There exists overwhelming evidence from research into the causes of borderline personality disorder (BPD) that the condition is far more likely to occur in those who have experienced severe and protracted developmental trauma than those who have been fortunate enough to have experienced a relatively stable, secure and loving childhood.
However, this does not mean that genes play no role in the development of BPD and in this article, I will briefly look at the findings of various studies that have been conducted to cast light upon the relationship between a person’s genetic make-up and the effect this may have on the development this very serious personality disorder.
GENE LINKED TO DOPAMINE DYSREGULATION.
One study suggests that some sufferers of BPD may possess a variation in a gene that causes the neurotransmitter DOPAMINE to become dysregulated and out of balance. Dopamine is involved in the following functions:
- movement and control of body
- the brain’s pleasurable reward system
- inhibition of prolactin production
It follows, then, that dysregulation of dopamine leading to it becoming out of balance may adversely affect the above-listed functions.
However, the study’s findings were limited in as far as it found only that those BPD sufferers who possessed this genetic variation were at increased risk of becoming depressed compared to those BPD sufferers who did not possess it. This does not mean, of course, that possession of the gene does not also adversely affect any of the other functions shown above. In order to investigate this, further research needs to be conducted.
GENE LINKED TO SELF-INJURY AND SELF-MUTILATION:
One of the hallmarks of BPD is self-injury and self-mutilation. This takes various forms including cutting, burning with cigarettes and suicidal ideation. In relation to this most concerning of symptoms, one study suggests that individuals who have variation in a gene that controls G-proteins (sometimes referred to as ‘brain switches’ are at greater risk of developing such self-destructive behaviours.
Those suffering from BPD can be prone to flying into rages and lashing out at others. A third study found that adolescents who possessed a variation in a gene involved in the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin (serotonin is involved with various functions including mood, the brain’s res[ponse to anger, social behaviour, sleep, memory, sexual desire, appetite and digestion) were at increased risk of behaving aggressively.
A fourth study has found that variation in another gene that is involved in the production of serotonin places those individuals who possess it at increased risk of suicide compared to those who do not possess it.
Whilst there is no gene for BPD, the above studies suggest that genetic variations between individuals may influence which particular symptoms of BPD they are at particular risk of developing.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).