Using Music to Cope with Mood Symptoms in BPD

The Do's and Don'ts of Coping with Music in Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline personality disorder
Borderline personality disorder. Getty Images/Sofie Delauw/Cultura

People with borderline personality disorder (BPD) experience intense emotions. One simple coping strategy to help manage these emotions is music — which research shows can affect how a person feels and also serve as a form of personal expression or communication. 

Let's learn more about coping with music in borderline personality disorder

How Music May Help a Person with BPD Cope

Music can help people with borderline personality disorder in a few different ways.

First, for some people, music is absorbing enough that listening to it can distract them from whatever else may be going on. Second, music can actually help to change a person's emotional state — there is evidence that listening to music can change a person's mood and how they feel. Thirdly, music therapy and other forms of art therapy, like dance or drama, can help a person communicate their feelings.

In addition to listening to music, some people create music as a form of coping or expression. This can be done alone or in a group setting.

Coping with Music in BPD - When and Where:

One of the benefits of music is that you can listen to it in a variety of environments. For instance, you can listen to music in the privacy of your own home, or in the car. If you are in a public place, you can put on headphones and become absorbed in a song of your choice.

Also, instead of listening or creating music by yourself, you can speak with your doctor about participating in a form of individual or group music therapy.

This may provide even more benefit to your care. Also, music therapy may be part of a larger treatment program for your borderline personality disorder. 

Choosing Mood Incongruent Music to Cope in BPD

When listening to music, it's a good idea to select mood incongruent music if you are experiencing negative emotions.

Choosing mood incongruent music means picking music that is the direct opposite of what you are feeling. So if you are feeling anxious, pick something soothing and relaxing. If you are feeling sad, pick joyful music. If you're angry, pick whimsical or calming music. Don't get pulled into your favorite mournful or angry song. 

What Does This Mean for Me?

Listening to music is a simple, inexpensive, and safe way to feel good — that being said, it should not be used as an alternative to medical therapy provided by your doctor. It's simply an extra tool you can use to manage distressing emotions. If interested, speak with your doctor to see if music therapy is an option for you. 


Linehan, MM. "Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder." New York: Guilford Press, 1993.

US National Library of Medicine. PubMed Health: Borderline Personality Disorder. Retrieved December 8th 2015.

Västfjäll D. Emotion Induction Through Music: A Review of the Musical Mood Induction Procedure. Musicae Scientiae, 2001 173-211, 2001-2002. Fall;5(1):173-211.


Continue Reading