What Causes BPD Mood Swings? The Ups and Downs of Borderline Personality Disorder

One of the more frustrating symptoms of borderline personality disorder is constant mood swings. The first step in coping with this troubling pattern in your loved one’s behavior is to understand what causes mood swings. From there, you can move forward to explore different treatment types that are helpful for dealing with mood swings and the other pervasive symptoms of BPD—and reach out for help at a residential treatment center to begin the path to healing, together.

Everyone experiences mood swings sometimes, and many of us are familiar with feeling surprised at how strong our emotions can be. All it takes is one single event to send our minds reeling in a totally new emotional direction. A friend canceled today’s lunch date. A touching video of a returning soldier. A moment of success at the office. Those who struggle with borderline personality disorder find their moods rocketing to extremes over moments as small as these—and experience this reality all day, every day.

These mood swings can feel like the worst possible case of emotional whiplash. It can be exhausting to experience rage, happiness, despair, and mania all in a single hour (or even less), but learning more about the disorder can help. If your loved one is struggling with the intensity of mood swings associated with BPD, you are definitely not alone in feeling worn out. Understanding what causes BPD mood swings may be the first step in the journey toward healing.

Understanding What Causes BPD Mood Swings

Research is still being done to determine exactly what causes borderline personality disorder in the first place. Evidence suggests that the disorder may be influenced by genetic factors, by a stressful childhood environment, or by dysfunction in certain regions of the brain—but these causes don’t directly explain what causes the reactive mood swings associated with BPD. If your loved one is struggling with constantly-shifting mood, you may gain valuable understanding from examining a few possible causes:

  • Environmental Triggers
    Those who struggle with BPD understand, perhaps more than anyone else, what it feels like to be “triggered” by events and people in their lives. A single emotional text message may spark a full mood swing—and because these triggers are mainly interpersonal or environmental, they are random and incredibly hard to avoid. We may experience five or more intense mood shifts every single day—or every hour. Those with stressful jobs or home environments would, therefore, experience mood swings more often.
  • Abnormalities in Brain Function
    Scientifically speaking, neuroimaging has measured that specific areas of the brain appear differently with BPD than in neurotypical brains. Specifically, the amygdala (which is responsible for regulating emotions) and the hippocampus (which allows us to regulate our behavior) appear to be affected. The sudden mood swings experienced in BPD may be caused by overactivity in these regions of the brain—or by the dysfunction of serotonin or other neurotransmitters which help determine our mood.
  • Lack of Coping Skills
    BPD is a disorder based on emotional dysregulation. Mood swings can be pervasive, severe, and incredibly exhausting for those who experience them—especially if that person isn’t equipped with powerful coping skills. Without helpful mindfulness tools, thought processes, emotional vocabulary, and successful experience working through intense emotions, it’s much harder for someone to minimize the number of mood swings they experience every day or to reduce their severity.

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Learning to Deal With Mood Swings

While BPD isn’t necessarily curable, various treatment options have been shown to be incredibly helpful for relieving symptoms and helping individuals get relief from mood swings. dialectical behavior therapy, in particular, has been shown to reduce symptoms in 81% of study participants, which is a significant and hopeful statistic. DBT offers individual therapy sessions to help identify and change problematic behaviors, and also offers weekly group instruction in healthy coping skills relating to distress tolerance, interpersonal relationships, emotion regulation, and mindfulness.

Therapies like DBT are usually the first line of defense against symptoms of borderline personality disorder—but other treatments have been found to be helpful as well. Medications can help stabilize mood or ease symptoms of other co-occurring disorders. Those who also struggle with substance abuse may find dual-diagnosis treatment of BPD particularly helpful. Mindfulness therapies and emotional regulation skills are also useful in helping manage difficult emotions when they arise.

The Benefits of Residential Treatment for BPD

For many, the best chance of achieving lasting stability is offered by long-term residential programs that comprehensively address the symptoms and underlying causes of BPD. The right facility will offer therapy options including DBT, as well as medication management, family skills therapy, and other holistic therapies that will help your loved one learn to better manage the more difficult symptoms of borderline personality disorder and begin living a healthier, fuller life with greater independence and clarity. All it takes is a single call to put your loved one on the path to healing today.

BrightQuest offers long-term residential treatment for people struggling with mental health disorders as well as co-occurring substance use disorders. Contact us to learn more about our renowned program and how we can help you or your loved one start the journey toward recovery.