Toddler Tantrums VS Borderline Tantrums

My 14 month old daughter has started throwing terrible toddler tantrums. She will stamp her feet and aggressively yell at the top of her lungs; or throw herself on the ground and scream bloody murder. When I think about it, I’m just as terrible (or maybe worse) when I have a BPD tantrum.

Sometimes I jump up and down and scream at my S.O., then slam the door and storm off in rage. Other times I forcefully tug at my hair, clench my fists and angrily shout in frustration. On rare occasions I aggressively throw things around and will not stop until I get a reaction.

What causes toddler tantrums?

Around the toddler stage, children start to develop a sense of self. New emotions begin to emerge as they become more independent. Their brain is still developing; the part of the brain that regulates emotions has not developed yet. So they will sometimes struggle with emotions. This can lead to emotional outbursts such as tantrums and complete meltdowns.

What causes borderline tantrums?

The characteristics of BPD begin developing during early childhood. Fundamentally, the child fails to learn how to control their emotions because of an invalidating environment. By the time they reach early adulthood, borderline personality disorder is determined, an inability to regulate emotions. So just like a toddler, they will often struggle with emotions and are prone to emotional outbursts.

Why do toddlers have tantrums?

Anger, anxiety, annoyance…

The most common reasons why toddlers have tantrums are:

  • They want something they cannot have.
  • They want more independence.
  • They want your attention and know you respond to their tantrums.
  • They are anxious and/or stressed.
  • They are frustrated from being unable to express their feelings, needs or wants.
  • They are frustrated from not being understood.
  • They are overwhelmed with emotion(s) – this sometimes leads to a meltdown.

Why do borderlines have tantrums?

Rage, restlessness, resentment…

The most common reasons why borderlines have tantrums are:

  • They want something and have been rejected.
  • They want your attention and have been ignored or dismissed.
  • They are very anxious and/or stressed.
  • They are frustrated from being unable to express their feelings.
  • They are frustrated because they have been misunderstood.
  • They are frustrated because they haven’t had the response they wanted.
  • They are overwhelmed with emotion(s) – this sometimes leads to a meltdown.

    Conclusion

The characteristics of toddler tantrums and borderline tantrums are almost identical. Both are caused by being unable to regulate emotions, which results in similar displays of emotional outbursts. The difference is that toddlers have just started developing a sense of self, while borderlines have an unstable sense of self. So, although the emotions and reasons behind their emotional outbursts are similar, the toddler is still learning while the borderline is feeling invalidated.

As they get older, toddlers will grow out of their tantrums and continue their emotional growth until they reach early adulthood. Borderlines are hindered by their illness, but they too can develop healthy emotional skills through DBT, CBT and self-help.

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