Causes of Borderline Personality Disorder This Emotional Life on PBS

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BPD

		

What is BPD?

Borderline personality disorder is a serious medical condition that profoundly affects the lives of people who have it and of those around them.

People with borderline personality disorder (BPD) have a distorted self-image and a difficult time managing their emotions and relationships. Their emotions overwhelm their cognitive functioning, making it difficult to interpret other people’s actions accurately and constructively. Of all the personality disorders, borderline personality disorder is the most common, most complex, and often has the most devastating impacts due to a tendency toward suicidal behavior.

Causes

What causes borderline personality disorder?

Today’s mental health care professionals and scientists generally agree that there is no one cause for any major psychiatric disorder. All are caused by a combination of genetic, social, and psychological factors. Borderline personality disorder is no different. The following risk factors include:

Genetics
When looking at how their children develop, parents often say, “She’s been like this since birth.” It’s no accident that we notice persistent behavior that manifests itself even in infants. That’s why certain temperaments associated with borderline personality disorder can be seen from birth and have been linked to abnormal brain activities, and it’s why similar disorders tend to run in families.

Environment and social factors

Around 70% of people with borderline personality disorder report that they were physically and/or sexually abused. Many talk about feeling neglected. And 30% report that they lost or had a prolonged separation from their parents in childhood. While these findings point to the importance of a healthy attachment to a caregiver during the first years of life, it does not mean that a person with borderline personality disorder didn’t have a healthy family background. It is also important to recognize that most people who were physically or sexually abused, neglected, or separated from parents in childhood do not develop borderline personality disorder. This means that while childhood trauma and instability play a large role in this disorder, genetic factors also play a key role in predisposing a person to this mental illness.

Common misconceptions

Common misconceptions

Borderline personality disorder is not treatable.
Borderline personality disorder is treatable. Promising therapies have been developed and tested specifically for borderline personality disorder, including dialectical behavior therapy and schema therapy.


Only women have borderline personality disorder.

Although about 75& of the diagnoses of borderline personality disorder are of women, it does affect men as well. Researchers are finding that the actual occurrence of borderline personality disorder is close to even between men and women.


Borderline personality disorder is easy to recognize.

Borderline personality disorder can be difficult to recognize, in part because individuals display different combinations of symptoms. There are nine criteria for borderline personality disorder, of which only five must be met for a diagnosis. So there are many different possible combinations of symptoms. The underlying condition that is shared by people with borderline personality disorder is instability in their self-image and relationships. It is important that borderline personality disorder be diagnosed and treated by a qualified mental health professional.


People with borderline personality disorder have been victims of abuse.

While a disproportionate number of people with borderline personality disorder do report abuse in childhood, many others do not. Conversely, few people who have been abused go on to develop borderline personality disorder. Making any assumptions related to abuse and personality disorders is not helpful, as it can create an unjust stigma and additional stress in an already very difficult situation.

Find Help

Locate mental health and well-being support organizations in your area.