Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

  • Medical Author:
    Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD

    Dr. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards is an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist. She is a former Chair of the Committee on Developmental Disabilities for the American Psychiatric Association, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Medical Director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda, Maryland.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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What causes borderline personality disorder?

Although there is no specific cause for BPD, it is understood to be the result of a combination of biological predispositions, ways of understanding the world, and social stressors (biopsychosocial model). Biologically, people with BPD are more likely to have abnormalities in the size of the hippocampus, in the size and functioning of the amygdala, and in the functioning of the frontal lobes, which are the areas of the brain that are understood to regulate emotions and integrate thoughts with emotions. Although some research indicates that people with BPD seem to have areas of the brain that are more and less active compared to individuals who do not have the disorder, other research contradicts that.

While BPD is not thought to be genetic, it can somewhat run in families. Psychologically, BPD seems to make a person more vulnerable to having unstable moods, particularly impulsive aggression. Socially, this disorder predisposes sufferers to developing insecurity, to be more likely to excessively expect to be criticized or rejected and negatively personalize disinterest or inattention from others. These tendencies result in BPD sufferers having significantly impaired social relationships. In addition to these problems, people with BPD are more likely to have suffered from childhood abuse or neglectful parenting.

What are the risk factors for borderline personality disorder?

Adults who come from families of origin where divorce, neglect, sexual abuse, substance abuse, or death occurred are at higher risk of developing BPD. In children, the risk for developing this disorder appears to increase when they have a learning problem or certain temperaments. Adolescents who develop alcohol abuse or addiction are also apparently at higher risk of developing BPD compared to those who do not.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/7/2016
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