Many people with borderline personality disorder (BPD) experience anger so intense it is often referred to as "borderline rage.” This anger sometimes comes in response to a perceived interpersonal slight -- for example, feeling criticized by a loved one.
If you experience this kind of anger, you may have a hard time controlling it. Many people with BPD engage in unhealthy behaviors when they get angry, including acts that can cause physical harm or destroy relationships.
It is possible to learn to manage anger in healthier ways, but this takes some practice. Here are some tips on healthy ways to manage anger.
1. Count to Ten
You've probably heard this one before, but it works, so it's worth repeating. If you can delay your response to something that is making you angry, you are more likely to make healthier choices about your behavior. So, if something or someone makes you mad, try to count to 10 in your head before you respond.
2. Notice Your Anger Earlier
Sometimes you may not even notice that you are becoming angry until you are enraged. But, you can practice becoming more attuned to your responses so that you notice your anger earlier in the cycle. Try to pay attention to the small signals you are becoming angry. For example, what does that first twinge of anger feel like? How does your body react? If you can catch these signals when you are moderately annoyed, rather than fully enraged, you can intervene earlier.
3. Take a Break
Once you notice that you are getting angry, it makes sense to take a break from whatever is angering you. This one works particularly well if you are getting angry in a conversation with someone. If you start acting mad, the other person will often start feeling mad, which can escalate the situation. If you notice this escalation, call a "time out" and take a break for 10-15 minutes (or longer, if you need to).
4. Distract Yourself
Some people find it helpful to engage in another, distracting activity when they are getting caught up in their anger. To do this successfully, find an activity that can really hold your attention. Don't choose something passive, like watching television, because your thoughts will likely drift back to whatever is making you angry. Do something that actively engages your mind, like organizing a room of your home or reading a book.
5. Take Deep Breaths
Practicing deep, diaphramatic breathing can help reduce the physical arousal you feel when you become angry. Take a few minutes to breathe slowly and from deep in your belly. Practice by putting your hand on your belly, taking slow breaths, and pushing your hand out each time you inhale, while letting you hand fall each time you exhale.
6. Ground Yourself
Grounding exercises can help you "snap out" of the anger cycle once it has begun. Try these grounding exercises, which are designed to bring you back to the present moment when your mind keeps going back to your anger.
7. Listen to Calming Music
Listening to music that promotes the opposite mood can help you reset your emotional state. When you are angry, listen to music that is slow, soothing, and calm. But don't pick something that's depressing-- the music should be uplifting, not downbeat.
8. Practice Letting Go
Anger can be difficult to manage because it is a very seductive emotion-- anger entices you to hold on to it, particularly if you are righteously angry about something that is unfair. But, holding on to anger often is not helpful. Practice noticing when you are intentionally holding on to your anger and trying to "let go." Mindfulness exersizes can help you learn the "letting go" process.
9. Communicate Assertively
Sometimes instead of lashing out in anger, people with BPD hold that anger in, or direct it toward themselves. This can be just as destructive as lashing out. If you are someone who does this, learning to communicate your needs assertively will ultimately reduce your difficulties with anger. Communicating assertively means communicating your needs or expectations clearly but not aggressively.
10. Take a Problem Solving Approach
Sometimes when we are angry about something we become willful-- we spend a lot of time telling ourselves how unfair the situation is, or how we have been wronged, but fail to take any action to improve the situation. If you are being willful, consider whether that behavior is really working for you. If not, try to take a problem-solving approach. What are you angry about, and is there any way you could take action to solve the situation?