Borderline Personality Disorder Could Be Caused by Childhood Trauma Instead of Genetic Vulnerability, Study Claims

MSD Manual defines a personality disorder as the “pervasive, enduring patterns of thinking, perceiving, reacting, and relating that cause significant distress or functional impairment.”

There are ten types of personality disorders in which they may vary in presentation and are divided into three clusters: (A) eccentric, (B) dramatic, and (C) anxious. But all three are believed to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

However, new research titled “Borderline Personality Disorder in a “Life History Theory” Perspective: Evidence for a Fast “Pace-of-Life-Syndrome‘” published in Frontiers in Psychology, claims that borderline personality disorder is rooted in childhood trauma rather than genetic vulnerability.

 Borderline Personality Disorder Could Be Caused by Childhood Trauma Instead of Genetic Vulnerability, Study Claims

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
An illustration depicting fear of abandonment in borderline personality disorder.

What is Borderline Personality Disorder?

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is one of the personality disorders and belongs to the cluster B, which are characterized as dramatic, emotional, and erratic.People with BPD experience inner emptiness, unstable relationships, fears of abandonment and emotional dysregulation.

Diagnosing a person with BPD could be difficult as they have similar symptoms with those suffering from other mood disorders. A paper published in NCBI, reported that about 500,000 patients with BPD go to emergency rooms every year in the United States wherein suicide attempt are common among those in their 20s, and mortality peaks in 30s.

According to the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,” Fourth Edition, Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR) as cited by the paper, BPD is a “pervasive pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, self-image and affects, and marked impulsivity beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts.”

Clinicians usually get insights from members of the family, friends and who constantly have contact with them to gain more insights and history about the patient and their symptoms.

Childhood Trauma May Cause Borderline Personality Disorder

Forbes reported that Borderline Personality Disorder is the most common personality disorder with an estimated prevalence of 1.7% and may have been caused by childhood trauma rather than genetic vulnerability.

Benjamin Otto of Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany said that females seem to be more frequently affected by BPD in clinical settings than men with a ratio of four to one.

Researchers tested 95 adult women wherein 44 of them have been diagnosed with BPD in the past to complete a series of psychological tests about childhood trauma, chronic stress, life history, and aggressiveness. They linked sequences of life events that leads to BPD and claim that childhood trauma produces a “Pace-of-Life-Syndrome.”

That means these people grow faster, have higher metabolism rates, and more prone to early bodily decline and death. More so, they have higher Allostatic load in adulthood, which describes the wear and tear of the body due to chronic stress.

Researchers also noted that BPD participants scored high in neuroticism, and scored low in conscientiousness, extraversion, and agreeableness. They concluded that the findings could be relevant in addressing public health in terms of prevention and risk reduction. Lastly, they emphasized that a fast Pace-of-Life-Syndrome is not exclusive to those with BPD as it could also be present in other personality disorders.



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