Sensitivity to others’ emotions

I think this is an excellent article which explains what causes people with BPD to be terrified of abandonment and rejection. Not all people with BPD are traumatized but many sufferers report severe childhood abuse and neglect and they are extra sensitive to other people’s facial expressions, both positive and negative. Subtle frustrations on other people’s faces can be interpreted as anger and outburst and some sufferers become terrified of re-experiencing their original traumas.


People with borderline personality disorder (BPD) may be hypersensitive to subtle emotions on others’ faces. An enhanced ability to recognize expressions of happiness, sadness, anger and fear might contribute to the unstable relationships and intense emotions characteristic of the disorder. In a recent study, individuals were asked to identify emotions on slowly morphed computer generated faces. Adults with BPD consistently identified the emotions sooner than other participants.

People with BPD’s sensitivity to the feelings of other might fuel some of their emotional regulation problems. For example, slight annoyance on the face of a friend might be seen as heated anger, which could trigger a fear of abandonment. Even hyperawareness of positive emotions could lead to trouble for people with BPD, who might interpret intense love instead of mild happiness. This tendency could lead to the whirlwind romances typical of people with BPD.

This research is important in understanding the impact of emotional sensitivity on the behavior of individuals with BPD such as overreacting to minor events or situations. Individuals with BPD often experience chronic feelings of emptiness, fear of abandonment, low self-esteem, and stormy relationships. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) has been shown to be very effective with BPD and suicidal clients by addressing emotions that lead to erratic behavior and teaching coping skills to regulate emotions.

Trauma Recovery Treatment

People who have experienced trauma may respond in a variety of ways. Physical or emotional symptoms are normal and called a traumatic stress reaction. Physical symptoms of traumatic stress may include fatigue, headaches, startling easily, sweating and gastrointestinal problems.

Traumatic stress may create feelings of anger, fear, guilt, anxiety, reduced awareness, numbness, helplessness, and hopelessness. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can develop from traumatic stress when symptoms persist for more than a month and get in the way of normal life. Because the body and mind work together, traumatic stress can cause a cycle that makes it seem like the body and mind are working against one another, worsening symptoms like pain and fatigue.

Serious problems may persist and continue to interfere with daily living if they are left untreated. Psychologists who specialize in trauma and recovery can educate patients about common responses to extreme stress and help them find constructive ways of dealing with the emotional impact of such stress. Children who exhibit continual aggressive emotional outbursts, serious problems at school, preoccupation with the traumatic event, withdrawal, and other signs of intense anxiety or emotional difficulties also may need professional assistance. Traumatized children and their parents benefit from understanding and dealing with thoughts, feelings and behaviors that result from trauma.

The Arroyos Psychological Associates are Psychologists in Pasadena California. We offer treatment for anxiety, and are also experienced in treating dual diagnosis patients.

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