BPD Living With BPD Suppressing Emotions and Borderline Personality Disorder By Kristalyn Salters-Pedneault, PhD Kristalyn Salters-Pedneault, PhD Kristalyn Salters-Pedneault, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and associate professor of psychology at Eastern Connecticut State University. Learn about our editorial process Updated on September 17, 2019 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Amy Morin, LCSW, Editor-in-Chief Print People Images / Getty Images Table of Contents View All Table of Contents Suppressing Emotions Consequences What This Means for You Strategies for Emotion Regulation Many people with borderline personality disorder (BPD) will report that they spend a lot of time and energy suppressing emotions. If you have ever had an intense thought or feeling that you couldn't handle in the moment and tried to push away, you have experienced emotional suppression. Research shows that not only is it ineffective in eliminating thoughts and feelings, but it may even worsen the situation. Suppressing Emotions Emotional suppression is a type of emotional regulation strategy that is used to try and make uncomfortable, overwhelming thoughts and feelings more manageable. There are many different emotion regulation strategies and some are more helpful than others. For example, some people use meditation or mindfulness techniques to handle intense feelings, helping them relax and cope healthily. Others turn to alcohol or drugs to get rid of painful emotions. While this may work as an emotion regulation strategy in the short term, it definitely has negative long-term consequences. Suppressing emotions, or just trying to push emotional thoughts and feelings out of your mind, is an emotion regulation strategy many people use. When used from time to time, emotional suppression doesn’t have dramatic negative consequences. However, particularly for those with BPD, pushing emotions away all the time can lead to serious issues later on. Consequences Researchers have studied what happens when you try to push away thoughts and feelings for decades. A famous 1987 study on this topic involved one group of people who were instructed to push away thoughts of a white bear. The other group was allowed to think about anything, including thoughts about a white bear. The group who had suppressed thoughts of a white bear actually ended up having more white bear thoughts than the group that had been allowed to think freely. This result is called the rebound effect of thought suppression. Essentially, if you try to push away a thought on some topic, you will end up having more thoughts about that topic. The same effect happens when you try to push away emotional thoughts. Press Play for Advice On Dealing With Difficult Emotions Hosted by Editor-in-Chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast, featuring actor Skyh Black, shares how to embrace uncomfortable feelings, rather than suppress them. Click below to listen now. Subscribe Now: Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Google Podcasts What This Means for You If you frequently try to push away thoughts and feelings, you may be making more trouble for yourself. In fact, it's possible that this is setting up a vicious cycle: You have a painful emotion. You try to push it away. This leads to more painful emotions, which you try to push away and so on. Some researchers believe emotional suppression may be a reason that people with psychological conditions such as BPD, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) struggle with so many painful thoughts and emotions. Symptoms and Diagnosis of PTSD Strategies for Emotion Regulation The solution to suppressing emotions is to learn new, healthier ways to regulate your emotions. If you have lots of techniques to rely on, you're less likely to resort to pushing those thoughts away. For example, distracting yourself from an emotion by engaging in another activity may be a more effective way to regulate your emotions. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) can also be helpful. The main goals of DBT involve teaching people how to live in the moment, tolerate distress, and improve relationships. One study showed that DBT significantly improved emotional regulation after 12 months. What Is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)? A Word From Verywell If you suppress your emotions, there's a good chance you're adding even more distress to your life in the long term. It can be a hard habit to break if you've been using it to help you cope with pain. Reaching out to a licensed mental health professional can be key to helping you learn new coping strategies so you can deal with your discomfort in healthier ways. How to Find the Best Therapist for You 1 Source Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3612492 Additional Reading Baer RA, Peters JR, Eisenlohr-Moul TA, Geiger PJ, Sauer SE. Emotion-Related Cognitive Processes in Borderline Personality Disorder: a Review of the Empirical Literature. Clinical Psychology Review. July 2012;32(5):359-369. doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2012.03.002. Goodman M, Carpenter D, Tang CY, et al. Dialectical Behavior Therapy Alters Emotion Regulation and Amygdala Activity in Patients With Borderline Personality Disorder. Journal of Psychiatric Research. October 2014;57:108-116. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2014.06.020. Wegner DM, Schneider DJ, Carter SR, White TL. Paradoxical Effects of Thought Suppression. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 1987;53(1):5-13. By Kristalyn Salters-Pedneault, PhD Kristalyn Salters-Pedneault, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and associate professor of psychology at Eastern Connecticut State University. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist for BPD Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.