What is “borderline rage”?
In her piece, “What You Need to Know About ‘Borderline Rage’” Mighty contributor Dee Chan, who lives with borderline personality disorder (BPD), defined it this way:
It is intense anger directed outward toward another thing or person. Sometimes it is directed inward and will manifest in self-injurious behavior… Borderline rage will often come boiling to the surface in the most seemingly innocent exchanges. In my case, I could go from zero to nuclear in a matter of minutes when provoked. I, like most of the people who cared about me, was almost always taken by surprise because I simply did not know what caused it to bubble up and ignite into a frenzied explosion.
Although uncontrollable anger or rage is one of the nine “classic” symptoms of BPD, it’s worth noting that not all people with BPD experience this particular symptom. But for those who do, like Dee mentioned of her own experience above, it’s not always possible to see the “signs” of rage building.
Sometimes, though, there may be thoughts or physical sensations that can be “red flags” that indicate a borderline rage episode might be coming on. Although everyone’s personal “red flags” are different, we wanted to know how people could tell they were about to slip into borderline rage. We turned to our Mighty BPD community to share their experiences. Below you can read what they said.
If you or someone you know experiences borderline rage, you’re not alone, but it’s important to seek help. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a great place to start if you are struggling with regulating your emotions because of a struggle with BPD.
Here’s what they shared with us:
- “Irritability. I would constantly get annoyed with everyone around me for innocent reasons (someone could walk slowly in front of me and I would get really frustrated and sometimes make grunting sounds). Thoughts running in my head and feeling fidgety.” — Bryan I.
- “I can hear my heart beating so loud, as if I’d have it right in my ear. My throat starts to tense so bad, that I’m in literal pain. Plus, I start to chew on my bottom lip and rub my neck. It’s also noticeable in the change of my voice, you can hear the tension and growing anger in it before I snap.” — Nani M.
- “My body gets hot and I become restless because I can just feel the anger building up inside of me.” — Melissa R.
- “I feel like I suddenly became a one-man army against the whole world, and I have to fight and resist everything around me. That’s the ‘fight’ in fight or flight I suppose.” — Ashley M.
- “I become really irritable and stressed, I can almost feel the fire clawing it’s way up my throat, like if I open my mouth, it’s gonna jump out and attack anyone in its path.” — Megan B.
- “Splitting. I can feel it happen like a switch in my brain. At this time is when I need to step away. Some people understand this and let me go, others keep pushing and that’s when I get nasty. I cannot help it. If I am not given space to cool off and to get that switch to switch back over to the good side of things, then it will only get worse and sometimes irreversible damage can be done in my rage.” — James T.
- “When I feel a hot tingling wave wash over my face, I know I am on the verge of exploding. Before that happens though, there are tell-tale signs like hand curling into a fist, breathing slows or stops or my eyes roll upwards when I take a deep breath, followed by blinking. When I notice these, I quickly disengage because if I don’t, that hot wave can catch me off-guard and there’d be casualties.” — Lennie G.
- “I get muscular contraction on my right shoulder, arm and leg. Also an acute pain-like feeling in my neck. In those moments I need to be alone, so I can make sure I don’t hurt anyone. It’s really really bad, and since my last psychologist, I can control it a bit, but yet it’s really bad.” — David A.
- “The red flag is getting annoyed at literally nothing. My head hurts and everything is just too loud and I’m just utterly pissed. I have to remove myself from the situation immediately just so I can stew in my own angry mess.” — Jun C.
- “My brain turns into afternoon traffic on a highway, and once it reaches the traffic jam, I know I’ve hit uncontrollable anger.” — Jaelene P.
- “The ‘red flag’ for me is feeling not in control. I know once I begin feeling upset and feeling as if I know I shouldn’t be or should calm down and I can’t I know it’s starting. Being aware makes me frustrated which makes me more mad — then I explode.” — Alyssa D.
- “When someone is treated unfairly, I get instant rage. Also I turn red and hot in the face especially but that’s with every strong emotion I consciously or unconsciously hold back.” — Bettina T.
- “I begin to disassociate from my surroundings. Stop caring about how my actions or words will affect others, my ‘filter’ as I call it… if that goes, then I know my ability to rage is next.” — Aurora R.
- “The red flag for me is having the urge to physically harm something. I’ve never hit a person, but I’ll hit a wall or I rip a book in half. When I get that urge, I try to leave the situation or calm down.” — Vincenzo M.
- “My hands would start to shake. Anyone who tries to talk would me would get a harsh reply. I would feel a pit in my stomach that would make me feel bitter and mad at everything. Mad at myself. Mad at the world.” — Jack G.
- “If I start rubbing the left side of my forehead, I’m either about to collapse into tears or I’m about to flip out worse than anything you’ve ever seen.” — Mandie L.
- “My thoughts become scrambled and my stomach starts to feel very hot. My emotions become scattered but the only one that isn’t scattered is anger.” — Candice M.