Borderline Personality Disorder and Childhood Trauma

Trauma in childhood is one of the largest contributing factors to mental disorders. While genetics may lay the ground work for psychological issues, childhood trauma has proven to be most effective in triggering them. This has been suggested to be because trauma actually changes the structure of our brains, especially when they’re still developing, and therefore effects how we cope with stressful situations. The lack of ability to deal with these situations leaves individuals vulnerable in later life and aids in the development of mental disorders.

Childhood trauma is an umbrella term that covers all sorts of scenarios, including:

  • Emotional, physical or sexual abuse
  • Exposure to chronic fear and stress
  • Neglect
  • Exposure to people with mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder
  • Exposure to people with a substance abuse problem

The above can result in unresolved emotional issues from childhood, and therefore can distort thinking patterns and lead to unrealistic expectations in adult life. This can also lead to the development of mental health problems such as posttraumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and borderline personality disorder.

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a condition that affects an individual’s ability to make interpersonal relationships and causes emotional instability. People with BPD tend to be highly impulsive and demonstrate ‘risky’ behaviour such as sexual promiscuity and self-harm. Abandonment may be their main fear, and they may experience inappropriate anger when faced with a reasonable period of separation. If someone cancels an appointment, a person with BPD might see this as confirmation that they’re not good enough for said person, as BPD is highly linked to low self-worth.

The exact cause of BPD is unclear, however childhood trauma is seen as the main trigger of the disorder with 8 out of 10 patients experiencing it. However, there is also a strong case for genetics developing. One study found that if an identical twin had BPD then there was a 2 in 3 chance that the other twin would also have it. Yet, scientists so far have not found a gene that causes BPD. As well as this, this study was done on twins and so looks at environmental factors as well as genetics. This is because any similarities between them may be due to the fact that they were raised in the same household, not because they’re biological similar. Therefore, this study is not infallible proof of a genetic connection to BPD.

Rates of suicide are high with BPD patients, with 60-70% attempting it. However, with the right psychological therapy, and in some cases medication, records show that a huge turn around can happen in a BPD patient’s outlook and they can go on to live a normal and happy life.

If this article has led you to believe that you may be experiencing borderline personality disorder, please visit to find out more or talk to your GP.

If you are currently experiencing BPD, or have experienced it in the past, what do you believe is the cause of it?

– Charlotte

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