What triggers someone with borderline personality disorder?

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a mental health disorder characterized by persistent patterns of changes in mood, behavior, and self-image. When a person has BPD, they often experience periods of intense anger, anxiety, or depression that last for hours or days. The mood swings experienced by people with BPD can lead to impulsive behavior problems and can lead to interpersonal problems.

People with BPD have various triggers that can cause changes in their symptoms. Common triggers include rejection or abandonment in a relationship, or resurfaced memories of childhood traumatic events.

Read on to learn more about triggers that people with BPD must deal with.

What is the borderline personality disorder test?

List of BPD triggers

Triggers are events or situations that cause symptoms. They can be internal, like thoughts or memories, or external, like arguments in a relationship or unemployment. Triggers that may cause intense symptoms in people with BPD include:


Relationships are one of the most common triggers for people with BPD. People with this disorder tend to be more sensitive than usual to being abandoned by a loved one. This can lead to strong feelings of fear and anger.

In some cases, people with BPD may self-harm, act impulsively, or attempt suicide if they are in a relationship that makes them feel rejected, criticized, or as if they might be abandoned.

For example, if a person with BPD contacts a friend but does not hear back within a short period of time, they may draw a negative conclusion. When this happens, their thoughts spin out of control, they come to the conclusion that they have no friends, and because of this, they begin to experience intense emotions that can lead to self-harm.

Relational Triggers and BPD

Romantic relationships aren’t the only relationships that can trigger episodes that people with BPD experience. Their relationships with friends, family, and coworkers can also trigger symptoms if they encounter any form of rejection, criticism, or threats of abandonment.


Childhood trauma can play a role in the development of BPD as well as future triggers. Studies have found that people with BPD experience high rates of childhood abuse, such as emotional and physical neglect and sexual abuse.

When a person with BPD is reminded of a traumatic event, either in their own mind or through a physical reminder (such as seeing someone or a place), their symptoms may intensify (worse) and their mood will intensify.


Having BPD can cause a person to be extremely sensitive to any type of criticism. When someone with BPD is criticized, they don’t see it as an isolated incident, but as an attack on their character, painting a complete picture of rejection. When people with BPD feel rejected, their symptoms are exacerbated, as can impulsive or self-harming behavior.


Unemployment is a common trigger for people with BPD because it often brings about feelings of rejection and criticism. Since rejection and criticism are largely triggers, anything that makes them feel this way can worsen or bring about intense symptoms.

in a BPD episode

Each person with this disorder is unique and experiences their symptoms in different ways. Some common signs of worsening symptoms in people with BPD are:

  • Intense outbursts of unprovoked anger
  • episodes of high depression or anxiety
  • suicide or self-harm
  • Impulsive behaviors that they would not engage in when they were not in a disordered state, such as overspending or overeating
  • unstable self-image
  • dissociatedisconnected from one’s own thoughts and feelings or memory and identity

BPD and Substance Abuse

When people with BPD experience flare-ups of symptoms, they may engage in reckless or impulsive behavior, such as using medication. Some studies suggest that nearly 80 percent of people with BPD will develop a substance use disorder at some point in their lives. People with both BPD and substance use disorder are more likely to be impulsive and engage in suicidal behavior more frequently than people with BPD alone.

Living with Borderline Personality Disorder: What It’s Like

Coping with BPD triggers

Coping with BPD triggers can be difficult. The first step to being able to do this is to identify what triggers you.

Because you may be triggered by things other people with BPD are not, it can be difficult to identify your personal triggers until you investigate which feelings, thoughts, events, and situations trigger your symptoms.

