Home » Blogs » Psychotherapy Matters » Understanding Emotional Instability

Understanding Emotional Instability

A diagnosis of emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD), or borderline personality disorder, can be a disturbing thing to get. But there is a silver lining and that is; that by having been given the diagnosis you now know a few things.

1 this is something that you have acquired it is not that there is something wrong with you.

2 the fact is that you feel this way because of things that have happened to you.

Knowing this can make all the difference

The diagnosis is not something that medication will fix, though medication may help lower anxiety states, and help to moderate your mood.

The point really is to try to find someone that you can work with who will help you to understand and think through what happened to you in your earlier life.  To make sense of what has created the condition.

Now you can start the conversation knowing you have the diagnosis.  It may save you a lot of time.

Why a diagnosis can be helpful

Although the diagnosis may sound sinister and perhaps overbearing and impossible to know how to work with, that does not have to be the case.

Client example:

A man in his forties came to see me.  He was suffering from all kinds of post-traumatic symptoms.

  • he was having problems concentrating
  • his mood was erratic – up and down
  • he was losing his temper
  • he was getting upset
  • he was finding it impossible to have relationships, and
  • he had an idea that he might have emotionally unstable personality disorder.

When he came to see me he had just broken up his relationship with a woman he’d been seeing for the last few months.  The relationship was characterised by heavy drinking, fighting, arguments and upset.

One moment feeling that their future was secure, the next moment that they wanted nothing to do with each other.  He would become very upset and he needed help.

He found coming to see me settled his nerves down a bit.  He was able to sit in the sessions and gradually we started to find a way to talk about what he was going through.

We arranged together for him to go to see a psychiatrist because he was determined to get the diagnosis confirmed one way or another.  The psychiatrist confirmed it.  The effect of this was to enable the man to feel much calmer.  He felt that understanding something more about his mind, his emotions and his mental state was possible now he had the diagnosis.

Now it became possible to start to talk more about the experiences he had been through in his earlier years in his family home which had created the emotional instability in the first place.   He came from a family that had been tyrannised by his father’s drinking, violent outbursts and affairs.

Now the client started to link his current problems with the family he had grown up in.  He could see the link between living in an often violent and chaotic home and his emotional state.

If you have been given a diagnosis of emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD), it can be the beginning of a much healthier life. It gives you something to work on.

One of the symptoms of the disorder is having an unstable emotional base, and with this comes difficult feelings like shame. Finding a person to work with, someone you feel can understand what has happened to you can help to reduce the sense of shame.  It can help you regulate your emotional system.

It is not that there are things wrong with you; it’s that things have happened to you

When we go through trauma, when we don’t know what we have gone through, our emotions become unstable.  Our emotional thermostat goes haywire.

Talking helps open up avenues into yourself, into your thoughts, into your moods, into things that you may have felt you should not talk about.

  • when we open up those things we release knots of stress anxiety emotional memories
  • we alter our internal dynamics
  • we release tension
  • we start to become clear about what has happened to us
  • we start to feel less ashamed

Maybe today is a good day to start a conversation about this?

Understanding Emotional Instability

Toby Ingham

Toby Ingham is a psychoanalytic psychotherapist and supervisor based in High Wycombe in England. Toby works on both a short and long-term basis with people who are trying to work through a variety of situations. Sometimes these relate to a specific event such as CPTSD, bereavement, divorce or redundancy, sometimes relating to a more general problem or behavior. He blogs on a wide range of psychological themes.

No comments yet... View Comments / Leave a Comment



APA Reference
, . (2020). Understanding Emotional Instability. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 27, 2020, from


Last updated: 13 Feb 2020
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network ( prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on All rights reserved.