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Ask a Professional: 16 Year old with BPD getting into a rage every night

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Ask a Professional: 16 Year old with BPD getting into a rage every night

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Ask a Professional: 16 Year old with BPD getting into a rage every night

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My daughter has recently been diagnosed with BPD. She is commencing DBT therapy this week after 9 months of general therapy. She will be starting year 11 in a few weeks after missing most of Year 10 due to depression and anxiety and what we now know is BPD.

She has got into a pattern of staying up on her phone and watching tv until 3 am then sleeping most of the day. In preparation for school starting in 2 weeks we have changed mobile providers to one that has the ability for us to turn data off and we switch off the internet.

Every night when the internet is turned off she gets in a rage. She sits on our bed and talks loudly or plays music to stop us sleeping. Last night she kept leaving the fridge open so it beeps constantly and was banging a glass on the bench repeatedly. She screamed at me for 2 hours and slapped me in the face. We have recently built a new house and she was going around the house kicking and damaging the walls.

I eventually managed to quiet her down at 2am after my husband threatened to wipe her phone which shocked her to the point of rocking on the floor weeping. I don’t know what to do, I strongly believe that she needs to learn to sleep at night and be able to wake up at 7am for school but she just tries to punish us and cannot be reasoned with.

I am feeling very alone right now when the conflict gets bad my husband escalates things and is unable to use strategies that our counsellor has recommended. I feel forced to protect her which just makes things worse.

We tried to talking with her and coming up with a compromise, but she refused to engage, giving us little choice. I have been feeling like we need to stand our ground but it is making things worse. We are getting some support but the practical what to do is tricky when conflict erupts in a matter of seconds and escalates for hours. We need to learn some de-escalation strategies.


Dear @enorman

It sounds like an incredibly frustrating and exhausting situation for you, your husband and your daughter. It’s reassuring to hear that she will be starting Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), since this is a treatment which is designed to help people develop skills to manage their emotions so that there aren’t such big reactions when things don’t go their way. This isn’t a process which happens overnight, but with continued treatment people generally find there is a change in how they feel and behave - I’d expect that your daughter being able to respond more calmly would have a big impact on your family.

I’m not sure how much opportunity you have had to speak with your daughter’s new therapist or treating team, but it would be helpful to ask about how you can best support her progress in therapy - which would include discussing how to respond when she can’t be calmed down or is highly distressed. 

You might be able to practice some of the skills she is learning with her, as a way of providing support and staying connected to her experiences. However, it’s important for teens to have input into how involved a parent is in the therapy process - otherwise they can feel they don’t have privacy and this can make them more reluctant to engage with therapy. 

You mention that you and your husband aren’t on the same page at the moment. This is really understandable as we all have our individual responses to such a difficult and stressful situation, and keeping calm under pressure and sticking to a plan can be very hard. However, I know that it must make things much harder for you. Have the two of you been able to talk about this once the moment has passed and your daughter is calm? 

I imagine that both of you feel a lot of pressure to respond in the moment and ‘fix’ things. I’m not sure if your husband intends to stay calm but is struggling to do so, or if he feels his approach is a helpful one. Talking with each other and understanding each other’s perspectives on this could help to be able to work together, because at the moment it sounds like this isn’t happening. 

Staying calm in such an intense situation can be really hard - it could be helpful to explore with your husband whether there are ways you can support each other through this - whether it is having a plan where one of you can step out for a moment when feeling overwhelmed, or working on strategies for staying calm together.  I also wanted to share this video with you of parents talking about staying calm during conflict.

We also have a resource about calming an angry teen here. Importantly, it includes a section on staying safe, which is important to keep in mind if your daughter becomes physically aggressive again. 

Because this resource is written for a broad range of parents responding to an angry teen, it isn’t personalised for your daughter’s situation, so I do encourage you to speak with her new therapist about whether there are particular approaches they would recommend.

You might also find it helpful to have a look at the resources available via Project Air (click on ‘Families, Partners and Carers’ on that page) which is focussed on providing support for BPD.

Lastly, don’t forget to take a moment to think about how you can look after yourself. I know it is really hard when you are doing so much to look after your daughter, but it makes so much of a difference in your ability to care for others when you take the time to look after your own emotional wellbeing. There is a resource on this on the Project Air page I linked to as well.

Best wishes,


Linda is a psychologist experienced in working with people across the lifespan, including teenagers and their families, in a variety of settings, and is ReachOut's Clinical Lead.