Understanding Disinhibition (Impulsivity) In BPD

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a serious and costly disorder characterized by emotional dysregulation and risky, impulsive behaviors. Urgency is a type of impulsivity that has been strongly associated with symptoms of BPD, and it remains unclear whether Urgency represents a failure of self-regulation under conditions of strong emotions or whether Urgency reflects short-term attempts to regulate strong emotions. This article shall look at understanding disinhibition (Impulsivity) In BPD.

Reactive behavioral inhibition is relatively unstudied in relation to BPD. A substantial amount of literature links executive function problems with BPD, but that literature has not isolated executive response inhibition nor been controlled for other personality disorder symptoms of antisociality, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, anxiety, or posttraumatic symptoms.

We, therefore, conducted a study of this question looking at BPD symptoms in an adult sample with a small number of BPD subjects and other disorders. Results indicated that symptoms of BPD were correlated with response inhibition (measured by stop signal reaction time) even after controlling for the overlap of stop inhibition with ADHD, antisociality, and other Axis II disorder symptoms. We conclude by hypothesizing discrete developmental routes to BPD, based on different mechanism breakdowns, which would be amenable to empirical investigation at the cognitive or trait level of analysis.

Disinhibition is saying or doing something on a whim, without thinking in advance of what could be the unwanted or even dangerous result. There’s also another way to think of disinhibition: as reduced control over your impulses, or urges, which means being unable to stop, delay, or change (“inhibit”) an action that is not appropriate for the situation you’re in.

Disinhibition is the opposite of inhibition, which means being in control of the way you respond to what’s going on around you.

You Know More About Disinhibition Than You May Think

Do the definitions provided above sound familiar, even if you haven’t heard the word ”disinhibition” before?

If you have borderline personality disorder (BPD), chances are you’ve seldom, or possibly never, been called “disinhibited.” But you’ve likely heard the word “impulsive” many times. That’s right: Disinhibition and impulsiveness (also called impulsivity) are essentially the same thing. Disinhibition is common in people with BPD.

Not all states of disinhibition are due to mental health disorders, such as BPD. For example, a traumatic brain injury can lead to disinhibition. Certain medications, such as benzodiazepines, some sleep medications, drugs of abuse, and alcohol, can also lead to disinhibition.

Of course, everyone has moments when their “uninhibited” behavior does no harm and even contributes to having a good time, such as energetic dancing at a party. In contrast, disinhibition, as the word is used by mental health professionals, is always harmful to some degree to the person behaving impulsively.

What Does Disinhibition Look Like?

Disinhibited or impulsive actions often have unwanted or even harmful outcomes. Why? Because they range from behavior that’s simply inappropriate, such as suddenly grabbing food off someone else’s plate, to unnecessarily risky and even dangerous, such as stealing, setting fires, explosive attacks of rage, or self-injury.

Stages of Disinhibition

You can think of disinhibition as occurring in stages even though only a few seconds may pass between thinking of the impulsive act and doing it:

  • Stage 1: You feel a sense of increasing tension or arousal, an urge.
  • Stage 2: You commit the impulsive act. During it, you may feel pleasure, relief, and/or a sense of fulfillment or satisfaction.
  • Stage 3: After the act, you may feel guilt or regret. You also may blame yourself for doing what you did.

Do Addictions Involve Disinhibition?

Yes. Disinhibition is a key feature of many if not all addictions. Examples include addictive gambling, sex addiction, shopping addiction (especially if you can’t afford it), and substance abuse.

I hope you find this article helpful.

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