Intense, inappropriate anger is one of the most troubling symptoms of borderline personality disorder (BPD). In fact, it’s so intense that it’s often referred to as “borderline rage.”
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 this experience is different.
Borderline anger is more than just a standard emotional reaction. In the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, anger in BPD is described as “inappropriate, intense anger or complexity 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. For example, 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, such as yelling, being sarcastic, or becoming physically violent.
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 happen
More specifically, researchers are trying to understand whether people with BPD are more simply 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).
There are a number of therapies that can be used to treat borderline personality disorder, including the often debilitating symptom of anger.
Psychotherapy: Most psychotherapy 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 reduce angry outbursts.
Other types of psychotherapy for BPD, including schema-focused therapy, transference-focused therapy, and mentalization-based therapy, target anger as well.
If you or a loved one has complexity with borderline anger, please seek out care from a therapist or other mental health professional. You (or your loved one) can gain control over this distressing symptom and feel better.