Inappropriate Anger Outbursts - Borderline Personality Disorder

I am shocked at what happened this afternoon. At my own behavior, really.

I had an angry outburst in the middle of a supermarket and looked my boyfriend in the eyes and said, in a hostile, cold voice: "F___ You!"  The visceral sensations (blood pressure rising, everything else around me fading) reminded me of a time over a decade ago, long before I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and when I would feel very triggered by my former partner.

I would often lash out with intense angry outbursts, often behaving inappropriately in public places (causing scenes, swearing, throwing things, storming out.) I was "well known" where I used to live and was thought of as crazy.

The DSM (Diagnostical Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Criteria for Diagnosing BPD) describes this as:

"Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights)."

For so long, "Angry Deb" has been nowhere to be found. I was so incredibly taken aback by my reaction and behavior. I was in control, but I let myself lose it in a way that I haven't in a very long time.

All these years later, with so much personal work done (and much more to go, of course), I knew, in that very second that the anger consumed me, that this was an old, familiar feeling.  

My boyfriend walked out of the store and did not want to talk to me. I chased after him, trying to apologize, but he didn't want to hear it. I realized that I really needed to go back into the store for the original purpose: to buy cat food. I walked back toward the store, following my breath. I called Wise Mind on board. 

As I did this, I was able to acknowledge that although I perceived my boyfriend as being insensitive by discussing things that he knows have been triggering to me in the past, my anger was grossly misdirected at him.

*Possible Trigger Warning*

The truth is, I have been sexually harassed at work by the same manager that did this to me five years ago. I never thought he would go there again, and he has. He even used the word "molest" in his conversation with me.  I have been dissociating ever since Friday when this, and other overtly sexual gestures were made to me.  I ended up taking it out on my boyfriend and having graphic thoughts of cutting.
                                                     *End Trigger Warning*

I knew immediately that I needed to calm down. I focused on the cans of cat food. I got into line and noticed details about the people in front of me and the cashier.

I paid for my order and engaged in small talk with the cashier.  As I walked out of the store, I felt the wind on my face. I knew that I had to be humble, apologize sincerely to my boyfriend and be completely honest that my anger was inappropriate and misdirected.  I shared with him that I hadn't felt this upset and angry in over a decade, and I talked with him about what happened at work.

I also filled out an Interpersonal Effectiveness Worksheet 1 DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) form.  I wept. I sobbed. I took deep breaths.  My boyfriend forgave me and understood why I was behaving this way.  We both talked about my need to get skillful to cope with these issues.

I plan to:
  • Radically Accept that while I do not APPROVE of what happened on Friday, I do ACCEPT that it did happen and that I must respond like the adult that I am and deal with the situation appropriately.
  • Engage in self-care to soothe my nervous system over what has happened. This will include a hot shower, my favorite television shows, and listening to soothing music.  I am also debating on whether to take a mental health sick day tomorrow from work (I've emailed my boss today, confronting him on the incidents, by the way.)
  • Engage in mindful breathing and eating.
  • Get proper rest.
  • If I feel the anger coming on again, I will excuse myself and cry/scream/get it out in private.
  • Refer to my DBT binder and fill out worksheets as often as needed to stay grounded and mindful of my emotions and behaviors
  • Stop beating myself up over what has happened. Everything has cause. It wasn't right for me to behave the way I did, but I have figured it out, sincerely apologized and am taking every step not to repeat my behavior.

Emotions can surprise us sometimes. We can surprise ourselves by acknowledging them and responding in a skillful way - in a way that was not available to us before.

I am not the same Angry Deb from ten years ago. I am so much more aware of my states of emotions and much more resilient to incidents that take me off guard. 

More than anything, I have the skills to cope effectively with what has happened today and this past Friday, no matter how difficult it may be. For this, and for my boyfriend's ability to forgive and understand, I am grateful.

Thank you for reading.
More soon.


