The Link Between Anger and BPD (2023)

Intense, inappropriate anger can be one of the most challenging symptoms of borderline personality disorder (BPD). This anger in BPD is often referred to as “borderline rage.” It can lead to explosive episodes of anger that are difficult to manage and can have a significant effect on a person's relationships.

Even so, while anger is a key feature of BPD, very little is known about why people with BPD experience anger differently than other people, or how their experience is different. New research, however, is shedding light on the nature of borderline rage.

What Is BPD Rage?

Borderline rage, or borderline anger, is more than just a standard emotional reaction. In the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), anger in BPD is described as "inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger."

The reason anger in BPD is called “inappropriate,” is because the level of anger seems to be more intense than is warranted by the situation or event that triggered it.

What is BPD rage like? A person with BPD may react to an event that may seem small or unimportant to someone else, such as a misunderstanding, with very strong and unhealthy expressions of anger, including:

  • Physical violence
  • Sarcasm
  • Yelling

Why BPD Rage Occurs

While borderline anger has long been a topic of debate and speculation among BPD specialists, it has only recently become a focus of careful research. Experts are now examining how borderline anger is different than normal anger and why it occurs.

More specifically, researchers are trying to understand whether people with BPD are more easily angered, have more intense anger responses, or have more prolonged anger responses than people without BPD (or whether it's some combination of these factors).

(Video) Rage and Borderline Personality Disorder - Identifiers, Triggers, and Management

What triggers borderline rage?

Common triggers of BPD rage can include:

  • Emotionally challenging situations that seem threatening
  • Situations where the person fears abandonment
  • BPD splitting, which is a type of black-and-white thinking where people see things as either all-good or all-bad
  • Ruminating on angry thoughts
  • Interpersonal conflicts

One study examined anger in people with BPD compared to those without BPD in response to an anger-producing story. This study found that people with BPD reported the same level of anger as the healthy controls (in response to the story). But, the healthy controls reported that their anger decreased more quickly over time than the people with BPD reported.

It may not be that people with BPD have a stronger anger reaction, but that their anger has a much longer duration than other people experience.

Furthermore, other research shows that anger in BPD may trigger rumination (when someone thinks over and over about their angry experience). This repetitive thinking creates a vicious emotional cycle that worsens the person's anger and increases its duration (as supported by the study mentioned above).

Eventually, the prolonged and intense anger triggers aggressive behavior, which a person engages in to relieve their rage.

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Research in this area is very preliminary, and more work is needed to fully understand how and why people with BPD experience borderline anger.

Treatment for BPD Rage

There are a number of therapies that can be used to treat borderline personality disorder, including the often debilitating symptom of anger.


Most psychotherapies for BPD target the strong anger responses that people with BPD report and exhibit. For example, in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), patients are taught skills to help them better manage their anger and decrease angry outbursts.

Other types of psychotherapy for BPD that target anger include:

  • Mentalization-based therapy
  • Schema-focused therapy
  • Transference-focused therapy

Get Help With These 7 Online Anger Management Classes


While there are no medications for BPD that are currently FDA approved to treat the disorder, there are some that have been shown to reduce anger in BPD.

Some medications prescribed for people with BPD include: antidepressants (such as Prozac or Wellbutrin), antipsychotics (such as Abilify or Seroquel), or mood-stabilizing drugs (such as Depakote).

(Video) What is Borderline Rage? (Borderline Personality Disorder Anger)

However, these medicationsare probably most effective when used in conjunction with psychotherapy. This is because while medications can alter the intensity of anger, they cannot fully prevent or erase a person's anger when a life stressor or difficult situation arises.

Coping With BPD Rage

There is no one-size-fits-all for coping with borderline rage, but the following strategies may be helpful in diffusing anger or curbing it before it escalates.

Address Your Stress Levels

It may be helpful to find productive ways of coping with stress, since stress is a known precursor to borderline rage. Try identifying triggers of stress, asking for help from family or friends, exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet, and getting enough sleep.

