Traumatic events in childhood increase the risk of borderline personality disorder and other mental health problems. Emotional trauma at a time when the brain isn't fully developed may cause changes to the brain and decrease a person's ability to deal with stressful situations later in life.
While the exact cause of borderline personality disorder isn't fully understood, it's most likely caused by a combination of heredity and environmental factors. You're at increased risk of borderline personality disorder if:
- You have a first-degree relative — a parent, sibling or child — who was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.
- You were physically or sexually abused or grew up in an environment with fighting and conflict.
Borderline personality disorder is a serious emotional disturbance that's characterized by:
- Unsatisfactory and unstable personal relationships
- Self-esteem that goes up and down
- Intense anger or trouble managing anger
- Impulsive, dangerous or self-harming behavior
- Feelings of emptiness
- Intense fears of abandonment
It's common for borderline personality disorder to occur along with other mental health problems. Childhood abuse also can be associated with other mental illnesses. Examples include:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Anxiety disorders
- Substance abuse disorders
- Eating disorders
Jun. 04, 2009
- Borderline personality disorder. In: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-IV-TR. 4th ed. Arlington, Va.: American Psychiatric Association; 2000. http://www.psychiatryonline.com. Accessed May 20, 2009.
- Koenigsberg HW, et al. Borderline personality disorder. In: Fink G, et al. Encyclopedia of Stress. 2nd ed. San Diego, Calif.: Academic Press; 2007:348.
- Sansone RA, et al. Childhood trauma, borderline personality, and eating disorders: A developmental cascade. Eating Disorders. 2007;15:333.