14 Ways to Manage Borderline Anger Episodes in a Healthier Way

Many people with borderline personality disorder (BPD) experience anger so intense it is often referred to as "borderline rage.” This anger sometimes comes in response to a perceived interpersonal slight—for example, feeling criticized by a loved one.

It's not immediately clear why people with BPD may feel intense anger and aggression, but research suggests:

  • It could be tied to the overall emotional dysregulation people with BPD often experience.
  • It may occur as a result of perceived rejection.
  • It could be linked to stress (although this connection seems to apply more toward self-directed anger, not aggression toward others).

If you experience this kind of anger, you may not feel in control of the emotion. Many people with BPD engage in unhealthy behaviors when they get angry, including acts that can cause physical harm or destroy relationships. This can lead to further feelings of hurt and frustration, which can, in turn, cause more anger. However, with practice, it is possible to learn to manage anger in healthier ways. Here are some tips on healthy ways to manage your anger with BPD.

1

Count to 10

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You've probably heard this one before, but it works, so it's worth repeating. If you can pause before responding to what is making you angry, you are more likely to make healthier, more constructive choices about your behavior.

If something or someone makes you mad, try to count to 10 in your head before you respond.

2

Notice Your Anger Earlier

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Sometimes you may not even notice that you are becoming angry until you are enraged. But you can practice becoming more attuned to your responses so that you notice your anger earlier in the cycle. Try to pay attention to the small signs of a borderline rage beginning.

For example, what does that first twinge of anger feel like? How does your body react? If you can catch these signals when you are moderately annoyed, rather than fully enraged, you can intervene earlier.

3

Take a Break

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Once you notice that you are getting angry, it makes sense to take a break from whatever is angering you. This one works particularly well if you are getting angry in a conversation with someone. If you start acting angry, the other person will often start feeling angry, which can escalate the situation.

If you notice this escalation, call a "time out" and take a break for 10 to 15 minutes (or longer, if you need to).

4

Distract Yourself

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Some people find it helpful to engage in another, distracting activity when they are getting caught up in their anger. To do this successfully, find an activity that can really hold your attention.

Don't choose something passive, like watching television, because your thoughts will likely drift back to whatever is making you angry.

Do something that actively engages your mind, like organizing a room of your home or reading a book.

5

Take Deep Breaths

Woman taking deep breath outdoors with cityscape in the background

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Practicing deep, diaphragmatic breathing can help reduce the physical arousal you feel when you become angry. Take a few minutes to breathe slowly and from deep in your belly. Put your hand on your belly, taking slow breaths, and pushing your hand out each time you inhale. Let your hand fall each time you exhale.

6

Ground Yourself

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Grounding exercises can help you "snap out" of the anger cycle once it has begun while reminding you of the real insignificance of the issue at hand. Try out some grounding exercises to bring yourself back to the present moment when your mind keeps going back to your anger.

7

Listen to Calming Music

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Listening to music that promotes the opposite mood can help you reset your emotional state. When you are angry, listen to music that is slow, soothing, and calm. But don't pick something that's depressing—the music should be uplifting.

8

Practice Letting Go

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Anger can be difficult to manage because it is a very seductive emotion—anger entices you to hold on to it, particularly if you are righteously angry about something that is unfair. But holding on to anger often is not helpful. Pay attention to when you are intentionally holding on to your anger and instead, try to "let go."

Mindfulness exercises can help you master the process of letting go.

9

Engage in Light Exercise or Do Yoga

Young woman in athletic clothing doing yoga in her apartment

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Exercise can improve your mood, reduce stress, and better your overall health—and, if you feel anger building, it can give you something else to focus on. It's important to keep your workout light if you're feeling upset though, as combining intense exercise and feelings of extreme anger may be harmful to your cardiovascular health.

Going for a walk or practicing yoga may be good options to take your mind off of anger—but be sure to consult with your healthcare provider before picking up a new exercise routine.

10

Practice Meditation

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Meditation can be a way for you to re-center yourself and get your mind off of anger. If you're new to the practice, meditation involves focusing on something specific, often your breath, in a directed, purposeful way. Mindfulness meditation is often used to treat symptoms of BPD, since it encourages you to stay in the present moment with a neutral mindset rather than a judgmental outlook.

Taking a meditation break may calm you down in an intense moment and, over time, learning these techniques could help you break the cycle of reactivity often associated with anger.

11

Communicate Assertively

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Sometimes instead of lashing out in anger, people with BPD hold that anger in or direct it toward themselves. This can be just as destructive as lashing out. If you are someone who does this, learning to communicate your needs assertively will ultimately reduce your difficulties with anger.

Communicating assertively means communicating your needs or expectations clearly but not aggressively.

12

Take a Problem-Solving Approach

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Sometimes when we are angry about something, we become willful—we spend a lot of time telling ourselves how unfair the situation is, or how we have been wronged but fail to take any action to improve the situation.

If you are being willful, consider whether that behavior is really working for you. If not, try to take a problem-solving approach. What are you angry about, and is there any way you could take action to solve the situation?

13

Use Humor

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Leaning on your sense of humor during times of stress can help you lessen the tension and soothe feelings of anger. Laughter, in particular, can help you overcome stress—in fact, laughter therapy is becoming more commonly available as a treatment option to improve mental health.

To incorporate more humor in your life, try reframing a frustrating situation as a humorous one, or taking a break to watch a funny movie.

14

Consider Psychotherapy

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There are a number of psychotherapy options that are designed to help you manage the intense emotions that are often associated with BPD. These treatments can include:

While each method involves different techniques, they are all focused on helping you learn new coping skills so you can respond with less anger toward the stressors in your life.

A Word from Verywell

BPD can make it difficult to manage your anger, but practice can help you learn how to control your emotions. These 14 tips may help you improve your reactions and manage your anger, as can reaching out to a healthcare provider for help. BPD is a treatable condition, and you can learn to cope with your symptoms in a healthy, constructive way.

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