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THE PSYCHOLOGY OF PERSONALITY DISORDERS
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Author Topic: BPD BEHAVIORS: Anger and Rage  (Read 29443 times)
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« on: April 08, 2009, 09:14:14 PM »

Perhaps because of my upbringing, I am afraid to show anger.  When I do raise my voice, yell, or otherwise feel that I have not perfectly contained my anger, I feel guilty.

We hear about a borderline's "raging" on this board a lot.  I would like to hear more about what that actually means. 

My mother was waify.  She ignored us much more than anything else, so I fortunate, I suppose, to not have been raged at. 
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« Reply #1 on: April 08, 2009, 09:31:06 PM »

DEFINITION: Rage, in psychiatry, is a mental state that is one extreme of the intensity spectrum of anger. When a person experiences rage it usually lasts until a threat is removed or the person under rage is incapacitated. The other end of the spectrum is annoyance.

I figured I would define it straight from the book first, then expand on it. Basically, as the definition suggests, it is a reaction to a person, situation, or activity that is designed to overwhelm the undesireable object with anger to the point of its dismissal. Once the object being raged at is removed, clearer waters prevail. It is usually used as a tool, and it can be an effective one.

The problem with raging is this, if used effectively, it becomes an extremely enabling action. The rager learns very quickly that by raging, they usually get the desired outcome. The trouble is that if you try to outlast the rager, to teach them that it isnt going to work on you, the situation will escalate beyond your control, or the person trying to defuse the rager will be dismissed entirely.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with being angry. We all get angry. That is a normal reaction to certain things. As long as you are reasonable with your anger, and try to solve it and drop it, you will be just fine. Carrying the anger with you will ultimately lead to hatred. Once hatred enters the equation, it is a hard thing to let go of.
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« Reply #2 on: April 08, 2009, 09:35:09 PM »

Imagine you put a lot of nasty stuff in a blender, then turn it on and forget the lid.  Thats the experience of a rage. Stuff flying everywhere and you are afraid to keep your eyes open for fear of being blinded by something in the storm of it all.
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« Reply #3 on: April 08, 2009, 09:40:04 PM »

Rage is often the result of pent-up anger/fear that has not been dealt with... often because it in directed toward "self" or a target that is feared.

When a "safe" external target comes along, no matter how tiny it can trigger the release, which is often out of proportion to the triggering event.

Often the rage is directed at loved ones as they are convenient, deeply affected (greatest satisfaction of release), and the most likely to be tempered with their response because they love the person.

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TCarlisle
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« Reply #4 on: April 09, 2009, 08:56:02 AM »

This might be one of the best questions asked! We all talk about rages, but what is it? Rage is an emotion of severe displeasure or dissatisfaction. On the spectrum of emotions of displeasure/dissatisfaction, the lowest levels of this emotion would be annoyance or frustration. We all get annoyed at things every day. The line at the grocery store is longer than we expect, and we have a lot of tasks to do so it is annoying to have to wait longer than expected.

Somewhere further down the spectrum is anger. Where you draw the line between annoyance and anger is probably based on the individuals ability to regulate emotion. In my opinion, the line between annoyance and anger is crossed when physiological changes occur. Tight jaw, eyebrows clenched, lips tight, nostrils flared, slightly elevated pulse, breathing rate increased, and slight release of adrenaline.

Rage is at the far end of the spectrum, and again the line between anger and rage is probably not constant. The physiological reactions to the emotion of dissatisfaction are much more severe than in the angered state, such as a feeling that the heart is pounding out of the chest and an adrenaline release that is pretty close to what it would feel like to be in fear of imminent life-threatening danger.

Reactions  to each of these emotions would be:

  • Annoyance -- Becoming slightly vocal and displaying some outward signs to signify annoyance. The person stuck in the grocery line might speak up and say "can't this line move a little faster"? They might take on a body posture to non-verbally communicate their displeasure, such as standing with one hand on the hip and glaring at the cashier. Maintaining a rational state of mind.


