Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a mental illness that causes those suffering from it to experience uncontrollable emotions that lead to feelings of instability. People with borderline personality disorder have chronic conflicts occurring inside their minds that lead to unorthodox outward reactions. These individuals struggle with conflicting images of themselves and with misperceptions of their interpersonal relationships. People with BPD are also known to behave in impulsive and reckless manners.
It estimated that anywhere between six to ten million Americans have borderline personality disorder. It is believed to be strikingly more prominent in women than in men, with studies showing that 75%-90% of all people who are diagnosed with borderline personality disorder are women. It is possible, however, that these statistics are simply the result of the fact that women are more likely to seek out treatment for BPD than men are.
Causes and Risk Factors for Borderline Personality Disorder
Genetics: Studies conducted on the families of people who have borderline personality disorder have shown that first-degree relatives of individuals with BPD are ten times more likely to develop symptoms of the disorder as well.
Physical: People suffering from BPD are said to have abnormalities in the specific parts of the brain that affect proper functioning. Those specific pathways and circuits in the brain are responsible for emotion information processing, perception, reasoning, and impulse control. When this functioning system is disrupted, symptoms of BPD may result.
Environmental: It is believed by some professionals in the field that various social and cultural factors can have an impact on whether or not a person may be at risk for developing borderline personality disorder. When a person spends a significant amount of time in an environment where there exists a lot of chaos and discord, they may be become more susceptible to developing the characteristics of BPD. Also, people who were not provided with healthy, appropriate caregiver relationships during their early stages of development may be at risk for developing the disorder.
- Family history of mental illness
- Substance abuse
- Lack of appropriate parenting / absence of parents during childhood
- Repeated physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse
- Chaotic home environment
Signs and Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder
The signs that an individual is suffering from borderline personality disorder will vary from person to person, and the severity of the symptoms typically fluctuate over time. Examples of symptoms that a person with BPD may experience can include:
- Explosive outbursts
- Inability to control anger
- “Stormy” relationships, alternating between feelings of devaluation and idealization of loved ones
- Excessive / hysterical crying episodes
- Extreme reactions to perceived abandonment
- Weight fluctuations as the result of eating disorder behaviors
- Injuries and scars from self-injuring
- Unstable, fluctuating image of self
- Extreme mood swings
- Chronic feelings of emptiness
- Suicidal thoughts and behaviors
Effects of Borderline Personality Disorder
In many cases, people with borderline personality disorder will suffer from the illness for long periods of time before receiving a proper diagnosis. Once someone is diagnosed, however, treatment can be extremely beneficial in helping him or her overcome the symptoms of BPD. Yet if the illness remains untreated, the effects on the individual’s life can be detrimental. The following are examples of possible long-term effects that untreated BPD can inflict upon a person:
- Demoralized sense of self
- Inability to develop and maintain healthy relationships
- Inability to obtain and maintain a steady career
- Chronic self-harming behaviors
- Chronic suicidal ideation
- Death by suicide (It said that 10% of people with borderline personality disorder commit suicide)
Individuals who have borderline personality disorder also have extremely high rates of co-occurring disorders. The most common of these co-occurring disorders include:
- Depressive disorders
- Anxiety disorders
- Eating disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Substance abuse disorders