If you or someone you love has Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), you may want to know what caused it, or whether you should be blamed. The development of this disease is complex and may have multiple underlying causes, so it is unlikely that one person or one thing is at fault.
The exact cause of BPD is unclear, but most experts believe that BPD is the result of biological, genetic, and environmental factors. The following are some supporting theories, but they are by no means conclusive. More research is needed to determine how and why the factors discussed below are related to BPD.
There is strong evidence to support painful childhood experiences, especially the link between experiences involving caregivers and the development of BPD. The types of childhood experiences that may be associated with BPD include:
- Separated from the caregiver in advance
- Emotional or physical neglect
- Parents are not sensitive
- Physical and sexual abuse
It is believed that the interaction between biological factors and an ineffective childhood environment may jointly cause a person to develop BPD. An emotionally ineffective environment refers to an environment in which children’s emotional needs are not met.
For those who have experienced it or those around them, an ineffective environment is not always obvious. These painful experiences can be hidden or even disguised as praise.
Not all people with BPD have had these types of childhood experiences-although many do. Not everyone with these experiences will have BPD. Most cases of borderline personality disorder may be caused by a combination of multiple factors rather than a single cause.
Although early studies have shown that BPD does tend to be inherited in the family, for a period of time, it is not clear whether this is due to environmental influences or genetic reasons. There is now some evidence that in addition to the environment, genetic factors also play an important role.
In particular, studies have shown that variations in genes that control how the brain uses serotonin, a natural chemical in the brain, may be related to BPD. It seems that people with this specific genetic variant may be more likely to develop BPD if they also experience difficult childhood events (for example, separation from a supportive caregiver).
A study found that monkeys with mutations in the serotonin gene would have symptoms similar to BPD, but only if they were taken away from their mothers and brought up in a less-nurturing environment. Monkeys with genetic mutations raised by their mothers are much less likely to have BPD-like symptoms.
A number of studies have shown that there are differences in brain structure and brain function in patients with BPD. BPD is related to excessive activity in the part of the brain that controls emotional experience and expression.
For example, compared with people without BPD, people with BPD are more likely to activate the limbic system, a brain area that controls fear, anger, and aggression. This difference may be related to the emotional instability symptoms of BPD. Newer studies have also found an association between the hormone oxytocin and the development of BPD.
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There is much to be understood about the causes of BPD, and it is likely that a combination of multiple factors, rather than any one specific finding, will cause the disease. The research is ongoing and hope we can learn more in the next few years.
Understanding the underlying cause may help prevent the onset of the disease, especially for those with genetic or biological predispositions. In fact, regardless of whether it will increase the likelihood of future BPD, an ineffective environment is harmful to children.