3 Common BPD Triggers and How to Cope

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For people struggling with mental health challenges, awareness of triggers is vital and empowering. Triggers for individuals with borderline personality disorder (BPD) vary and, without coping mechanisms, can lead to significant distress. Knowing your unique triggers enables you to cope and take proactive steps to avoid or lessen potential stressors. Awareness of triggers can also contribute to a reduction in impulsive behaviors and help you avoid potential mental health crises.

Borderline personality disorder is a Cluster B personality disorder. That means it causes erratic or dramatic behavior patterns. Borderline personality disorder, or BPD, is characterized by unexpected behaviors and emotional instability. 

We’ll talk about common BPD triggers to be aware of and how you can cope with them. We’ll also discuss how PBT can help you address your triggers for the future.

What a BPD trigger is and 3 common ones to know about

In the context of mental health, triggers are stimuli or events that elicit a strong emotional or psychological reaction, often linked to past traumatic experiences or conditions. Triggers can activate intense emotional responses, such as anxiety, fear, anger or sadness, and may lead to a reexperiencing of symptoms related to a mental health condition.

Triggers for individuals with borderline personality disorder can vary widely. A person can have episodes of dissociation, emotional outbursts and dangerous behaviors. Triggers can vary from person to person, but there are several BPD triggers that are common among diagnosed clients.

Here are three BPD triggers that you should be aware of:

  • Fear of abandonment — The fear of being abandoned or left alone can be a powerful trigger, influencing behaviors and emotions. Intense, pervasive fear of abandonment is a common experience among Individuals with BPD. This fear may be out of proportion to the situation and can lead to extreme emotional reactions. This fear may be exacerbated or triggered by perceived threats to relationships, even if those threats are not real or imminent.
  • Traumatic memories — Not only do many individuals diagnosed with BPD have a history of exposure to various forms of trauma, but trauma can actually contribute to the development of the disorder. When these individuals are faced with situations, stimuli (e.g., sounds, smells) or experiences that remind them of a trauma, the intense emotions and distress associated with that traumatic event may be reactivated.
  • Perceived rejection or criticism — Individuals with BPD often struggle with a distorted and unstable sense of self. Perceived rejection or criticism may be interpreted as confirmation of negative self-talk and exacerbate feelings of worthlessness. Sometimes even minor instances of perceived rejection or criticism may trigger significant emotional distress for individuals with BPD. This is due in part to emotional dysregulation, another characteristic feature of BPD.

How to cope when you experience a BPD trigger

Once your BPD symptoms are triggered, it can feel like they’ll never stop. But if you experience a trigger, there are ways that you can manage your symptoms in the moment or later, depending on the circumstances. Finding healthy coping mechanisms can help you as you navigate triggers throughout your mental health journey. When learning about different strategies and BPD coping mechanisms, it’s important to remember that what works for one person may not work for another.

Here are a few ways that you can handle a BPD trigger to minimize your symptoms:

  • Distract yourself — By pulling your mind away from the trigger and toward another activity, such as exercise or a creative outlet, you can reduce the effect of the trigger and focus on the positive emotions that can come from an enjoyable activity.
  • Practice mindfulness — Practicing mindfulness through meditation can help you be present in the moment. By grounding yourself in reality, you can reduce your BPD symptoms, such as impulsive behavior.
  • Acknowledge your behaviors/emotions — By increasing your self-awareness, you can take note of your emotions and current behaviors so that you can see how you reacted to the trigger. By acknowledging your symptoms as they’re occurring, you can gain control over them.

How process-based therapy can help 

While learning how to cope with BPD triggers in the moment is helpful, it’s important to seek treatment for your disorder to develop skills that will help you long-term so that you can manage episodes in the future.

Process-based therapy is a holistic, personalized treatment that allows a Lightfully clinical therapist to treat your entire person, not just your BPD symptoms. The goal of PBT for borderline personality disorder is to help you reduce your symptoms and address the root of your disorder through evidence-based integrated interventions tailored to your particular needs.

PBT focuses on your four core processes that are at the basis of your BPD:

  • Difficulty with emotions
  • Difficulty with thoughts
  • Difficulty with relationships
  • Difficulty with behaviors

While there are many integrated interventions that can help you progress on your mental health journey, arousal reduction will likely be included in your treatment to recognize and address BPD triggers.

Lightfully Behavioral Health can help you recognize BPD triggers and reduce episodes

While BPD can’t be cured, with treatment and support, you can learn to manage your symptoms, build resilience and gain strategies to help you cope with your triggers. Lightfully’s clinical model, process-based therapy (PBT), enables us to deliver personalized care for individuals struggling with BPD and co-occurring mental health challenges. Treatment can help you learn how to handle your emotions, thoughts and behaviors. Process-based therapy can help you develop needed skills and coping mechanisms. The framework of our clinic consists of evidence-based, clearly defined, data-driven and whole-person-centered care.

Change is possible. When you’re ready to take the first step, reach out to our Admissions Concierge Team. We’ll take the next steps together, toward the fullest, brightest version of you.


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