An Examination of the Exquisite Emotional Sensitivity of BPD Sufferers.
Those who develop borderline personality disorder (BPD), often as a result of severe childhood trauma, are, without exception, EXTREMELY EMOTIONALLY VULNERABLE.
An expert researcher into the condition of BPD, Shari Manning PhD, has identified three areas of emotional functioning which appear to be different in individuals who suffer from BPD compared to those individuals who are fortunate enough not to suffer from it. The three areas of problematic emotional functioning identified by Shari are as follows :
1) EMOTIONAL SENSITIVITY
2) EMOTIONAL REACTIVITY
3) DELAYED RETURN TO BASELINE EMOTIONAL STATE
Let’s look at each of these in turn :
1) Emotional sensitivity – individuals suffering from BPD show exceptionally high levels of sensitivity; metaphorically speaking, it is almost as if their nerve endings were exposed.
Also, to others, it appears that their emotional responses are way out of proportion to the event which provoked the response.
However, there is an explanation for this: usually, when the BPD sufferer reacts to a particular event with what seems like excessive emotion, it is because the event has triggered (usually unconsciously) memories of highly traumatic event/s in childhood (for example, a memory of loss or rejection which was profoundly painful to the BPD sufferer as a child).
2) Emotional Reactivity – those with BPD are much more easily tipped over the edge into emotional distress because it seems, their ‘set-point’ of emotional intensity is much higher than that of a non-BPD sufferer to begin with. In other words, their baseline level of emotional intensity is much higher than that of the average person.
This clearly goes against the theories of those who wish to stigmatize people suffering from BPD that the BPD sufferer becomes highly emotional in order to ‘manipulate’ others.
What makes BPD sufferers’ emotional responses even more intense is that they tend to have reactions to their reactions. Another way of putting it is that these individuals have emotions about emotions, which are also sometimes called secondary emotions or meta-emotions. For example, a BPD sufferer may go into an extreme rage following an argument with a loved one, and, then, as a secondary emotion, feel an overwhelming sense of guilt.
Now swamped by emotion, this can lead to yet further intense emotional responses eg suicidal ideation – the emotional reactions feed off, and feed into, each other, in a highly detrimental manner.
3) Delayed Return To Baseline Emotional State – the third problem that BPD sufferers have is that once they become emotionally distressed, it takes them longer than the average person to calm down and for their emotions to return to baseline levels. Indeed, BRAIN ACTIVITY STUDIES have shown that once emotionally aroused, the activity in the relevant areas of the BPD sufferer’s brain takes longer to subside than similar activity does in a non-BPD sufferer’s brain.
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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).