Controlling Borderline Personality Disorder: How Resolving Trauma Using EMDR Therapy Can Help

Many individuals suffer from borderline personality disorder that is rooted in traumatic events from their past, causing their life to become dominated by negative thoughts and emotions. Through Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR), you can resolve your trauma in order to treat your disorder, giving you the ability to take control of your emotions and promote stability in your life.

“In most cases, I had this need to spend a lot of time together,” said Lo, who suffers from borderline personality disorder. “If I’m not spending most of my time with my friend or significant other, I immediately believe he or she will abandon me. I couldn’t stop thinking I’d be replaced by someone better. This fear physically hurts me. My eyesight gets blurry, my head starts to tighten, my heart starts racing and I can barely open my mouth to speak. Dealing with this fear is a battle I’m still fighting.”

Lo’s situation is mirrored in the lives of many others living with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), and represents one aspect of the illness that can create emotional turbulence, fear of abandonment, and suicidal ideation, among other symptoms. Oftentimes, people with intense fears of abandonment and problems with emotional regulation have experienced some sort of trauma in their life that has altered the way that their brain processes emotion.

Numerous researchers have begun to explore the relationships between BPD and trauma, and what is known so far suggests that those with BPD are much more likely to have experienced childhood traumasincluding:

  • Sexual abuse
  • Physical abuse
  • Domestic violence

Similar to those suffering from BPD, individuals that have experienced trauma have difficulty regulating their emotions, which causes them to lose control and makes interpersonal functioning very difficult. Data has also shown that those with preexisting difficulties in regulating their emotions are more susceptible to develop BPD symptoms due to emotional abuse. Luckily, given the overlap between trauma and BPD, it is possible that this difficulty in emotional regulation can be treated using Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR).

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy

EMDR therapy was initially designed to help individuals with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) access and process their traumatic memories in a positive way and alter the way that their brain deals with them. When the brain has been through trauma, specific neural pathways linked to the traumatic emotions are activated when the memories surface. Through the use of guided lateral eye movements, therapists ask their clients to express the negative emotions and sensations attached to their traumatic memories. Eventually, they are asked to describe positive thoughts during this process, allowing them to replace their negative emotions with positive ones, creating new, productive neural pathways in the brain that help them deal with their trauma more effectively.

Resolving Trauma to Treat BPD

Individuals with BPD exacerbated by trauma can benefit from EMDR therapy due to its ability to address the trauma that paved the way for their mental illness. By accessing memories of traumatic life events that eventually led to BPD and the current triggers for these memories, EMDR therapy can help individuals learn to cope with their traumatic memories in a more adaptive way and recognize their triggers, ultimately decreasing their significance and replacing them with positive frames of mind. Following EMDR therapy, the negative emotions, beliefs, and physical sensations connected to traumatic memories are turned into positive ones.

Research has supported the effectiveness of EMDR therapy for helping individuals with BPD rooted in trauma, although given the intense nature of traumatic emotions, this form of therapy should only be initiated when the individual is ready to deal with these emotions. Many people suffering from BPD are prone to impulsive actions and self-harm, highlighting the necessity of a preparation period prior to EMDR therapy to ensure that they are ready to confront their trauma and learn to regulate the emotions connected to it in a positive way.

Residential treatment is the most effective option for individuals suffering from both trauma and BPD due to its ability to provide you with numerous therapies, such as art and yoga, to help you begin the process of healing without directly confronting or putting words to your emotions. Once these therapies have prepared you enough, you can move on to EMDR within your individual treatment program and take control of the emotions that lie at the root of your disorder.

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Taking Control of Your Emotions

At the heart of both trauma disorders and borderline personality disorder lies an inability to properly regulate emotions, causing your life to fall into the hands of whatever emotions you happen to be feeling. Maintaining stable relationships and employment can be extremely difficult for individuals with trauma-induced BPD, and you might find yourself at a loss when it comes to controlling your feelings, ultimately succumbing to them.

Resolving your trauma and fluctuating emotions requires a treatment plan that addresses both your BPD and the events in your life that it is rooted in. Through a combination of EMDR therapy and other residential treatment therapies, you can learn to accept the negative emotions that are dominating your life and understand that it is possible for you to replace them with positivity. With the right guidance and a willingness to confront your trauma, you can break free of the events in your past that are connected to your BPD and learn to take control of how you feel in a productive way.

Bridges to Recovery offers comprehensive residential EMDR treatment for individuals suffering from trauma-induced borderline personality disorder, as well as other co-occurring mental health disorders, substance abuse, or process addictions. Contact us to learn how you or your loved one can learn to take control of your emotions and pave the way to a stable life.

Lead Image Source: Unsplash user Griffin Keller