Biological Factors :
Several of my articles have already examined, in some detail, environmental factors in childhood which put the individual at risk of developing borderline personality disorder (BPD) as an adult (however, for those of you who are not familiar with them, I will summarize them at the end of this article).
Before I do that, however, I wish to look at other factors which research suggests may be linked to the development, in adulthood, of BPD. These are :
NEUROTRANSMITTERS : Neurotransmitters are chemicals which exist in the brain and have the function of sending messages between neurons (brain cells). In individuals with BPD, research has shown that three groups of neurotransmitters, in particular, have often been disrupted; these are :
b) DOPAMINE : this neurotransmitter is linked to emotional lability (instability)
c) NORADRENALINE : as above
NB It should be noted that these neurotransmitters may well have been adversely affected as a result of childhood trauma (click here for an explanation as to how this may occur)
Above : 2 visual representations of neurotransmitters.
NEUROBIOLOGY : Brain scan technology has revealed that those who suffer from BPD frequently have brain abnormalities relating to both the brain’s structure and its functioning. Three parts of the brain, in particular, are frequently found to have been damaged ; these are :
a) THE HIPPOCAMPUS : this brain region is involved in regulating our behavior (self-control)
b) ORBITOFRONTAL CORTEX : this brain region is involved in decision making skills and planning
c) AMYGDALA : this brain region is involved in regulating (controlling) our behavior, especially anger, aggression, violent impulses, fear and anxiety
The idea has been put forward that the damage to these brain regions, and the consequent emotional and behavioral problems, go quite some considerable way to explaining why it is that those who suffer from BPD so frequently have very significant difficulties in forming stable relationships.
NB. Again, it seems these brain regions have been damaged in BPD sufferers when their brains were still developing and, therefore,highly vulnerable during childhood as a result of their traumatic experiences. The good news is, however, that such damage seems to be, at least in part, reversible (click here to read my article on this)
There is no evidence that there is a specific gene relating to the development of BPD. However, it has been suggested that certain personality traits (characteristics) might have been inherited from parents which put the individual at greater risk of developing BPD ; these include a propensity towards aggression and emotional instability. Presently, however, this is merely a hypothesis.
TRAUMATIC CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCES:
FINALLY, AS PROMISED, I WILL SUMMARIZE CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCES WHICH MAKE IT MORE LIKELY AN INDIVIDUAL WILL DEVELOP BPD ; THESE ARE :
– growing up in a household in which a member has significant problems relating to drugs and/or alcohol
– growing up in a household in which a member suffers from a serious psychiatric illness
– abuse (physical/emotional/sexual)
– growing up in an environment which involves living in a frequently occurring or chronic state of fear/anxiety/distress
For more on this, click here.
N.B. The risk of development of BPD as an adult is significantly increased if psychological issues relating to the above have not been addressed/resolved through therapy and, especially, if others (particularly the perpetrators) try to undermine, invalidate and/or discredit one’s perception of the impact one’s overwhelmingly stressful childhood experiences have had on one.
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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)