Coping with Anxiety When You 're Emotionally Sensitive

This past week has been pretty good, with the exception of reemergence of intense anxiety.   Just like most everyone else, from time to time work gets stressful, health issues, etc.  I won't whine, because I know we all have our "cross to bear," as my mother says.   We are all carrying something.  We're all doing our best in the face of difficulties, issues, and struggles of all kinds.

What I will share is how the anxiety showed up, so that perhaps you will feel less alone in your own experience.  I'll also share what worked to help me get back to baseline as quickly as possible.

Basically, I kept waking up, pretty much on the hour, and always from the same recurring nightmare.   It was clearly anticipatory anxiety, based on the dream content.   Each time I awoke, my heart was racing and pounding out of my chest.  I also had to keep going to the bathroom.  No further details to avoid TMI.

In the past, the racing heart would panic me further.  Now, I don't let it.  I practice my DBT Skills and use self-talk to remind myself that my body is responding, and the quickest way to calm my nervous system, which was now clearly activated, would be to do things that would calm it.

These things included:

  • Radically Accepting that my body was responding to my insecurities and fears through anxiety and panic symptoms.  Radically accepting this meant not fighting it. Not complaining about how I "shouldn't" feel this way, and also not resisting the physical sensations such as the racing heart.  It mean lying in bed and noticing my heart, reminding myself that I was in no danger (from the fear nor the pace of my heart), and that my heart rate would return to a normal rate sooner if I managed to stay calm.
  • Used deep, slow-paced, measured breathing to calm my mind as well as my body, particularly my heart.
  • Observed my heart rate with the interest of a scientist.  I held my wrist of my left hand with a couple of fingers from my right hand to notice how my heart/pulse rate slowed a bit when I took those deep breaths.
  • Took medication a prescribed (DBT PLEASE skill) in the form of a 0.5mg tablet of Ativan.  It is prescribed to me in cases of severe anxiety or panic that does not respond, despite my best efforts, to skills. It is something I use infrequently, but it was needed this evening (middle of the night).
  • Mindfully stayed in the present moment.  When thoughts came like, "What if I feel exhausted in the morning?" or "What if I get really physically sick over this?" etc. came up, I asked myself, "What is wrong with THIS moment?" (something I learned from the wise Eckhart Tolle.  I answered, "I am anxious and up when I am normally sleeping, and I am taking care of myself and will be sleeping again soon."  I reminded myself that I didn't have to worry into the future.  Not into the morning.  Not how I might feel hours later or even minutes later.  I didn't have to suffer into the future.  And, I'm glad I didn't.  It would have been a waste of time, it turns out.   I felt better hours later when I woke up and started my day.

I hope  this post was helpful to you in some way.  If you'd like to learn DBT skills with me, I have a new, weekly online class starting on April 20th. You can learn more about me and the classes at

These classes are not affiliated with Optimum Performance Institute or the Roanne Program, and if you are looking for more intensive services, such as IOP Day Treatment or Residential Treatment to overcome Borderline Personality Disorder or BPD, please do visit the Roanne Program's website to learn more.  They have an awesome program and were rated best in treatment for BPD by Psychology Today magazine.  One of the things that differentiates them from other BPD treatment centers is that they serve both young women AND men with BPD.  I think that's awesome.  Men need help, too!

Thanks for reading.

Please do let me know if you can relate to anything that I shared about anxiety, and feel free to share how you cope most effectively when anxiety and panic rear their ugly heads in your life. You might help someone else with your share!

More soon.

In kindness,

The Science of Mindfulness for Borderline Personality Disorder

Hello Healing from BPD Community.  Please join me in welcoming guest blogger, therapist Michelle Dabach, MA, MFT of Optimum Performance Institute and the Roanne Program for young adults with Borderline Personality Disorder and BPD traits! – Debbie Corso
Mindfulness is a skill taught in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), a modality typically used to treat young adults suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Mindfulness is a great tool! It helps keep your mind focused, attentive, and aware. When young adults with BPD are in the midst of a crisis, everything can feel blown out of proportion, and catastrophic thinking can then take over. This may lead to unskillful behavior that they later regret.
The good news is, mindfulness can help substantially. Mindfulness skills are used to bring the sufferer back to reality – to help center one’s self and reduce or prevent catastrophic thinking. The skills encourage one to focus on paying attention, which activates the prefrontal cortex (PFC). This part of the brain doesn’t tend to work so well in BPD sufferers.  Activating it reduces the reactivity of one’s amygdala, which is responsible for fight-or-flight responses. When the PFC is activated, one of the chemicals it produces is β-endorphin, a painkilling opiate.
This leads to both a reduction in the sense of pain experienced, a reduction in breathing rate, a decrease in the sense of fear, and an increase in the experience of joy (Newberg & Iversen 2003). Mindfulness encourages the use of one’s five senses – sight, touch, smell, sound, and taste. Its pretext is that one focuses on these senses without judgment – without labeling them as good or bad.
Luckily for Optimum Performance Institute, where I work, Rebecca DeLeon, our Roanne Program Coordinator, is well-versed in DBT and Mindfulness Skills. She notes, “Incorporating the practice of mindfulness into one's life helps promote awareness. Awareness, in turn, allows those with BPD to pause before acting impulsively, gain understanding of their thoughts and emotions, and utilize their skills to the fullest.”  (The Roanne Program is specifically designed for young adults in the developmental stages who suffer from BPD or BPD traits.)
Mindfulness is a fun exercise to try. Participants in our Roanne Program practice Mindfulness every day!
Couple that with some deep breathing and you’re well on your way to Calm City!

