Borderline Personality Disorder Causes & Effects

Borderline personality disorder, also known as BPD, is a disorder that involves an ongoing fear of abandonment, the inability to maintain stable relationships, impulsivity, and unpredictable mood swings. Individuals who meet criteria for this mental health condition often feel a strong need to connect with others, but are quick to devalue relationships when the threat of rejection seems inevitable. When someone with BPD goes without treatment, there is an increased risk for a number of effects that can be detrimental to a person’s livelihood. Functioning at school or work can become impaired, a substance abuse problem or another mental illness can develop, and self-harm and/or suicidal ideations can begin if the symptoms of this disorder are ignored. When individuals are suffering from borderline personality disorder in conjunction with an eating disorder, the effects can be even more detrimental as they are then at risk for experiencing any number of additional adverse health effects.

Fortunately, comprehensive treatment for co-occurring BPD and eating disorders is available and has proven effectiveness in reducing symptoms, as well as reducing the potential for the development of negative long-term effects. By receiving care for the symptoms of borderline personality disorder and co-occurring eating disorders, people can learn the skills necessary to manage symptoms, overcome their disordered eating habits, form healthy relationships, and improve their self-esteem.

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Statistics

It is estimated that six to ten million people in the United States suffer from borderline personality disorder. Furthermore, studies have determined that borderline personality disorder affects more women than men, as 75 to 95% of people who meet criteria for BPD are women.

Causes and Risk Factors for Borderline Personality Disorder

Since researchers have yet to deduce a single cause for borderline personality disorder, the following explanations for this mental health condition’s origins are agreed upon by experts in the field of psychology. These explanations involve the exploration of a person’s genetics, environmental influences, and other risk factors:

Genetic: Research on the prevalence of borderline personality disorder among people from the same family has concluded that this mental disorder can, in fact, run in families. Individuals with a first-degree family member who has a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder have a greater likelihood of meeting diagnostic criteria for the illness as well. Because of this, it can be said that BPD is heritable.

Environmental: Certain environmental influences are believed to contribute to the development of BPD. Exposure to high levels of conflict, chaos, instability, and situations that bring about excessive stress can lead to the onset of borderline personality disorder symptoms. Lastly, some experts believe that poor attachment during early childhood can lead to the development of this disorder as well.  

Risk Factors:

  • Family history of borderline personality disorder or other mental illnesses
  • Personal history of mental illness
  • Poor attachment with caregivers during early stages of development
  • Being a victim of abuse / neglect
  • Exposure to chronic stress / chaos
  • History of substance use / abuse / addiction / dependence

Signs and Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder

Depending on the number of symptoms present, it may be more or less obvious that an individual is suffering from borderline personality disorder. The following are examples of behavioral, physical, cognitive, and psychosocial symptoms that may suggest that a person has borderline personality disorder:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Unprovoked emotional or angry outbursts
  • Fits of hysterical crying
  • Acting out due to feelings of perceived abandonment
  • Participating in manipulative behaviors
  • Presence of self-harming behaviors
  • Attempts at suicide

Physical symptoms:

  • Drastic changes in eating habits
  • Significant weight loss or gain
  • Changes in need for sleep
  • Presence of injuries due to self-harm

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Impaired memory
  • Delusions
  • Paranoia
  • Depersonalization
  • Derealization
  • Dissociation

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Feelings of loneliness
  • Low self-esteem / self-worth
  • Drastic shifts in mood
  • Pervasive feelings of hopelessness and/or helplessness
  • Suicidal ideation
If you feel that you are in crisis, or are having thoughts about hurting yourself or others, please call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.

Effects of Borderline Personality Disorder

Some individuals who have borderline personality disorder do not obtain treatment for their symptoms since they do not perceive any negative issues with their behaviors and ways of thinking that have been consistent throughout their lives. However, ignoring unhealthy thought processes and behaviors can render a number of devastating effects if treatment is not sought and implemented. Below are examples of potential effects of untreated borderline personality disorder:

  • Inability to maintain employment
  • Inability to achieve academically
  • Inability to maintain healthy interpersonal relationships
  • Demoralized sense of self
  • Deterioration of physical health
  • Substance abuse leading to addiction or dependence
  • Self-injury
  • Death as a result of suicide

Co-Occurring Disorders

Because the symptoms of other mental health conditions can overlap those of borderline personality disorder, it is common for individuals who have this personality disorder to meet diagnostic criteria for an additional mental illness. Eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder, commonly co-occur in individuals suffering from BPD. In addition to eating disorders, the following disorders have been known to present in those who have borderline personality disorder:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Depressive disorders
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Body dysmorphic disorder
  • Substance use disorders
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