Boredom & The Borderline (BPD & Self-harm)

As a person with Borderline Personality Disorder, I can attest - boredom, or being idle, truly is "the devil's playground." It seems that when boredom hits me, it's much more intense than it is for other people, and I desperately feel the need to feel something - anything.

I've heard a theory that, since many of us with BPD came from unstable, often erratic backgrounds, our nervous systems are more sensitive, especially around emotions.  We have grown so accustomed to being on guard and needing to survive in scary and sometimes life-threatening situations, that the ordinary calm that most people experience on a daily basis can feel very foreign or unfamiliar to us.  It can feel uncomfortable, and at times, intolerable.

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Possible Triggers Follow...

Some people with BPD self-harm when they feel this way. The most common ways are cutting and burning, though there are so many behaviors that could be classified as self-harm.  I choose to speak on these because I mentioned that when people with BPD feel bored, they sometimes feel very desperate to feel anything.  This includes creating physical sensations and pain in the body, and it works.  The dangerous thing is that the person could unintentionally hurt herself with an infection...or worse.  People self-harm because they get something out of it - it meets their need in a given moment when they are feeling very emotional.  One of the goals of DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) is to help us learn new, effective skills - think of it as an emotional tool box that we get to fill with all new ways of responding when we feel extremely emotional, bored, or desperate -- ways that don't hurt us or cause us to throw our whole life down the drain over a transient, passing emotion.

Sometimes I get so bored that it seems like it would take way more energy to practice my skills than to wallow in the torturous feelings I experience.  In those times, I become numb and sedentary, which often leads to feelings of depression and anger.

I'm finding that the best thing to do is to get busy - especially with something that will allow me to feel like I've accomplished something. It doesn't have to be anything big, either - I can just go and clean the bathroom or vacuum the rug. At least I'll be using my time in a way that gets something done.  And, truth be told, I usually feel better after I complete the task, and one thought leads to another as far as other things I can do to stay out of trouble, if you will.

Some DBT skills that I have found helpful in coping with boredom are:


  • Mindfulness: Sitting with the emotion and not trying to fight it. I'd really like to be able to tolerate peaceful, low-key times -- even if they are sometimes boring.
  • Build Mastery:Work on tasks that allow me to accomplish something
  • Improve the Moment:Put on music, light a candle, pet my cats

I hope this helped you in some way.  What do you do when YOU get bored?


Thanks for reading.
More Soon.



7 comments:

  1. Very useful information here. I usually start cleaning until my house is spotless and reeks of Clorox and pine sol.

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    1. At least that's very productive! :) Thank you for the kind words. For some reason, I'm just seeing this comment now.

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    2. As I have no means to get therapy, I rely on learning as much as I can and try using the tools on my own. Your Blog is invaluable to me so thank you. I suffer from extreme boredom. Honestly, I have never cut out of boredom. That's something I would do to escape the pain brought on by overwhelming emotions. I swear the pain of those emotions is just as much physical as emotional and cutting was a way to transfer that pain. How does the boredom effect me? It's like having ADHD in a way...nothing keeps my interest for long...a book, a movie, almost any pleasurable task becomes "boring" after a very short period of time (minutes usually). It's quite frustrating really. But...as I work on the skills I am learning about I do find that I am able to keep at something a little bit longer. I used to be what is considered "high functioning" until an event...I sure miss that.

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  2. This article struck a cord with the way in which I used to struggle. Even though I am better, I still feel the need to have the TV on at all times. I can't stand silence. It used to make me sad and it made me feel empty. Now I'm just uncomfortable -- and I can live with that.

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    1. I think a lot of people do this, whether they have BPD or not. I have talk radio on in the background this very moment. :)

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  3. I dig this. If I don't have someone interesting around giving me enough mental/emotional stimulation, there is this agonizing nothingness. I keep thinking of what I could do to feel something, and when all else fails, I drink.

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    1. Thank you for sharing your experience on your own road to recovery, Kelly. ♥

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