Grounding Exercises for BPD

Find a Distraction

BPD anger often increases the longer you're exposed to a frustrating situation. When you feel yourself becoming angry, try to remove yourself from a situation, and take some deep breaths.

You can even do something else to distract yourself, such as watching a funny video or taking a brisk walk around your neighborhood.

Notice If You're Ruminating

If you have BPD and you're experiencing negative thoughts repeating on a loop—thoughts that only increase your anger—there are ways to help disrupt the cycle.

(Video) What Might "Trigger" Someone with BPD, Borderline Personality Disorder

To disrupt rumination, it may help to talk to a friend about how you're feeling, perform a relaxation exercise, or do something to boost your mood like dancing or listening to music.

How to Deal With BPD Rage

If your loved one has BPD, you may find it difficult or even distressing to witness or be on the receiving end of their anger. Fortunately, there are many ways to increase your knowledge of borderline rage so that you can support your loved one and protect your emotional well-being.

  • Attend a therapy session: It may be helpful for you to attend a therapy session (by yourself or with your loved one). A therapist can help you learn ways to deescalate a situation when your loved one is experiencing BPD rage.
  • Work on communication: Clear communication is key when in a relationship with someone who has BPD. For instance, it may help to reassure them, praise them, and encourage them so they remember that you're on their side.
  • Validate their feelings: Try saying, "I understand you're experiencing anger right now, but we can get through it together. How can I help support you?"
  • Set boundaries: If possible, come up with boundaries together. For instance, you and your loved one might decide that if a borderline rage episode turns into a screaming match, you both take 15 minutes apart to regroup and calm down.
  • Remember, BPD is a mental illness: Your loved one with BPD doesn't choose to get so angry, so try not to blame them for the symptoms of their illness. However, it's OK to hold them accountable for their actions, especially when they negatively affect you or other family members or friends.

How do you calm someone with BPD rage? Ultimately, it is up to the other person to control their anger. If someone is experiencing BPD rage, stay calm, let them express their feelings, and give them some space. If necessary, leave the situation until they are able to calm down.

A Word From Verywell

It's important to remember that anger itself is a normal emotion, so experiencing angry reactions does not mean you have BPD. Still, if you have difficulties with anger control, reaching out to a mental health professional is a good idea.

If you or a loved one has difficulties with borderline anger, please seek out care from a therapist or other mental health professional. You (or your loved one) can gain control over your anger and feel better.

14 Ways to Manage Borderline Anger Episodes in a Healthier Way

(Video) Sadness and Anger: Agitated Depression and Borderline Personality Disorder


The Link Between Anger and BPD? ›

In BPD, anger often leads to destructive behavior such as aggression. Typically, aggression in BPD is classified as reactive in nature with real or assumed social rejection, threat, provocation, or frustration being assumed to be the most important triggers [3, 9,10,11].

Are anger issues related to BPD? ›

Intense and sometimes inappropriate rage is a characteristic of borderline personality disorder (BPD). An individual with this mental health condition has difficulty regulating their emotions or returning to their baseline, which can include frustration-induced anger and even rage blackouts.

Why do borderlines get so angry? ›

It's not immediately clear why people with BPD may feel intense anger and aggression, but research suggests: It could be tied to the overall emotional dysregulation people with BPD often experience. 1. It may occur as a result of perceived rejection.

Why do people with BPD get angry so quickly? ›

Emotional Dysregulation & Poor Impulse Control

This emotional rollercoaster can distort how they interpret the world around them. As such, someone with BPD can be easily angered and act viciously when confronted with something they view as “threatening”.

What happens when a BPD gets angry? ›

Negative thought spirals

Once someone with BPD becomes angry, letting go of their rage can be challenging. After exposure to BPD rage triggers, they tend to fixate on the situation or event that upset them, replaying these thoughts repeatedly. Ruminating on negative emotions can increase aggression.