  • Anger -- Raised voice with a more aggressive tone. More aggressive body posture. Struggling to maintain a rational state of mind. Some physical acting out to displays of dissatisfaction, such as slightly slamming a door, striking coffee mug down on the desk. Becoming slightly irrational.

    The person stuck in line at the grocery store that has allowed themselves to elevate to the angered state would be using a raised voice to the cashier, and maybe once the person gets to the belt the person places the items on the belt a little harder than normal, kind of slamming things down.


  • Rage -- Using the highest levels of aggression to remove the source of dissatisfaction. Screaming and the most aggressive body posture and non-verbal communications, like getting directly in the face of the individual, shaking fists, and screaming, all with the sole goal of putting the subject into flight mode. Physical acting out such as throwing things at the subject, hitting, kicking, etc. Pretty much a complete loss of rationality.

    The person stuck in the grocery store line that has allowed themselves to elevate to rage would be screaming at the cashier, taking magazines and candy bars from the checkout stand and throwing them at the cashier, maybe even reaching across the belt and smacking the cashier.




All three levels of this emotion are normal and healthy -- even rage. What determines if it is healthy emotional regulation is what the circumstances are that sparked the level of emotion. In my examples above, it is normal to get annoyed when you are stuck in a long line. It might even be healthy to vent that a little by politely asking the cashier what is the delay if the line is halted -- maybe they are waiting on a price check. It wouldn't be healthy for a person to allow the situation of being stuck in a checkout line to escalate to anger or rage.

Anger might be appropriate when a person has done, or is in the process of doing, something that has some dire consequences. If an account manager mishandles a customer and loses a big account, it is probably normal and healthy for the boss to be angered. Calling the person into the office and using a slightly raised voice to say "I can't believe you lost that account!' while throwing their hands in the air. Then gaining composure and explaining to the subordinate exactly where the person mis-stepped and having a discussion around that. I think that would be a normal, healthy, appropriate display of anger.

Rage might be appropriate when a person is in the process of doing something that has severe dire consequences or is life threatening. For example, if a stranger is approaching you with a knife, it would be appropriate to employ rage to make that person re-think their plan. Rage is pure "fight" mode.

So just because at some point in our lives we have raised our voices, maybe even yelled at someone, that doesn't necessarily mean we have a "problem". What determines if there is a problem is looking at the situation and the consequences of whatever displeased the person, and determining if the persons emotional reaction was appropriate. It probably isn't appropriate to enter a state of anger over being stuck in a grocery store line. Certainly not rage. The consequences are not dire -- its just a minor setback in the day.

Another thing to look at in determining healthy regulation of these emotions is being aware of how you progress through the levels of this emotion. If you progress quite quickly from being annoyed to being angered, there is probably some negative thinking at play that actually accelerates your elevation through these emotional states, rather than positive thinking that would help you remain at the lowest emotional state to suit the circumstances. And no human being is perfect. We all have times when we let our emotions get a little out of control.

BPD's enter the state of rage almost instantly for reasons that would cause most people annoyance or maybe not even any annoyance. For example, I had a BP rage at me because I bought a $2.99 lint brush because I needed one. Full-on yelling, screaming, face in my face, fists clenched, very aggressive body posture and movements, but no physical violence on that occasion.

Another thing that is important in healthy emotional regulation of anger is to be able to recognize when you yourself have played a part in what you are displeased with, and use that cognitive thinking to control the anger. For example, going back to the situation of being stuck in the grocery line -- a healthy person will tell themselves "well, I shouldn't left the house a little sooner, so if I am late for my appointment it is partly my fault"

BPD's don't do this at all. They fail to recognize their own part in the situation that displeases them. Blame, blame, blame, and as they do that they become more angered, angered, and finally enraged. And typically, their chaotic lifestyle is usually a big factor in what they are upset about.
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fantasyman
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« Reply #5 on: April 11, 2009, 09:44:34 AM »

Don't want to get too technical, but I just learned recently in a management class (for work) about personality traits and the function of the amygdala ("the stress gland"). This is an almond-shaped/sized gland in the temporal lobe of the brain that pumps cortisol (the chemical that excites us & triggers the "fight or flight" response) into our bloodstream.  As we become excited (fear, threat etc.), it pumps cortisol at increasing rates.  Eventually, we reach at threshold beyond with there is no return and we lose control of our actions, or rage (some to more of a degree than others).  This, of course, is the repsonse for non-BPD's, and it's why even we non's often feel pushed beyond our limits.

