A relatable article re triggers.
Updated: Apr 3
When you live with a mental illness, sometimes learning to live with “weird” triggers is part of the deal. This can be especially true when you live with borderline personality disorder (BPD), a mental illness characterized by emotional instability and difficult interpersonal relationships. But what we don’t always recognize is the triggers we consider “weird” are actually more common than we realize.
Some folks with BPD feel a wave of abandonment when they see a friend “like” someone else’s post but not theirs. Others, due to heightened sensitivity, might fly into a rage when they hear repetitive noises for extended periods of time. Some might encounter a seemingly-pleasant scent that takes them back to a traumatic time in their life they’d rather forget.
We wanted to know what “weird” triggers people with BPD are susceptible to, so we asked our Mighty BPD community to share their experiences with us. Below you can read what they had to say.
No matter what “weird” thing triggers a BPD episode for you, we want you to know you deserve support and understanding.
Here are the “weird” BPD triggers our community shared with us:
1. Loud or Repetitive Noises
“I have problems with loud noises, especially sudden loud noises. It makes me very jumpy and defensive, and that makes me aggressive because I automatically go into fight mode thinking there’s a threat.” — Sandra S.
“Sounds, someone eating, the clock ticking — any sound that is loud or repetitive causes me to flip out and I can’t help it.” — Micaela A.
“Noise triggers me a lot. I’m talking about noise that repeats itself constantly like rain drops ticking on the balcony fence. Not when it rains heavily, but the last bits that fall off a tree or the balcony from our upper neighbors. Sometimes the fridge makes a weird constant noise for a while. Even when the TV is on, I can hear it. My boyfriend then is like ‘What? I don’t hear anything.’” — Kayleigh B.
2. When Someone Leaves the Room
“When someone simply leaves the room. It’s weird and strange to me because it feels like there’s a disconnect between my thoughts/mind and emotions. I know people don’t just disappear when they leave the room, and I know it does not mean they are rejecting or abandoning me. But after becoming more aware, I realized the agitation, panic or mood shifts that would occur in the moments right afterward. Maybe I’d slam things and not realize I was doing it. Or if I was more vulnerable that day for whatever reason/already having a bad day, I’d maybe even cry and have no idea why.” — Kelyann N.
3. Getting Behind on Chores
“When my house gets dirty. I start spiraling. [I think to myself:] ’I’m a failure at being a homemaker. I’m a failure at work. I’m a bad student. I’m a bad wife. I can’t keep up with basic things. Why do I even try? Just give up.’ Then I wanna do something impulsive or self-medicate to ease the pain. I hate that a dirty house can trigger me this badly. I’m in therapy trying to remedy it in healthier ways.” — Whitney A.
4. Feeling ‘Ignored’ on Social Media
“People ignoring my comments on their post. Especially when they have liked other comments but not mine.” — Kirstie F.
5. Being Asked a Question You Don’t Know the Answer To
“When I’m put on the spot. When someone asks a question or asks me to do something, I panic and I can’t answer the question. Then I get angry because I feel like I am letting them down and they will hate me..” — Sarah T.
6. Phone Calls
“Phone calls… Especially robot answering services — ‘Press 1 to get irritated press 2 to pull your hair out.’ Honestly one of my biggest triggers. I’ll end up screaming and yelling to the point I’m sweating and spittle is coming from my mouth.” — Brandon H.
“My phone ringing… I now have it on silent all the time but I won’t answer it anyway!” — Hellan B.
7. When Guests Don’t Behave How You Want Them To
“If a visitor comes over and either doesn’t wash their hands when necessary or if they use my dish soap as hand soap when I have hand soap in an equally accessible area. Then once they go to dry their hands, they use paper towels instead of the hand towel that is closer to them. All of that makes me really upset.” — Angel M.
8. When Someone Comments on Your Food Choices
“I have issues with food. Growing up, I had to ask for every single thing — every snack, every drink, etc. So as an adult, when my hubby comments on something I’m eating or plan to eat (maybe it’s not the healthiest choice, or eating out may cost too much for our budget), I have a full-blown melt down over it, scrambling to ‘take back my control.’” — Nicole A.
9. Making Decisions
“Having to make any decision.” — Holly F.
10. Leaving the House
“That moment before leaving the house. I instantly have to fight the urge not to break down. It doesn’t matter what I have to do, my mind goes into panic mode like there’s a war outside my front door. Like entering a void. So many emotions just to make it to my car.” — Rashad H.
11. Being in an Unfamiliar Place
“When I go into a new store. [Here’s an] example. I’m used to my Walmart — I know the layout, I know where everything is and I can be in and out easy and quick. But when I go into a new Walmart, I don’t know where things are, the lights are different, the signs are different [and] the layout makes no sense to me. I start to freak out. I get anxiety and start to dissociate from myself. It’s like that with any new stores — grocery, pharmacy, even gas stations…” — Raylene I.
12. Being in the Cold
“Being too cold. It’s also due to PTSD from when I gave birth… I have intense panic attacks if I get cold enough to be shivering.”
13. Smell of Cinnamon
“The scent of cinnamon can throw me into a violent rage. I’m talking broken furniture, assaulting whoever is around, self-harm.” — Felicia A.
14. Writing Papers
“Writing papers, I’m so afraid of screwing up and doing something wrong. I’m afraid of my own opinions and thoughts, “ — Hope C.
15. People Talking About Their Parents
“People talking about their parents triggers me to the core. I freeze and go catatonic.” — Rae P.
16. Kids All Talking Over Each Other
“My kids all talking at once. As a mother of 5, it can get chaotic and all the noise and yelling make me anxious and cause disassociation.” — Amber.