Emotional Instability is the the third symptom in the list of diagnostic criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) which I will talking about more in depth. I have already talked about Black and White Thinking and Unstable Sense of Self. All up there is 9 diagnostic criteria which I will be covering.
Marsha Linehan says that people with BPD can be likened to someone with third degree burns. They are walking around with their fragility exposed, and every slight feels excruciatingly painful. The reactions of a person with BPD are often over the top for the situation that they are in. This is often because they haven’t be taught or learned how to express their emotions appropriately.
Intense anger is a separate symptom to emotional instability but it is the one that I struggle with myself. However, through therapy I have began to understand that the anger is often a mask for other emotions that I am experiencing. Anger can often be a mask for sadness. It can also be a reaction to feeling out of control.
Self harm is often used as a way to deal with emotional instability. Often, the emotions are either too strong to deal with, or feeling nothing (or numb) becomes too much. So I was harming myself to either feel something, anything at all. I was also harming to have something physical to deal with, to replace the emotional instability.
I’ve mentioned in a previous post that it’s believed that people with a mental illness often have a lack of insight into their symptoms when they are most symptomatic. This is also true, again for myself at least, for BPD. I cringe looking back at some of the things that I did while the most symptomatic, especially when it was my emotional instability to blame.
At the time though I was acting out, dealing with emotions that were overwhelming. I was lashing out at the people around me and I was hell bent on trying to get rid of those emotions. It was excruciating and I still catch myself now falling down that hole. I stop the communication, I can’t articulate what is wrong and my insight goes out the window.
The emotional bursts are similar to those of a small child and I feeling a burning guilt as I watch myself react. I do have better coping skills and I can often pull myself back off the ledge. It’s still a learning process though and I am still learning about appropriate emotion responses. I feel strange saying that as a 27 year old woman, but it’s where I’m at.
How do you cope when you feel overwhelmed by emotions?
Do you know someone who struggles with emotional instability?
Linking up with Jess for IBOT
Wow. That third degree burns things really puts things in perspective, Wow!
You’ve taught me something today.
Thanks so much for continuing to share …
I think your last sentence is sad – I think at 27, the fact that you recognise it and are trying to deal with it makes you so far ahead of the rest of the game. I know many people twice your age who haven’t got their head around it yet. Good for you. Insight is a big part of maintaining stability.
I’m learning a lot from your posts, thank you!
I am a giant, giant cranky pants when I’m tired. I hate everything and can’t make a decision. Last night it was over what to eat for dinner. It took me an hour to decide. The worst part is that I know I’m being annoying and I’m annoying myself. I can usually pull myself out of it but last night it was harder than it had been for a long time.
third degree burns … wow. Really puts it all into perspective.
I can’t imagine how hard that must be, feeling like that. I come from reasonably emotional people, and I know we can all be a bit over the top at times, but we do have control (for the most part.) Thank you for highlighting this though, because it makes it easier to have compassion and not judge someone as being completely over reactionary.
I can certainly be up and down with my emotions, and totally get that anger isn’t always just simply anger. I’m much better these days dealing with my emotions though. I try and choose the way I react to external situations, rather than let them define how I react. Not always possible, or easy, but a lot of the time it works for me.
When I’m feeling emotional, I sleep. It sounds weird but everything feels/seems better after a nap or a good night’s sleep. (See my blog post today about my daughter leaving home, and you will see that I mention how exhausted I’m finding it … sleep is a big part of my coping mechanism!)
That is a really powerful quote to open up with and perfect for helping those of us who haven’t experienced emotional instability attempt to understand. When I feel overwhelmed with emotions I usually cry or go for a swim – sometimes both 🙂
That is such a bold yet insightful statement to say a person with BPD has third degree burns. It really helps me understand the pain you feel at times. I really do not think you should feel silly for learning about appropriate emotional responses in at only 27. I think part of this is a life time learning even for those without BPD. It is about being able to center ourselves in times of stress and breath. I can be really emotional and I am only now learning g how to contain them or put them on pause until I am less stressed. I have found for me talking really helps calmly with someone I really trust or connect with. Which is odd as I am not a talker but maybe that was where I was going wrong. Loving the insight you are giving us Tegan Thank you x