Sample Mindfulness Exercise
Before reading this exercise, go get something that you can eat – an M&M, a piece of fruit, something you typically enjoy. You didn’t know this would be an interactive article, did you? Don’t eat your snack! Mindfulness is about being in the here and now and really focusing on using your 5 senses.


What does your snack look like? What is your snack? What color is it? What shape is it? Do not judge it, but if a judgment does come (aw, man! It’s bruised! That’s bad!), notice the judgment and just let it go.

Hold your snack in one hand. How does it feel? Is it heavy or seemingly weightless? Is it smooth or rough? Is it hard or soft? Really take some time to acknowledge how your snack feels. Just notice it.

Now, hold your snack up to your nose. Smell it. What does it smell like? Is there a scent? Is it a pleasant scent? Again, if a judgment arises, just notice it and let it go.
Does your snack make any sound? If you were to eat it now, would it crunch? If you shake it, does it rattle?

Put your snack in your mouth. Hold it there – don’t chew yet. What do you notice? How does it feel on your tongue? Did you choose chocolate or ice cream? Is it starting to melt? Now, bite your snack. How does that feel on your teeth? Is your snack crunchy or soft? Is your snack flavorful or bland? What does your snack taste like?
This is just a basic example of mindfulness.  Think of yourself as having a mindfulness muscle. The more you practice, the stronger it gets, and the more emotionally regulated you feel.  Keep practicing, and notice how you feel.
Do you practice mindfulness in your daily life?  In what ways?

At Roanne Program, we offer compassionate, clinically sophisticated intensive residential help for young adult men and women who suffer from borderline personality disorder or BPD traits, including genetic testing to determine the best course for medications, if needed. Rather than a sterile, hospital-like environment, we offer beautiful accommodations in luxury apartments just outside of Los Angeles.  At Roanne Program, we treat the individual, not the diagnosis.  Our clinical team is made up of a diverse community of passionate, highly skilled individuals working together with you to help you find your joy and express it.   For more information on Roanne residential programs and our measures to help young adults with Borderline Personality Disorder, call us at (888) 558-0617 or click HERE to submit an online form. We’ll be in touch promptly.
Article References New Harbinger – How Mindfulness Changes Brain in BPD – Living with BPD: Mindfulness

Residential Treatment for BPD: The Roanne Program

I didn't know in my teens that I would develop borderline personality disorder, but I had a number of other mental health issues during my adolescence that led to my need to be in very intensive services. Included in these was residential treatment facilities. When I share with people that some of the best years of my adolescence were while I was in group homes, they are often surprised, but it's the truth.

Because of the experiences that I had while growing up, I thrived in a group home setting. I appreciated having lots of other people around me, including caring staff members – appropriate adults who were not drinking or abusing drugs or abusing, neglecting, or mistreating me in any way. Adults who were clinical professionals and could hold the space that I desperately needed to safely explore so many traumas. It was truly a transformational time in my life. It was also a place where I felt supported enough to explore my sexual orientation and embrace being a bisexual young woman. There was just so much opportunity for growth in the absence of living in constant survival mode. I needed that.

I loved the group therapy sessions, going to alternative high school, and having several other female roommates my age who were also getting the help that they so desperately needed while in a safe, supportive environment.

The two group homes that I lived in were in Massachusetts. One was a larger home at which I was one of eighteen young girls. The second, which I transitioned into during high school, was considered an independent living program, or transitional living, and was coed. I was one of eight residents and ended up being able to go to public high school (part-time) and work a part-time job while in this program.

Unfortunately, I sabotage my departure from the latter program and started my young adulthood on a very rocky foundation. Looking back, it was very obvious that in my late teens and into my early 20s, I was highly symptomatic with borderline personality disorder. At this point I had moved out to California. I had no idea that intensive, residential type treatment programs like the ones I lived in as a teen existed for people in my age group.

Fast-forward all of these years later, and I have become aware of the Roanne Program, offered by Optimum Performance Institute in Southern California. The program is specifically designed for young adult men and women ages 17 to 28 who suffer from borderline personality disorder or BPD traits. The program is private pay, and if I had known about its existence when I was at the age to be eligible for services, I would have worked to move hell and high water to the best of my ability to find a way to get admitted. When you check out their website and see what they are all about, you will understand why and may feel the very same way.

Nowadays, you have resources such as crowdfunding opportunities, where you can enlist loved ones in helping to make such opportunities possible. Nothing like this existed years ago when I needed the help. And, not to sound like an old fogey, but the internet was nothing like what it is today. I couldn't just google what I needed and find it in seconds.

If you believe that you are ready to truly change your life and heal and are willing to commit to an intensive program that has helped countless others and was even selected by Psychology Today as best in treatment for borderline personality disorder, I suggest checking out the Roanne Program at this time. They offer a totally free assessment over the phone and can discuss the aspects of financing. You can also click here to submit a contact form and request more information via email.

If you do reach out to them, please let me know about your experience. I'd like to feature additional articles on various aspects of their programs to create more awareness of what they are offering. I want to know that you feel supported and cared about when you reach out and about your overall experience.

Also, have you ever attended residential treatment? Is this something you would consider?

I look forward to your thoughts.

Thank you for reading.

More soon

In kindness,


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