What does a BPD rage look like? ›

What is BPD rage like? A person with BPD may react to an event that may seem small or unimportant to someone else, such as a misunderstanding, with very strong and unhealthy expressions of anger, including: Physical violence. Sarcasm.

Do people with BPD hold grudges? ›

Those with this type of BPD tend to view people in “black and white” terms (known as BPD splitting), so they are likely to hold onto a grudge after feeling insulted.

What is the hardest mental illness to live with? ›

One of the Most Painful Mental Illnesses: Living with BPD Pain. Borderline personality disorder is one of the most painful mental illnesses since individuals struggling with this disorder are constantly trying to cope with volatile and overwhelming emotions.

Why do borderlines try to destroy you? ›

Still, it is essential to remember that they are not intentionally trying to hurt you. People with BPD often have a very fragile sense of self, and they may act out to receive validation and attention. In some cases, they may even engage in self-harm or threatening behavior to cope with their inner turmoil.

Do borderlines want to hurt you? ›

Your partner isn't deliberately trying to hurt you or your relationship. Often, they're internally critical, blaming themselves and not you. This is part of living with a mental health condition like BPD. While relationships can be challenging when one or both partners have BPD, healthy bonds are still possible.

What are the symptoms of a BPD meltdown? ›

BPD symptoms can include :
  • intense mood swings that can last for as little as a few hours, or up to a few days.
  • thinking in extremes, such as seeing things only as completely good or completely bad.
  • a pattern of quickly changing your interests and values.
  • fears about abandonment.
May 28, 2020

Why is BPD the hardest to treat? ›

Sometimes individuals with symptoms of BPD lash out so intensely that it sabotages the treatment in such a way that even the most skilled therapist cannot stop this process. A common example is a patient cutting off all contact, or ghosting the therapist.

Are people with BPD vengeful? ›

Punishment and revenge are central to the manifestation of what Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is and means when it comes to relationships. The struggle of those with BPD relationally, is rooted in a proverbial no-win situation.

Do people with BPD regret their outbursts? ›

During rage, a person may say or do things that they later regret. This could lead to ending the relationship in the heat of the moment. BPD rage is often followed by significant regret and shame.

What do borderlines crave? ›

If you live with this condition, you might crave close connections with others — but you might also find it challenging to interact with them. You might then withdraw, or you might come on too strong and push others away unintentionally. This can leave you feeling alone and unworthy of others' attention.

What type of aggressive is BPD? ›

People with petulant BPD often exhibit explosive, intense anger and periods of intense shame and worthlessness. They tend to feel let down and disappointed by others in their life, and they have a near-constant feeling of being harshly mistreated.

What personality disorder is anger issues? ›

Intermittent explosive disorder (IED) is a mental health condition marked by frequent impulsive anger outbursts or aggression. The episodes are out of proportion to the situation that triggered them and cause significant distress.

Can BPD make you aggressive? ›

Theoretical and empirical work suggests that aggression in those with borderline personality disorder (BPD) occurs primarily in the context of emotional reactivity, especially anger and shame, in response to perceived rejection.

Are people with BPD always aggressive? ›

If your loved one has not shown any violent tendencies or aggression, it is quite possible that they won't be violent. Many individuals with BPD never commit any aggressive acts during their lives.


1. Shame and Anger in Borderline Personality Disorder | HealthyPlace
(HealthyPlace Mental Health)
2. Borderline Rage & Inauthenticity. #bpd #mentalhealth #personalitydisorders #shorts
3. How to understand your temper. #mentalhealth #bpd #anger #relationship #mentalhealthawareness
(Dr. Daniel Fox)
4. What Causes the Anger Component of Borderline Personality Disorder?
(Dr. Todd Grande)
5. Steps for Self or Loved Ones to Lessen BPD Episodes (aggression, anger, outbursts)
(Dr. Daniel Fox)
6. Rejection and Rage with Borderline Personality Disorder
(Dr. Todd Grande)
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