Borderline Personality Disorder and Ruminating Thoughts

*Thank you to Adrianna Rangel for allowing us to share this piece. You can see more of her writing here and her book, ‘Book of Thoughts’ here.*

Trigger warning: this piece discusses themes of borderline personality disorder (BPD), self-harm, trauma and substance abuse

Rumination is a maladaptive form of repetitive, passive, and unconstructive thinking that's prevalent in Borderline Personality Disorder. Ruminating thoughts can cause many negative consequences, such as intensifying negative moods, lack of concentration, a reduced motivation for daily behaviour, and can lead to depression, uncontrolled anger, disordered eating, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress and self-injurious behaviours. Negative or uncertain interpersonal situations can trigger rumination in an attempt to solve problems and reduce distress; however, it intensifies the pain. This can lead to common BPD symptoms of self-harm, substance abuse, impulsivity, self-destructive behaviour, etc.

Common triggers:

  • Arguments with a significant other (S/O)

  • Being ghosted by a S/O

  • Catching someone in a lie

  • Being rejected

  • Getting bad grades 

  • Losing friends

After talking to a potential significant other every day for over a month, I didn't get a response and assumed I got ghosted. I hyper-fixated on our entire conversation and started seeing clues in his behaviours that "proved" was being abandoned. I couldn't stop thinking about this for two days. Because I couldn't see outside my thoughts, I made severe impulsive choices instead of practising Distress Tolerance and Emotion Regulation. I felt like I couldn't do anything until I received a response from him, no matter the response. I started relying on him emotionally, and then he became the centre of my world. The emotional distress caused my relapse from self-harm and alcohol. I wasn't able to focus on anything I needed to do until he responded to me.

Physical symptoms:

  • Increased heart rate

  • Muscle tension

  • Rapid breathing 

  • Excessive sweating

  • Digestive issues

  • Trembling or shaking

When he finally responded to me, he left the conversation very open-ended and cancelled the plans we had for the upcoming night. As soon as I read his message, my heart rate immediately skyrocketed, and I felt as if I couldn't breathe. All the same thoughts circulated in my head, and I went into another ruminating thought episode. Because I hadn't been practising anything constructive (Dialectical Behavior Therapy, aka DBT) for my emotions and thoughts, l immediately started to drink. Drinking caused an even bigger spiral and I started to blow his phone up with text messages begging for him to text me back, hang out with me, and apologising. I know if I didn't drink, I wouldn't have sent multiple messages and would have been able to respond in a rational and appropriate way.

Common sayings:

  • “I can't stop thinking about it.” 

  • "I can't shut my mind off.”

  • "I'm always in my head.”

  • “I can never stop thinking.”

  • "No matter what I do, the thought is always there.”

  • "I tend to overthink everything.”

  • "I'm constantly dwelling on things.”

Over the course of not being responded to, I said numerous times, "Why can't I stop thinking about this? Why do I get attached to unavailable men?" and, "Why can't I stop overthinking? There is no real evidence that my paranoia is true."

“I'm sorry, ___, I can't stop overthinking, "I’m so sorry. I know I keep blowing you up and bothering you, but the unknown and limbo is getting to me. know that’s not your fault, but l just can't stop thinking about this.

“I hope you're ok. I'm sorry for messaging you again, l just can’t stop dwelling.”

If you know anyone who suffers from BPD and experiences ruminating thoughts, please understand it's not their fault, and they can't “just stop thinking about it" or "just get over it." The only task that keeps me from ruminating is being asleep, which usually try to do when I am going through a bad rumination episode. Please be patient with your friend, spouse, co-worker, acquaintance, etc. and remind them that you are there to listen.

-Adrianna Rangel

Voices of Hope wants you to know that you do not have to do this alone. Click here to 'find help' - it's not weak to speak!

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.