Pathological personality traits in negative affectivity – Depressivity: Difficulty recovering from such moods (miserable and hopeless).(DSM5)
Law and others(1) measured negative emotions and borderline symptoms in 281 BPD participants over a wide spectrum of experiences. They found that BDP diagnosis was associated with experiencing more negative emotions and that these moods often continued for three hours or more with some lasting for days. They concluded that negative emotions and several BPD symptoms continued to influence each other.
An Article by Salters-Pedneault and Gans (2) adds some interesting insights which I will summarize here and add some of my own. While it’s normal to have our moods shifting from feeling good to feeling down, some of us with BPD may experience very extreme moods shifting for minor reason. We can go from feeling okay to feeling devastated, desperate, or completely hopeless within a matter of moments. While in our down moods, we may engage in impulsive behaviors such as substance abuse, binge eating, self-harm, or suicidal thoughts or behaviors. We can have many mood swings in the course of a single day, whereas most people may experience one or two major emotional shifts in an entire week. We can go on experiencing emotional ups and downs for years while seeming helpless to stop them. This usually results in unstable interpersonal relationships with loved ones, friends, and colleagues which just adds to our fears of abandonment and the deepening of the negative moods.
Very often, our mood swing occurs as a reaction to an external trigger involving someone we love. The perceived rejection or abandonment may result in a fight-or-flight response. We respond with a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness or we respond with anger which is usually out-of-proportion to the situation.
Here are my five suggestions for borderliners:
1. Do a self-inventory. Is this an impairment or is it merely a trait? If it has already advanced to an impairment, you should seek professional help probably involving medication. If it is still just a trait you can take some steps to manage it.
2. If you are experiencing these deep mood swings frequently it is time to get help. At the core of your reaction is that you are probably in a state of generalized anxiety. A serotonin enhancing medication can do wonders. It can allow you to stay calm long enough to resolve a potential misunderstanding.
3. If you are responding with anger, you may benefit from some cognitive based counselling that will help you manage your anger.
4. If you are constantly slipping into feelings of hopelessness you may need to learn to manage these thoughts and feelings through some form of constructive counselling that will give you strategies to work your way through the hopeless feelings before they lead to clinical depression.
5. When these moods are still manageable traits, you may need to develop some cognitive strategies to rationalize your feelings before they become behaviors. Let the person know you need some time to work things out and then make a promise to come back and resolve the situation rationally. A quiet walk or some time alone working on a project may be all you need. When you are ready you can approach the loved one and work it out calmly and lovingly.
- Law, Mary Kate; Fleeson, William; Arnold, Elizabeth Mayfield ; and Furr, R. Michael r. Using negative emotions to trace the experience of borderline personality pathology: Interconnected relationships revealed in an experience sampling study. HHS Public Access. 2016. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4547903/\
- .Salters-Pedneault, Kristalyn Medically; and Gans, Steven. Mood Swings in Borderline Personality Disorder. Verywell Mind. 2020.