  1. Can wholeheartedly relate to this Debbie. I had issues with angry outbursts well over a decade ago, I now refer to them as my "tantrum years". At the time I had no idea how to deal with anger, but thankfully I am learning the skills to cope better. Thank you as always for sharing with such openess and honesty. Well done for quickly putting DBT skills into practise.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Clare. It's funny that you refer to them as "tantrum" years, as we often associate tantrums with children. My DBT group therapist once said that we with BPD, as adults sometimes "throw tantrums" because it worked when we were younger, and we haven't yet learned more appropriate skills.

      I'm glad you have learned to cope in a way that better serves you, and thanks, as always, for your comment. ♥

  2. Thank you so much for this blog post. I have been experiencing "anger outbursts" this past week and at one point thought I had some sort of rage disorder. I have had to walk out of places because I was so angry that I thought I was going to start to swear and scream really loudly at the staff. I did not know that anger outbursts were part of the bpd diagnostic criteria. I guess that is one area where I fit the criteria for bpd although I have a hard time accepting the fact that I have bpd as the label infuriates me especially the way those with bpd are treated in the mental health sector in Australia. You get treated as if its your fault and you are choosing to act the way you do rather than it being the disorder. So frustrating !!

    1. Thank you for sharing, and glad this post was helpful for you at just the right time. Outbursts of anger are one of the criteria for BPD, but a licensed mental health professional would have to decide if you meet the criteria for the diagnosis.

      Tell me more about how people with BPD diagnosis are treated in Australia...It's important that those of us with this diagnosis are treated fairly all over the world. It's hard enough navigating the world with these symptoms as it is.

      I hope you feel better, Queeny. Thanks for commenting. ♥

  3. I too experienced an anger outburst last night. Although it took my boyfriend pointing it out to me for me to actually realise it was happening.
    My step dad was logged on to my mum's face book account and opened a chat window to tell me about plans for mum's up comming birthday dinner.
    He said it was at at a particular restaurant and i told him they don't take bookings. He said that we'll just show up and take our chances. There are alot of people in our family as we are a blended family. There are also a few grandchildren who are also invited.
    I got so angry cos i couldn't for the life of me understand why you would choose a place that doesn't take bookings, and is also quite popular. I felt there would be a high probability of 18 of us showing up and getting turned away cos there was not enough space to seat that many people at one table. Even their large tables would not fit that many people.
    I was so angry and my boyfriend kept telling me to calm down and i was getting all worked up over something that didn't seem too major.
    In my head i felt justified. It took me some time to come to the conclusion that really i was angry at the fact that my step dad was on my mum's facebooka account and what if i'd wanted to talk to her about something private...or about someone else in the family and i didn't want him to hear about it.
    I still have problems with anger and misdirected anger too.

    Thank you Debbie for sharing what sounds like a very terrifying experience. You are evry brave.

    1. Hi, Dear One. I'm sorry that you've been feeling angry, too. Sometimes it does take someone on the outside to point these things out. I'm glad your boyfriend was able to help you see what was happening.

      I can understand your frustrating around the situation that happened with your step dad.

      I am SO PROUD OF YOU for getting to the nitty gritty of WHY you truly felt angry. It sounds like you felt your Mom's privacy was invaded and that you could no longer trust that your chats with her via Facebook were completely private.

      Thank you for the insightful comment. ♥

  4. Thank you, that is exactly what was happening. I told her i will not talk to her on chat from now on as i can't be sure who i'm really talking to. So i guess i resolved the situation. Something i am not used to at all. I'm not used to telling my mum no or something like this. I don't like telling people no as a rule. I feel like i stood up for myself.

    1. Good for you for setting boundaries. I'm wondering how things are going with this now. ♥

  5. I have BPD, as well. I was diagnosed over a year ago. I have no control and I sometimes think that my anger is justified. I think that I'm more likely to avoid things due to severe anxiety as well as severe BPD. I drink to help and have been drinking since I was a kid. This is a good blog. I have DBT sheets and a support worker, because I can't be left alone for too long and I stay in the house.

    1. So glad you found this blog and that you took the time to comment. Thank you! BPD is very difficult, and it can feel like we are out of control for sure! DBT has been a huge help in empowering me to realize what control I do have and allowing me to make new choices that changed the course of where my life was heading. I have hope that it will do the same for you. That's fantastic that you have some DBT sheets and a support worker. Keep up the hard work.



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