Mood Lability and Borderline Personality Disorder

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People with borderline personality disorder (BPD) are often described as having mood lability. Mood lability is an intense or rapidly changing emotional response that is out of proportion to the situation at hand. It is often associated with dramatic changes in opinions and behaviors.

Understanding Mood Lability

Mood lability is often evidenced by destructive or harmful behaviors. Those actions can include angry tantrums or screaming, destroying objects, aggression or violence towards others, and self-harm.

The responses can occur seemingly out of nowhere, triggered in seconds.

Mood lability is present in people with various mental illnesses, including bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and BPD. Because of how disruptive mood lability can be, it can significantly impact daily life and functioning. This may include harming interpersonal relationships and careers.

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Many of the symptoms of BPD involve difficulties in managing or regulating emotions. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illnesses, 5th edition—the reference manual mental health professionals use—BPD's criteria outlines several difficulties with emotions, including:

  • Anger: People with BPD may display inappropriate and intense anger reactions.
  • Emotional lability: Those with BPD experience unstable emotions and frequent mood swings. Emotions are easily triggered and are typically inappropriate or disproportionate to the circumstances..
  • Insecurity: Often, those with BPD are insecure in interpersonal relationships. They regularly assume that other people will leave them or reject them, potentially leading to frantic efforts to avoid this.
  • Impulsiveness: In response to some sort of stimulus, people with BPD often respond impulsively and may engage in dangerous behaviors.

Many people with BPD cycle between emotions rapidly. In the morning, they may be happy, full of energy, and optimistic. As the day progresses, they can become despondent, depressed, and express feelings of hopelessness.


The marked mood swings associated with mood lability and BPD can be extremely disruptive. It may keep people from being able to manage their daily routines. However, BPD and mood lability can be treated.

If you have BPD, it's important to look for a therapist or healthcare professional who specializes in emotional regulation and personality disorders.

Engaging in psychotherapy will help you learn how to manage your emotions and urges in a healthy way. From learning new coping skills to better understanding your emotional triggers, you will be prepared to handle all aspects of your mood lability.

2 Sources
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.
  1. American Psychiatric Association. Borderline Personality Disorder. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illnesses, 5th edition (DSM-5). 2013.

  2. Johnson A, Gentile J, Correll T. Accurately Diagnosing and Treating Borderline Personality Disorder. Psychiatry, 2010;7(4):21-30.

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