Using Music to Cope With Mood Symptoms in BPD

Woman on bed listening to headphones
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People with borderline personality disorder (BPD) experience intense emotions. One simple coping strategy to help manage these emotions is music — which research shows can affect how a person feels and also serve as a form of personal expression or communication. 

How Music May Help Ease BPD Symptoms

Music can help people with borderline personality disorder in a few different ways. First, for some people, music is absorbing enough that listening to it can distract them from whatever else may be going on. Second, music can actually help to change a person's emotional state — there is evidence that listening to music can change a person's mood and how they feel. Thirdly, music therapy and other forms of art therapy, like dance or drama, can help a person communicate their feelings.

Healing With Music

In addition to listening to music, some people with borderline personality disorder create music as a form of coping or expression. This can be done alone or in a group setting.

When and Where to Use Music

One of the benefits of music is that you can listen to it in a variety of environments. For instance, you can listen to music in the privacy of your own home, or in the car. If you are in a public place, you can put on headphones and become absorbed in a song of your choice.

Also, instead of listening or creating music by yourself, you can speak with your doctor about participating in a form of individual or group music therapy. This may provide even more benefit to your care. Also, music therapy may be part of a larger treatment program for your borderline personality disorder.

The Importance of Choosing Mood-Incongruent Music

When listening to music, it's a good idea to select mood-incongruent music if you are experiencing negative emotions. Choosing mood-incongruent music means picking music that is the direct opposite of what you are feeling.

So, if you are feeling anxious, pick something soothing and relaxing. If you are feeling sad, pick joyful music. If you're angry, pick whimsical or calming music. Don't get pulled into your favorite mournful or angry song.

A Word From Verywell

Listening to music is a simple, inexpensive, and safe way to feel good — that being said, it should not be used as an alternative to medical therapy provided by your doctor. It's simply an extra tool you can use to manage distressing emotions. If interested, speak with your doctor to see if music therapy is an option for you.

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.
  • Linehan, MM. Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder. New York: Guilford Press, 1993.

  • US National Library of Medicine. PubMed Health: Borderline Personality Disorder.

  • Västfjäll D. Emotion Induction Through Music: A Review of the Musical Mood Induction Procedure. Musicae Scientiae, 2001 173-211, 2001-2002. Fall;5(1):173-211.

By Kristalyn Salters-Pedneault, PhD
 Kristalyn Salters-Pedneault, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and associate professor of psychology at Eastern Connecticut State University.