Most people have acted impulsively at one time or another, but for many folks who live with borderline personality disorder (BPD), impulsivity is a symptom that can crop up often and affect daily functioning more than they’d like.
There are many ways someone with BPD might engage in impulsive behaviors. Some might speak without thinking in a moment of emotional intensity. Others might have impulse control issues when it comes to spending money. Some folks might engage in habitual self-harm or suicidal behavior and don’t know where to turn for help.
It’s important to note that not all impulsive behaviors are inherently bad, but talking about these behaviors can be useful in explaining to friends and family members who might be confused as to why their loved one is acting this way.
We wanted to know what kinds of impulsive behaviors people who have BPD engage in, so we asked our Mighty BPD community to share one way they act impulsively, and explain how it affects their lives.
It’s important to remember not just folks with BPD engage in impulsive behaviors like these. If you find yourself struggling with impulsive behavior that is impacting your daily life, please seek the help of a mental health professional. If you are in crisis and need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Here are the impulsive behaviors our BPD community shared with us:
“I think oversharing is definitely an impulsive thing I do and don’t realize until after I’ve shared. Usually no one judges me for the things I share (because they’re usually about trauma, so they’re more taken aback than anything), but I often wonder if they think I told them too much too quickly and that makes me nervous and sometimes ashamed. I feel like I can sometimes be too intense.” — Julia F.
“Oversharing about my life and really personal stuff that has happened to me. A lot of the time I’m thinking, ‘Omg did I really just say that?’ I always talk before I think… sometimes I trigger others with their past because I overshare about the experiences I’ve went through not even realizing it until it’s already done and I’m feeling horrible at myself for it.” — Holly D.
“Spending money. Haven’t been able to go a day without spending money, even if it’s only $2. However the more money I spend, the more satisfied I feel. Even if it’s just an expensive bag of dog food. It’s terrible. It’s like an addiction. I hate it, wish I could save because when I look back, I get sooooo internally frustrated with myself because it should have gone towards something more in the ‘need’ rather than the ‘want’ [category].” — Teneisha S.
“Impulsive spending. When BPD hits hard, I will spend every cent in my bank account on things I think make me happy. It can spiral out of control.” — Jess B.
“When I get anxious, or am struggling with dissociation or depressive episodes, I spend money. I’ll find myself online shopping and blowing the money I need for my bills on things I don’t even really want or need. Trying to explain it to myself or others later on is always so frustrating because it’s not defensible, it’s dangerous.” — Haley M.
3. Getting Angry
“I react emotionally to what someone says without really thinking about what they mean. I tend to get angry and lash out over little things that mean nothing. And then I lose that person as a friend or a relationship.” — Gidget M.
“Getting sooooo angry at little things. And big things too. I’m either all or nothing, depends on the day.” — Tracy L.
4. Quitting a Job Suddenly
“Quitting jobs. If I’m in a bad environment, I’ll suffer and suck it up until the job becomes toxic, and instead of communicating with the boss or co-workers, I’ll just quit over text because I’m too ashamed to tell them face-to-face.” — Kristina J.
“Quitting jobs and dropping classes. Instead of trying to face my fear or fix the problem, I immediately evade it and run away. I have also gotten rid of stuff after getting angry that I now regret and wish I could have them back.” — Clara I.
5. Having ‘Meaningless’ Sex
“Impulsive meaningless sexual encounters for the quick fix I get of feeling worthy. Sex is like my drug in all possible ways — the highs and the come down and self-loathing. It’s as if by so impulsively having sex I get some kind of gratification that I’m not a bad person, [like] the very thing I’m doing is the action of someone being kind to others and themselves.” — Daniel M.
“I use sex as validation. With the mindset that if they are f*cking me, that means I’m wanted, I’m pretty, they find me interesting, they like me. Then as soon as it’s over — not even, more like halfway through the orgasm — I snap out of fantasy world and instantly know I don’t know anything about this person and that this was purely just them wanting to get off… I find sex is the most self-destructive act one can do upon themselves.” — Ratline C.
6. Saying Things You Don’t Mean
“Getting irrationally mad and saying things I don’t mean.” — Cheyenne D.
“I tend to say things impulsively that can get me in to trouble later. For example, telling someone I don’t like them even if I ‘have’ to like them (ex: bosses, family members, etc).” — Alana J.
“Speaking without thinking. I am now utilizing DBT skills and starting to pause more before reacting, but I have been known to say some pretty hurtful and anger-fueled things when I am struggling with my emotions.” — Georgia G.
7. Impulsively Adopting Animals
“I adopt animals. All the animals. You name them, if they need a home, I’ve had them. And for far too long. I’m supposed to adopt them out, which always ends in a big dramatic quarrel with my boyfriend because I want to keep every single one. “ — Nat C.
“I buy/adopt new pets. I love animals and I find a lot of joy from caring for them, but when I impulsively buy them, I get in over my head.” — Dakota W.
8. Jumping to Conclusions
“I impulsively jump to conclusions about anything that doesn’t sound right and am convinced they are lying because of it. I always start fights trying to get them to admit what I ‘know’ is the real truth. Especially with relationships. I always think they are lying or cheating because I have such low self-esteem and such bad relationship experiences. It was the main reason I just lost my 10-year relationship with the father of my children. I finally pushed him away… I also am always apologizing about things that aren’t my fault or things that don’t even need an apology.” — Tabitha K.
9. Distancing Yourself From Others
“Whenever I get attached to someone, I immediately try to distance myself from them because I’m afraid they’ll abandon me.” — Damien A.
10. Binge Eating
“I binge eat whenever I’m happy, depressed, excited, etc.” — Amber C.
“Eating… Food is my self-harm/self-medication and [for me] it’s so obsessive and compulsive. It’s been discussed with professionals as basically an eating disorder, as I pretty much think about food almost every waking minute of the day… Once I eat, I can’t seem to stop.” — Casey M.
11. Geting Piercings
“I impulsively pierce different parts of my body. In the past, I’ve done ears and eyebrows multiple times, nose twice, tongue and lip, my most recent one was my ring finger.” — William M.
“Self-harm. Sometimes I get so overtaken by emotions and just can’t find a healthy way to cope, so I cause physical harm to myself to dampen the emotional trauma. Not a lot of people know because they just would not understand how physical pain is less scarring than living with the emotional anguish that is BPD.” — Heather P.
13. Canceling or Changing Plans
“Change or cancel plans abruptly.” — Lisa G.
14. Drinking Too Much
“Drinking way too much when I’m in social situations… I can’t seem to control it, but I guess I do it because then I can finally relax around other people because of my constant fear of rejection. If I’m sober, I can’t stop thinking that other people don’t like me and that they will probably leave at some point, but alcohol takes that feeling away.” — Lia K.
“Saying ‘I’m sorry’ constantly. Or asking my husband if he still loves me every time he looks at me. “ — Anna D.
16. Texting Too Much
“I get anxious when my boyfriend takes too long to text back. Sometimes I’ll wait a while and send another casual text. Then more time passes and I just keep sending them. Then another text apologizing for sending so many messages. It’s embarrassing.” — Angela A.
17. Joining Lots of Activities/Groups
“Impulsively joining various groups, activities and applying to new jobs. Looks like I’m an overachiever from the outside, but it’s mostly because I can’t say no.” — Leah P.