After doing this, you can avoid triggers and practice other coping skills, such as:


There are several specialized evidence-based therapies that have been found to be effective in helping people with BPD manage their disease. They include:

  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy: Dialectical Behavior Therapy is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy that uses mindfulness, acceptance, and emotion regulation strategies to change negative thinking patterns and make positive behavioral changes.
  • Mentalization-Based Therapy: Mentalization-based therapy works by helping people with BPD improve their ability to visualize thoughts and feelings in their own and others’ minds to improve interpersonal communication.
  • Schema-Centered Therapy: This form of therapy helps identify useless patterns that a person may have developed as a child in an effort to replace them with healthier patterns.
  • Transference-Centered Psychotherapy: For people with BPD, this type of therapy centers on building and exploring aspects of the relationship with the therapist to change the way the relationship is experienced.
  • Systematic Training in Emotional Predictability and Problem Solving (STEPPS): STEPPS is a psychoeducational, group-based treatment approach that allows people with BPD to learn more about their disease and the skills needed to manage emotions and change unhealthy behaviors.

How to Treat Borderline Personality Disorder

self care

There are several self-care techniques you can employ to help you cope and manage your illness. They include:

  • Learn mindfulness techniques with meditation apps
  • Learn how to be grounded in difficult times so you can focus on the present moment
  • Seek emotional and practical support, such as therapy groups, friends and family
  • Acknowledge unhealthy behaviors and avoid them by pausing your feelings before you act or react
  • Stay active as a distraction when you are highly angry or irritable

Pause on Negative Emotions

While it can be difficult to force yourself to stop feeling a certain way, when you do feel overwhelming negative emotions, you can practice patience and stop to calm yourself down. By taking a step back from the situation and taking a few deep breaths, you can calm your mind and reduce the negative emotions trying to take over.

how to help others

When someone you care about has BPD, it can be difficult to know how to help them. That being said, there are a few things you can do to support the ups and downs of their condition. They include:

  • Make yourself aware of the disease and all that it brings: People with BPD often behave dastardly, but that’s when their disease takes over. It’s important to understand this disorder so you can better understand what motivates their behavior.
  • Support them when they seek help: While you can’t force someone to seek professional help, you can be patient with them and support them when they eventually seek help. To support their decision, you can express your pride in them or offer to accompany them to an appointment. People with BPD who had a strong support system had greater improvement in symptoms than those without any support.
  • Listen and verify: You don’t have to agree with how the person with BPD sees the situation, you can just focus on listening and verifying that there is nothing wrong with how they feel. Just knowing that they have validation can provide relief for someone with BPD in the episode.
  • Never ignore self-harm or threats: Many people with BPD may threaten to harm themselves multiple times without taking action. This may cause their loved ones to take their suicidal thoughts less seriously. However, up to 75% of people with BPD attempt suicide at some point in their lives, so even threats need to be taken seriously.

What to do if a loved one with BPD threatens suicide

If your loved one threatens suicide, call 911 immediately. It can also be helpful to recognize signs that your loved one is considering self-harm behaviors, as they may not always speak out about these behaviors. Even though you may think there is no real risk, suicidal behavior or threats always require professional evaluation.

Signs and symptoms of borderline personality disorder


People dealing with BPD often experience normal times that are broken by episodes. Everyone has unique triggers because everyone is different, but a common theme for many people with BPD is the fear of rejection or abandonment.

To cope with this disease, it is important to identify triggers so that they can be avoided as much as possible. When symptoms do appear, seeking help or practicing self-care techniques can help you manage your symptoms and avoid becoming overly obsessed with unhealthy behaviors.

VigorTip words

Living with BPD is not easy. That being said, there are several effective treatment strategies that can help you cope with the disease so that your symptoms are less devastating.

The best thing you can do for yourself is to seek professional support in order to begin treatment. While treatment isn’t linear, when you start addressing your ailment, you’ll be one step closer to a happy and healthy life.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is anger a normal part of BPD episodes?

    Anger is one of the main emotions that react to triggering events. These angry feelings are intense in nature and difficult to overcome.

  • Can someone with BPD cope without medication?

    Although people with BPD often take antidepressants, antipsychotics, and mood-stabilizing anticonvulsants, there are no drugs officially approved for the treatment of BPD. Studies have found that the most effective treatments are different therapies designed to help people with BPD recognize emotions and respond differently to negative thoughts and feelings.

  • How does family history contribute to BPD triggers?

    Many people with BPD have a family history of childhood abuse or neglect. It can be very triggering when the memory of the event resurfaces. Research has found that a family history of childhood abuse may also contribute to the development of BPD.