Causes & Effects of Borderline Personality Disorder

At Covington Behavioral Health, we believe education is an important first step in the effort to heal from borderline personality disorder. Understanding the signs, symptoms, and effects of borderline personality disorder can help you get the right type and level of care for yourself or a loved one.

Understanding Borderline Personality Disorder

Learn about borderline personality disorder

Borderline personality disorder, or BPD, is a mental health condition that is characterized by a pattern of instability in relationships, affect, and self-perception, along with impulsivity. A person with BPD may appear insecure, overemotional, and even possessive—but only to those who know that person well. His or her behavior can become unpredictable, impulsive, and emotion-based, often stemming from a deep sense of worthlessness and fear of being left alone. It is important to note that BPD may be connected to a history of childhood trauma in some cases, as many of the symptoms of this disorder are common among survivors of childhood abuse, violence, or neglect.

BPD causes a person to feel like he or she has no value in the eyes of others, that he or she is unwanted, and that others will disregard or discard him or her easily. When someone does seem to show an interest in that person, his or her tendency is to attach quickly and intensely, hoping that the bond will stay very close. However, even normal separation is perceived as abandonment. When another person does not give the expected level of commitment in return, he or she is judged harshly and may be rejected completely.

The emotional turmoil that people with this disorder experience as a result of negative thoughts and strained relationships will continue without help. However, treatment can alleviate many of the symptoms of this difficult illness.


Borderline personality disorder statistics

More women than men suffer from BPD, and women make up about 65% of all patients under treatment for BPD. US statistics show that between 6 and 10 million citizens currently have this disorder, making it more commonplace than schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for borderline personality disorder

Not everyone is at an equal risk for developing BPD. Certain factors, such as the following, can increase one’s risk of the disorder:

Genetic: The risk of BPD increases tenfold for those who have a close family member with the disorder, compared to those who have no family history of the disease.

Environmental: Trauma can increase a person’s chance of experiencing BPD. A person who is negatively affected by trauma and not helped to heal might be unable to cope with stress in the future. Trauma might be even more subtle, connecting to a negative experience that brought stress through an event such as becoming separated from a caregiver (like one’s mother) or by having been raised in a constant state of disorganization and chaos.

Risk Factors:

  • Becoming separated from one’s mother or caregiver (usually early in life)
  • Being female
  • Family history of BPD
  • Family history of another mental health disorder
  • Substance abuse or addiction (past or present)
  • Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse or neglect (especially in childhood)
  • Trauma
  • Ongoing chaotic and stressful environmental exposure

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of borderline personality disorder

Not everyone manifests the symptoms of BPD in the same manner or stages. Also, a person with BPD might demonstrate it more openly in some relationships than in others. However, when a relationship becomes intimate, loved ones of those with BPD will likely feel the effects of the disorder more strongly. Some of the symptoms of bipolar disorder include:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Excessive crying
  • Inappropriate behavior in an attempt to get attention
  • Risky behavior in an attempt to avoid being left alone
  • Lashing out in aggression
  • Harming oneself
  • Suicide attempts

Physical symptoms:

  • Evidence of self-harm, such as burn marks or scarring
  • Sleeping habits that change drastically
  • Eating patterns become extreme
  • Noticeable weight changes

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Paranoia
  • Poor habits of making decisions
  • A feeling of not being located in one’s own body (Depersonalization)
  • A feeling of being detached from reality (Derealization)
  • Irrational beliefs that are held even when proven wrong (delusions)

Psychosocial symptoms

  • Low self-worth
  • Inexplicable mood swings
  • Negative self-image
  • Fears of abandonment
  • Relationships that swing from idealization to devaluation
  • Mood fluctuations
  • Thinking about or attempting suicide
  • Unexplained acts of anger
  • Hopelessness


Effects of borderline personality disorder

No positive results will come from letting BPD continue without treatment. The person suffering from the disorder is at risk of experiencing the harmful consequences listed here:

  • Self-destructive behavior
  • Poor overall health condition
  • Substance use disorders
  • Other mental health disorder development
  • Financial difficulty
  • Loss of job
  • Poor self-esteem and poor self-image
  • Conflict in relationships
  • Poor relationships with others
  • Thoughts, attempts, or completion of suicide

Co-Occurring Disorders

Borderline personality disorder and co-occurring disorders

Many individuals who are diagnosed with borderline personality disorder have experienced some type of past trauma. Some mental health professionals believe that this disorder closely coincides with traumatic experiences, but more research is needed to make a definitive conclusion. As with any other mental health concern, there may be co-occurring disorders along with BPD, including but not limited to:

  • Depressive disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Substance abuse and addiction
  • Anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Prior to treatment, my life was not only unmanageable, it was unlivable. Covington Behavioral Health Hospital helped provide me with a full, meaningful life. Thank you!

– a former patient
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