Many who have been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (a condition strongly associated with a history of significant and long-lasting childhood trauma) resent the label, preferring instead to consider themselves as having complex posttraumatic stress disorder (there is a very large overlap between symptoms of BPD and symptoms of complex PTSD) or for BPD to be renamed emotional intensity disorder.
This is largely due to the fact that many patients and clinicians consider the label borderline personality disorder to be stigmatizing, demeaning and even insulting as it seems to imply the person’s whole personality (and, perhaps, by extension, character), is fundamentally flawed, giving him/her the status of social outcast and pariah – this, of course, can only exacerbate their isolation, and illness, further. NOT HELPFUL! (Especially as it is the experience of profound rejection, often by parents and other family members, which has contributed to the illness in the first place.
Other terms have also been considered to replace the borderline personality disorder label; I list these below :
– emotionally unstable personality disorder (not much of an improvement, it has to be said!)
– emotional regulation disorder
– emotional dysregulation disorder
– impulsive personality disorder
– impulsive emotional dysregulation disorder
Emotional Problems Of Those With BPD :
So, what emotional problems do people with BPD suffer? Below, I attempt to summarize them:
– rapid and dramatic mood swings
– explosive rage and anger, even in response to (objectively speaking) minor provocations
– emotions so intense the individual experiencing them feels ‘out of control’
– incongruous emotional displays (such as crying at times that the majority of people would find ‘inappropriate’).
– experiencing strong emotions which seem to ‘come out of nowhere.’
– suicidal impulses
– feelings of ’emptiness’
– intense psychological pain (often this leads to ‘self-medicating’ behaviour (i.e. excessive use of drugs and/or alcohol)
– extreme fear of abandonment
(The above list is not exhaustive; to read my article on borderline personality disorder, click here).
What Causes These Emotional Problems?
– imbalances in the brain of certain chemicals; in particular, dopamine and serotonin
– further research needs to be conducted on the contribution of genes
How Common Are These Problems?
About one in every fifty people suffer from these severe emotional problems I refer to above. Also, women are about three times more likely to suffer from them than men. For most sufferers, the condition improves once the individual approaches middle-age.
Currently, one of the most effective treatments for a borderline personality disorder is dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT). Many sufferers also find mindfulness training and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) helpful.
Childhood Trauma Leading To Emotional Dysregulation In Adulthood :
If we have suffered significant and chronic childhood trauma we are at increased risk, as adults, of suffering from ’emotional dysregulation.’
What Is Meant By The Term ‘Emotional Dysregulation?’ :
Other terms for ’emotional dysregulation’ include ’emotional instability’, ‘affective volatility’ and high ’emotional lability.’ In other words, an individual who is emotionally deregulated is prone to experiencing extreme and rapid fluctuations in his/her moods and feelings.
Recent Research Into Emotional Dysregulation In BPD Sufferers :
Recent research into BPD suggests that, in the case of individuals afflicted by this disorder, not all emotions are involved in these dramatic fluctuations of mood. The main emotions that ARE involved have been found to be :
To elaborate a little further, anger appears to be the emotion most strongly associated with BPD and severe swings between feelings of depression and anxiety have been found to be particularly prevalent in those suffering from the condition.
Devastating Effects On Life :
Anyone who suffers from, or has suffered from, significant emotional deregulation knows the devastating effects the condition can have on various aspects of one’s life: it can ruin friendships, family relationships and intimate relationships; it can also cause problems at work, including job loss; it may even lead to legal difficulties (and these examples by no means constitute an exhaustive list).
If then, we suffer from emotional dysregulation, it is vital, if we wish to reclaim, and establish some semblance of control over, our lives, that we reduce our level of emotional deregulation and, thus, become more emotionally stable.
How Can We Reduce Our Level Of Emotional Dysregulation And Regain Some Control Over How We Feel And Behave?
A study carried out by Bailey and Chambers (2016) found that by undergoing an eight-week course in mindfulness meditation, it was possible for an individual to increase the volume of the dentate gyrus, an area of the hippocampus (the hippocampus is the part of the brain responsible for emotional regulation) by 22.8% – this is possible because of a quality of the brain known as neuroplasticity.
And other research has found that mindfulness meditation can also have beneficial effects upon other brain regions and their associated functions. For example, a review of research carried out by the researchers’ Tang, Holzel and Posner (2015) and published in a journal called Nature Reviews Neuroscience focused upon 21 studies on the effects of mindfulness meditation on the brain. Findings of the studies include :
Mindfulness meditation can increase the size of the following brain regions :
- anterior cingulate cortex and striatum (involved in attention control)
- multiple prefrontal regions and limbic region (involved in emotional regulation)
- insula, medial prefrontal cortex (involved in self-awareness)
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).
Holder of MSc and post graduate teaching diploma in psychology. Highly experienced in education. Founder of childhoodtraumarecovery.com. Survivor of severe childhood trauma.