Some people experience a narrow range of emotions. Certain situations arise and they may feel irritation or amusement. Others find themselves careening from one extreme emotion to another. These are the people that might respond to events with more intense feelings like vengefulness or jubilation. Although we all enjoy a little jubilation, the reality is that the rollercoaster from one extreme to the next can leave you exhausted and feeling out-of-control. To make matters worse, people who experience intense emotions often find themselves stuck in negative feelings and unable to get rid of them for long periods of time.
What makes some people able to manage life’s daily stresses and burdens with equanimity, while others experience an emotional rollercoaster when they hit even the slightest bump in the road? Are they simply built differently? Is it a result of a better childhood? Traumatic experiences? Our DNA?
People diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) often experience some of the greatest struggles with everyday obstacles. They frequently describe themselves as having problems controlling emotions, being moody, getting angry quickly and feeling like relationships are out of control. Superficial cutting, over or under eating, drinking excessively, substance abuse, using physical violence and interpersonal struggles with friends and family members are common high risk behaviors. Negative emotions and problem behaviors seem ever present, whether they want them or not.
In her book Cognitive Behavioral Treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder, Marsha Linehan, Ph.D., explains her bio-social theory for understanding where these problematic emotions and behaviors originate. Linehan’s theory suggests that BPD is primarily a dysfunction in how our bodies regulate emotions. In other words, some people are hard-wired to be more sensitive to emotional stimuli than others. Those who are diagnosed with BPD tend to be highly sensitive and reactive to emotional events.