A person may sometimes attempt to rid themselves of difficult emotions in harmful ways. This may lead to challenges with behavioural regulation, which are one key set of symptoms in emotional instability and minor forms of emotional dysregulation.
The video below provides information on what kind of challenges with behavioural regulation are often related to emotional instability.
Borderline personality disorder often involves impulsive behaviour. This means reacting strongly on a whim in accordance with the impulses of the person’s current emotional state.
Harmful impulsive behaviour can involve aspects such as gambling, unprotected or otherwise reckless sexual encounters, excessive use of alcohol, other substances or medicines, binge eating, impulse spending, cancelling meetings or difficulties with adhering to agreements.
The objective of impulsive actions is to generate gratification and avoid negative feelings or sensations. Impulsive behaviour may also stem from an attempt to overcome a sense of emptiness. This often also works in the short term: during or shortly after an impulsive action, the person may feel great, or at least they are feeling something.
Conversely, the long-term consequences tend to be negative, sometimes concretely (loss of money, threat to health), and the person’s sense of self may take a hit. The sense of emptiness or other difficult emotions end up coming back. Impulsive actions also prevent the person from making progress towards their long-term goals and acting in accordance with their own values.
A person may also have difficulties with regulating goal-oriented behaviour and long-term work. Emotional instability can cause difficulties with perceiving long-term consequences and tolerating one’s own actions not being immediately rewarded.
Due to emotional sensitivity, failures may feel catastrophic, and black-and-white thinking and actions make it difficult to adopt a long-term approach. When things are only seen as good or bad, as successes or failures, it may be difficult to resume activities after setbacks. Working through monotonous, boring or difficult stages involved in long-term activities can feel almost impossible.
Borderline personality disorder may involve repeating self-destructive behaviour. The self-destructive behaviour can be triggered by factors such as a threat of separation, a feeling of rejection or increased demands and expectations towards the person.
The self-harm is not always suicidal. The goal is usually to get rid of a feeling of malaise, anxiety, feeling unreal or a sense that the person is somehow bad or defective. However, in connection with instability, the risk of suicide is significant and suicide attempts are common.
NOTE! If you have thoughts of self-harm or self-harming behavioural tendencies, please click here to seek help.
A person can learn to understand their actions that are impulsive and confusing even to themselves by examining them as a part of a chain of various external and internal events. The chain analysis can help the person understand this chain of events and actions.
In the video below, Outi Karvinen tells an example of how the chain analysis could be used to understand a situation that lead to problematic behaviour.