Destructive Impulsivity in Borderline Personality Disorder

destructive impuslivity borderline personality disorder

One of the most difficult aspects of having Borderline Personality Disorder has been the repeated destruction I created around and within my life, be it in jobs, personal relationships, school -- you name it. 

I was in so much emotional pain -- overwhelmed by my emotions and unsure how to cope with or tolerate them -- that I would act out in desperate, ultimately destructive ways.

If this sounds like the pattern you've been creating in your life, I want you to know that there is HOPE.  It is entirely possible for you to work on coping more effectively and learning how to tolerate distress without engaging in behaviors that no longer serve you.  I say "no longer," because we are motivated to act in ways that serve us. For example, if when we are a child the only way to get the attention of our caregiver is to throw a fit, we learn to throw fits in order to get our needs met.

Some of us haven't outgrown even fit throwing. I remember one time mentioning in DBT class that I noticed that many of us had described our past week saying things like, "I had a total tantrum," or "when he said no, I got out of control and cried and screamed until he finally listened to me."  If you can relate to this, there is no need to judge yourself. You behave and respond the way you do for a reason. There is cause.  

Sometimes we hold on to patterns that served us in the past but are no longer appropriate in our lives.  We might be stuck in these old ways because we are unaware of them to begin with or because we may not know of any other way to cope.  Both were true for me, and I'm sure I'm still caught up in some patterns that I'm not yet aware of.

But, for the ones I have become conscious of, I have learned, practiced, and religiously continue to apply Dialectical Behavior Therapy skills.  Doing this has ultimately changed my life. 

How so? I won't tell you that I no longer experience intense emotional episodes, because I do.  I won't tell you that I don't have destructive impulses -- especially when under stress or feeling especially emotional, because I do.  I also won't tell you that I perfectly accomplish my goal of not giving in to destructive impulses 100%, because I don't.

But, for the most part, when these impulses come on I am able to notice them and call them what they are.  Stress and anxiety can make us feel helpless and as if we are backed into a corner.  We may feel desperate to feel relief or to escape our distress, but when we learn to notice the distress and then use DBT skills to cope with it and to soothe ourselves through our experiences, we take the time to slow down rather than to react in impulsive ways.  Consistently doing this is life changing.

By now you've probably heard about my book Stop Sabotaging: A 31 Day DBT Challenge to Change Your Life.  If you're looking for a tool to complement your practice of the skills as you work toward creating a life worth living and shifting from destructive impulsivity patterns to being more mindful and skill-focused, it may be what you are looking for on your path right now.  

I believe you can change these patterns if you really want to and with professional guidance.  The only reason I know this is because I see the fruits of my personal labor, and I believe you can achieve the same.  

Stay hopeful. It's not an overnight process, and it's not a straight path road. If you're ready to heal, life will meet you right where you're at.

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.


  1. when i have episodes of severe emotional overload, i really feel like i don't have time to think about stepping back. my head immediately starts spinning and half the time i feel like i'm going to pass out! it's like grabbing for a life preserver so i don't drown. it IS frantic and seems to me, at times, life-threatening. :(

    1. That's how I used to feel, Christine. Through DBT, I have learned to insert that pause. It took time and lots of practice, but it eventually became part of my life. Please be sure to work closely with your mental health professional and stay safe. Know there is hope for learning to put that pause in -- that you can eventually learn to step back.



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