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What is Borderline Personality Disorder?

What is a borderline personality disorder? Read on to learn about borderline personality disorder, which affects 1.4 percent of the population.

What is Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)?

Borderline personality disorder, or BPD, is a common mood disorder that affects how individuals see themselves and others. This can impact their interactions with others and make it challenging to connect with loved ones, leading to unstable relationships.

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How Common is Borderline Personality Disorder?

Around 1.4 percent of adults in the United States have borderline personality disorder. While it was previously thought that women were the most affected by this mental health disorder, new studies are beginning to reevaluate this statistic. As of now, it appears that men may be equally at risk and affected by BDP.1

Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder 

Borderline personality disorder can appear in different forms depending on the individual and their unique situation. You may experience the symptoms of BPD differently than someone else. However, even though symptoms can vary from person to person, there are some key symptoms to look for when seeking to diagnose a possible instance of borderline personality disorder:

  • Frequent and intense mood swings
  • Fear of abandonment
  • Difficulty maintaining relationships
  • Impulsive and dangerous behavior
  • Self-harm
  • Depression
  • Paranoia

Causes of Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline Personality Disorder

Like most mental health disorders, no single factor is identified as the cause of borderline personality disorder. Instead, scientists have found a combination of factors that can trigger borderline personality disorder, both genetic and environmental. 

Abuse and Trauma

Abuse and trauma in all forms are noted as causes of borderline personality disorder. One study found that women or children that experienced sexual abuse were more likely to be at risk for borderline personality disorder.2 Other studies show that emotional abuse plays a similar role in causing BPD.3


Genetics plays a significant role in borderline personality disorder. It is more likely to develop if family members have the disorder, but scientists have been able to identify two genes that may cause this mental health disorder.4

Differences In The Brain

Just as differences in brain chemistry cause certain mental health disorders, BDP may be linked to differences in brain structure. Men and women with BDP displayed different brain structures and grey matter than those without a mood disorder.5

Risk Factors of Borderline Personality Disorder

Just as there are a variety of causes for borderline personality disorder, there are also different risk factors. These circumstances or situations create an elevated chance of developing borderline personality disorder. 

Hereditary Predisposition

As noted above, genetic causes can lead to borderline personality disorder. As a result, if someone in your family, especially siblings or parents, has borderline personality disorder, you are also more likely to develop the disorder. The genes responsible for causing BDP may be passed along from parent to child.

Stressful Childhood

Trauma, especially childhood trauma, is another notable risk factor for borderline personality disorder. Trauma can come in many forms, and any amount of substantial stress endured during earlier years could heighten one’s risk of developing BPD. 

Complications of Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline personality disorder can lead to many complications, including comorbid conditions or disorders. Comorbid disorders are two or more disorders that occur simultaneously, and they’re typically related. In the case of BDP, a comorbid disorder may result from the symptoms of BDP; BDP, however, can also be caused by other mental health disorders. 

One of the more notable comorbid conditions for borderline personality disorder is post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, due to trauma’s role in developing BPD. Some mental health disorders, like depression, anxiety, and substance use disorder, may also elevate the severity of BPD symptoms, though BPD may also cause them.

Substance Abuse

The same can be said for substance use disorders or substance abuse. Due to the discomfort and distress caused by BPD symptoms, some individuals may turn to substance misuse to self-treat their symptoms. This comorbidity introduces new risks, primarily physical and mental health risks. Studies have found that as much as 78 percent of the population with borderline personality disorder will develop a substance use disorder, presenting a strong correlation.6

Conditions that May Result from BPD

BPD can be challenging to navigate, especially when considering its complications. Some of the conditions or situations that may arise in relation to borderline personality disorder include:

  • Depression
  • Alcohol or other substance misuse
  • Self-injury, such as cutting or burning, and frequent hospitalizations
  • Involvement in abusive relationships
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

How Is Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) Diagnosed?

Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline Personality Disorder

As of now, there is no single medical test that can accurately diagnose borderline personality disorder. Instead, your doctor or healthcare provider will rely on steps to provide the correct diagnosis for you.

There are often three steps to diagnosing BPD and any other mental health disorder. First, your healthcare provider may administer a physical exam. This helps rule out any physical illnesses that could be causing symptoms. Often, this will lead to the second step, which involves further testing to rule out less apparent illnesses.

Once your healthcare provider is sure there are no other causes for your symptoms, they will begin to approach a possible BPD diagnosis by learning more about your life and symptoms. 

Can I Prevent Borderline Personality (BPD) Disorder?

There are no ways to prevent borderline personality disorder from developing. However, learning more about the symptoms, causes, and risk factors can help identify the signs of BPD earlier, leading to sooner treatment. While there is no cure for borderline personality disorder, the proper treatment will help you manage your symptoms and pursue a life with little to no complications. 

Treatment at Boardwalk Recovery

If you or a loved one is experiencing BPD or other mental health conditions, it is important to know that you do not have to go through it alone. Treatment is available, and at Boardwalk Recovery, we pride ourselves on helping our clients to regain autonomy over their lives and experience health and wellness. Contact us today!
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