Home / Mental Health / Factors Contributing to Borderline Personality Disorder

Factors Contributing to Borderline Personality Disorder

When one takes a look at the factors that leads to an individual developing a personality disorder, one thing comes to mind: what happens to a person in childhood can have serious consequences for them as an adult. Those with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) are no exception.

Years of abuse, neglect, and failure to develop appropriate interpersonal relationship skills have been major factors contributing to this condition. In addition to environmental causes, there have been studies that indicate that genetics are to blame, as well. Either way (or possibly a combination of both), BPD is a condition that wasn’t created overnight.

Borderline Personality Disorder gets its name from a belief that the condition was considered “borderline” psychosis. In reality, it is a personality disorder that strikes an estimated 2 percent of the adult population in the United States. Primarily, women are the ones inflicted by this condition.

It is characterized by pervasive instability in mood regulations, interpersonal relationships, self-image and behavior (nimh.nih.gov, 2001). Often, mood swings (often going from one extreme to the others) are common traits; however, it is more of a failure to regulate emotions. This condition can affect a person’s relationship with her family. Also, work life, long-term planning, and one’s sense of self-identity may be affected.

Factor # 1: Child Abuse

Many individuals with BPD have reported being victims of abuse or neglect as a child. Of those who reported being abused, 71 percent stated that they had been sexually abused, usually by someone outside the family. Still, there are other cases in which incest had occurred.

Although sexual abuse is commonly reported among individuals with BPD, other forms of abuse have been documented. Physical and emotional abuse has been documented. So has parental neglect (not caring for the child’s well-being).

Factor #2: Separation

Whether through death, divorce or abandonment, a separation between the parent and child has the potential of being a factor in the development of BPD in an individual.

Coupled with a failure to develop emotional coping skills, a person who has been separated by a close family member will most likely have trouble with future relationships. Either she will become “clingy” or easily enraged at her significant other. These are often common traits among those with BPD.

Factor #3: Failure to Regulate Emotions

A theory put forth by psychoanalyst and professor of psychiatry at Weil Cornell Medical College, Otto Kernberg, suggests that the person with BPD has not “grown-up” or failed to develop abilities to regulate emotions in childhood. He believed that “the failure to achieve the developmental task or psychic clarification of self and other can result in increased risk to develop varieties of psychosis (Wikipedia, 2010).”

Factor #4: Vulnerability and personality traits

Many researchers believe BPD is the result from an individual vulnerability to abuse, neglect or a series of events that may trigger the onset of the disorder in young adults (WebMd.com, 2009).

How a person’s personality deals with crisis or trauma may also lead to the development of BPD. Some people develop normal or healthy behaviors and relationships despite having a hard childhood full of abuse or stress. Those with BPD don’t have a particular personality trait to overcome stress. Also, they may have problems with anxiety.

Factor #5: Genetic/biological links

Although there are no known genetic causes confirmed to cause BPD, there has been research that indicates that genetics may be a factor. Research has shown that BPD is five times more common among people whose parents or siblings have had the disorder (WebMD, 2009). Also, some experts believe that those with BPD have impaired functions in parts of the brain. Still, it’s not clear if BPD is caused by this abnormal function.

Borderline Personality Disorders has warning signs. If these warning are not given any attention, the condition will likely develop in the individual. If it does, a person with BPD will face problems developing relationships with others, suffer from low self-image, and – in the worst case possible – may hurt others or herself.


“Borderline Personality Disorder (retrieved 2010)”: Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borderline_personality_disorder

“Borderline Personality Disorder – Cause (2009)” WebMD.com http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/tc/borderline-personality-disorder-cause

“Borderline Personality Disorder (2001)”: National Institute of Health, National Institute of Mental Health: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/borderline-personality-disorder-fact-sheet/index.shtml