Causes, Signs, & Effects of Borderline Personality Disorder

Are you concerned that you or a loved one may be struggling with borderline personality disorder? Learn about the causes, signs, and effects to identify whether professional treatment may be necessary.

Understanding Borderline Personality Disorder

Learn about borderline personality disorder

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a mental health condition that includes unstable mood states along with extreme reactions. BPD can be debilitating and uncomfortable for the person who suffers from this condition and those who love that person. Additionally, this mental disorder is much more than mood swings. It also includes fears of abandonment and inability to cope with strong emotions, impulsive behavior, and serious disruptions in friendships and relationships.

Borderline personality disorder is also an uncomfortable and unhappy disorder that often results in behaviors that could cause an individual to experience isolation and rejection, which are the things that often cause the greatest amount of fear. This disorder may be a result of childhood trauma, such as abuse, neglect, or witnessing violence.

Characteristics of BPD include:

  • High emotional affect
  • Low or rapidly changing self-esteem issues
  • Impulsive behaviors
  • Marked pattern of unstable and unhappy relationships with friends, family, and even partners
  • Intense reactions to or clinging to partners
  • Developing a feeling that emotions control the individual’s life
  • More intense feelings compared to non-afflicted people
  • Hyper-reactive, possessive, and jealous emotions, especially in close relationships
  • Fear of being left alone
  • Deep sense of worthlessness
  • Self-harm, self-injuring, or self-limiting behaviors

Many individuals with BPD are intelligent and are aware that their reactions may seem strong. However, BPD could still cause intense emotional reactions to various life events, which ranges from rage, self-harming behaviors, or deep sadness. Consequently, these intense reactions could also take over the individual’s life and daily living, including existing relationships.

Without treatment, the symptoms of borderline personality disorder can create havoc within an individual’s life. The good news is there is a treatment for borderline personality disorder is available that is proven to help decrease these symptoms and could pave the way to a better quality of life.


Borderline personality disorder statistics

There are approximately six to ten million individuals who meet diagnostic criteria for borderline personality disorder. Women are more likely report the symptoms of borderline personality disorder than are men, as women account for up to 65% of patients in treatment.

Causes and Risk Factors

Learn what is known about the causes of borderline personality disorder

There are specific risk factors that place individuals at a higher risk of developing borderline personality disorder. Some of the risk factors associated with BPD include:

Genetic: Individuals with a direct and close family member, such as parents or siblings, who have been diagnosed with BPD are ten times more likely to be diagnosed with this disorder.

Environmental: There is a direct link between past trauma, especially childhood trauma, and BPD. Aside from this, subtle traumas like separation from a caregiver or a constant disorganized or chaotic home may be connected to the development of BPD. On the other hand, more severe traumatic experiences like abuse, sexual assault, or severe neglect increases the chances of an individual developing BPD.

Risk Factors:

  • Being female
  • History of past trauma
  • Separation from caregiver(s) early in life
  • Exposure to stressful or chaotic environments during childhood
  • Personal history of substance use or addiction
  • Family history of BPD or other mental health disorders
  • Personal history of emotional, physical, and/or sexual abuse

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of borderline personality disorder

The effects of BPD can vary from person-to-person. However, there are some symptoms of borderline personality disorder that are largely universal. Additionally, the symptoms of BPD may only be more noticeable in close relationships, particularly within romantic relationships.

The following symptoms are indicators that a person is battling borderline personality disorder:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Mood swings
  • Self-harm or self-injury
  • Suicide attempts
  • Demonstrating behavior designed to get attention
  • Intense or risky behavior to avoid feelings of abandonment
  • Aggression
  • Sudden angry outbursts
  • Developing an intense attachment to one person, or wanting to be around one person constantly

Physical symptoms:

  • Extreme eating patterns that are either restrictive or involve overeating
  • Changes and fluctuations in sleep patterns
  • Evidence of self-injury, such as cuts or burn marks
  • Changes in weight or appearance

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Poor decision-making skills
  • Delusions or inaccurate beliefs
  • Paranoia or the constant feelings of fear of being abandoned
  • Depersonalization or feeling out of body
  • Derealization or feeling detached from the real world

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Sudden or drastic mood swings and changes
  • Low self-worth
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Constant loneliness
  • Feelings of hopelessness and/or helplessness
  • Sudden overvaluing and then devaluing of individuals
  • Unstable relationships that swing from “perfect” to “terrible”


Effects of borderline personality disorder

BPD could lead to unfortunate results if left untreated. At the same time, the individual with this disorder and the relationships he or she developed may be damaged from these unfortunate consequences. The possible effects of BPD can include:

  • Chaotic home environments
  • Problems at work resulting in job loss
  • Poor self-esteem
  • Lack of social support
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Substance abuse
  • Suicidal tendencies
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Lack of financial security
  • Conflict in relationships
  • Difficulty maintaining a stable home environment

Co-Occurring Disorders

Borderline personality disorder and co-occurring disorders

Many individuals who have borderline personality disorder have experienced some type of past trauma that could lead to other mental conditions. The following disorders are known to occur at the same time as BPD:

  • Depression
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Anxiety disorders, such as panic disorder
  • Substance use disorders
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