Borderline personality disorder, or BPD, is a mental disorder classified by unstable moods, difficulties with interpersonal relationships, and volatile and impulsive behavior, and it is typically diagnosed in early adulthood. Researchers are not positive exactly what causes borderline personality disorder at this point, but early evidence points to a high likelihood of a combination of genetic and environmental factors being involved.
Is Borderline Personality Disorder Hereditary? Genetic and Biological Indicators of BPD
Perhaps one of the most compelling arguments for the role of genetics in borderline personality disorder comes from a large-scale Norwegian study of identical twins that indicated a heritability estimate of 42 percent, as published in Psychiatric Genetics. The study also indicated that the chromosome with the highest linkage rate was chromosome 9. This may indicate a direct familial link and the distinct possibility of BPD being passed down genetically. While this type of research goes a long way toward helping us to understand the disorder, it doesn't give us the whole picture since identical twins also generally have similar environmental factors as well.
Those suffering from borderline personality disorder may have certain regions of the brain affected also. According to NHS, MRIs done on people with BPD indicate that their prefrontal cortex, which helps to regulate emotions, self-control, and behavior, may be smaller than normal or not as developed. Conversely, the amygdala seems to be overactive in those suffering from BPD, which leads to heightened emotions and more intense emotional reactions. Neurotransmitters, chemicals messengers in the brain responsible for the regulation of sleep, learning, and mood, may also be at lower levels in those diagnosed with BPD. While certain personality traits indicative of borderline personality disorder like impulsivity and aggression may be inherited, brain formation and development are not entirely genetic; they are affected by environmental factors as well.
Childhood events as well as social and cultural surroundings play large roles in personality development and may also serve to facilitate the development of a personality disorder. Unstable family relationships, post-traumatic stress disorder (especially childhood neglect or abandonment), and exposure to intense and chronic stress and fear as a child seem to play a role in people developing BPD down the road. Early relationships help to form the person you become and what you believe to be normal. Since those suffering from BPT typically are prone to impulsivity, intense emotions, and a fear of abandonment, unresolved issues can exacerbate these symptoms.
Childhood trauma such as sexual, emotional, or physical abuse also may lead to the onset of borderline personality disorder. Unstable relationships are a main symptom of BPD, and children with traumatic backgrounds or unhealthy family relationships may be more prone to developing BPD later in life. They may have little to no indication that their relationships are not normal.
Advances in Psychiatric Treatment published the results of a study indicating that of those diagnosed with BPD, 87 percent reported childhood trauma of some kind. Similarly, a child whose caregiver has a mental health disorder or substance abuse problem, and who models risky behavior and poor lifestyle choices, may grow up with a distorted image of self and the world around them.
While it is not completely understood what exactly causes borderline personality disorder and why some people develop the disorder and others don't, most experts agree on certain risk factors increasing the odds for someone to develop BPD. These risk factors include:
- Childhood abuse
- Brain abnormalities
- Direct relative with a mental health disorder
- Hereditary predisposition
Borderline personality disorder is not a life sentence, however, and help is out there. No matter what may have caused BPD to develop, successful treatments are available. OPI has trained professionals on hand to offer you advice and set you on the path to controlling and managing the symptoms of BPD. Call today: 866.661.3982.
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