Causes of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

by Sarah Graham
Monday 03 November 2014
1277 9643

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a condition that affects your mood and how you may interact with others. Its causes are complex, and many experts agree that BPD is usually caused by a combination of genetic, neurological and environmental factors.

However, the development of BPD is commonly associated with childhood trauma; the NHS estimates that eight out of 10 people affected by the condition experienced parental neglect or physical, sexual or emotional abuse during their childhood.

We asked three RSCPP therapists to explain the causes of BPD in more detail. Registered Psychotherapist Peter Cockersell says: "The causes of BPD lie in problems, ruptures or disturbances in the early experience of care, often compounded by other losses or disruptions in childhood, adolescence or adulthood."

He adds: "In essence, some of the developmental processes associated with good early care were interrupted or didn't happen at all."

In essence, some of the developmental processes associated with good early care were interrupted or didn't happen at all.

These experiences may include childhood abuse or neglect, exposure to long-term fear or distress during childhood, or growing up with another family member who is affected by a serious mental health condition, such as drug or alcohol addictions or bipolar disorder.

Expanding  on this, Registered Psychotherapist Jayne Tibbott explains: "If you experienced your parents as unpredictable and extreme, maybe sometimes a bit too much and, at other times, absent or uncaring; or they were negligent, pre-occupied or abusive, whilst also demonstrating caring behaviours, it is bound to affect how you learn about yourself, relationships and the world."

If you experienced your parents as unpredictable and extreme, it is bound to affect how you learn about yourself, relationships and the world.

Whilst "it can be helpful to understand that struggles you experience in adult life can be a result of difficulties you experienced as a child," Jayne acknowledges that these complex causes may not always be immediately apparent to you. 

Indeed, as Registered Counselling Psychologist Julie Scheiner adds, the complexity of BPD's causes can make being diagnosed with the condition an especially difficult time, as "you may be experiencing extreme emotions arising from past traumatic experiences."

In such cases, it may take you some time to fully unpack and understand what has caused the condition to develop but, Jayne says, "this is a condition that can be treated over time with a caring, experienced therapist."


Finding support


You can find out more about symptoms and causes of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), including how to find a therapist. If this route is not appropriate for you, your GP can assess you and direct you towards support.

Find a Therapist working with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

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Updated 24 November 2014