For most of us, it takes some time & effort before we reach rage levels. I believe that BPD's arrive at this "no return" or "rage" point much sooner than non's b/c they process things so much differently.  So much seems to them to be about them, so they can't pause to consider that other factors or perspectives may be at play before raging.  They go straight to the rage (sort of a "cortisol dump"), and when they DO go off, "fight or flight" is often our own natural reaction.  Those of us who are more evolved (not me!) are able to rein ourselves back in to keep our amygdala from being over-stimulated before it's too late, and we experience a "cortisol dump" of our own.

Don't how much of this perspective makes sense to most, but it's helping me learn how to better keep my own response in check - and NOT be drug into battles i never wanted to fight!
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« Reply #6 on: April 11, 2009, 11:49:42 AM »

My husband's ex is like a tornado in a bottle. She puts on the face of being very controlled, but when you push even a tiny bit, she expolodes. Examples of pushing would be saying no to her or doing anything she did not expect or approve of. One time her rage was triggered when I bought her daughter a new coat. She beat on ourdoor, screamed and said "let me in! let me in!You're going to pay!" and all sorts of nonsense, she threw something at our door and beat on it for about 10 minutes until I yelled through that i was going to turn the hose on her if she didn't leave.

She left and went home and wrote us a nice "screw you" letter.

Last week Dh called to talk to the skids and she answered, the anger and rage in her voice was clear and yet, because he did not call his children to piss her off, he wasn't shaken up by it or pulled into whatever her issue was. He simply spoke to his kids and ignored how nasty she was on the phone to him.

I cannot understand what will trigger it and what will not but she flies off the handle, turns 30 shades of red and shakes and screams like a banshee. I personally think the woman is terrified of her own anger and so when it seeps  out, she cannot control herself and goes off the handle completely. I think the adrenaline hits her and she cannot control herself at all. After the rage, she distorts facts and justifies her actions by saying she was pushed into doing it by someone else. She has described her rages as "when you put me in a corner, the claws come out"  and blames those she went off on. 

While that's unfortunate for her, eventually she is going to need to face her issues or deal with the fact that her rage doesn't get her the results she thinks it should.

Ultimately, her emotions are not my responsibility. I would never do anything to shake her up and push her buttons intentionally, but I will also not go out of my way to keep her happy. She is an adult with a husband and family of her own who can walk on eggshells around her, I will live my life and run my family in the way I feel is right. I do not make choices based on the fear it will trigger her rage. BPD rage cannot harm me, but changing my whole life and second guessing every choice I make just in case she gets angry-- does harm me and my family.


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Dave_Taylor
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« Reply #7 on: April 11, 2009, 12:41:34 PM »

I want to give a slightly different perspective.

I actually believe that anger and rage and not on the same continuum. In other words, the difference isn't merely one of degree it is qualitative.

Anger is definitely an aggressive emotion that it helps you express your needs and get your way. That can often be very healthy.

Rage on the other hand is aimed at humiliating, hurting and controlling someone. It really has a different flavour to it.
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Spyswife


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« Reply #8 on: April 11, 2009, 03:59:28 PM »

I like your post, Dave. Very interesting.

I wonder if in  some BPD because they cannot handle a normal and healthy emotion like anger, it turns to rage because they do not know how to process and handle negative emotions.

I wonder if feelings of anger make them feel ashamed and bad and they are compelled to rect by making someone else feel or take on that shame.
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« Reply #9 on: April 11, 2009, 07:30:23 PM »

You're absolutely right - something inside them won't allow the healthy anger and restraint that goes w it.  I agree w Dave as well.
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