes that have lost their feedback inhibitions. I have found that, by logically applying similar monitoring consciously, I can teach my brain to apply them "un" consciously. Let me know if any of this seems interesting, B.
Many thanks for reading, and taking the time to comment. There's certainly a lot of food for thought there. Thanks for sharing the info. Best regards, Sarah Myles
I have dual diagnosis of BPD and ADHD. I find I have to busy every minute of my life, or the darkness comes along. I hate certain noises, particularly if I am trying to focus/concentrate. I have adhd meds but feel when they wear off I get more angry than before taking them. I have an overwhelming urge to run away from my life and travel the world, but I don't want to screw my son up, so I stay put, work and go slowly insane......