Which Factors Of The ‘5 Factor Model Of Personality’ Predict BPD?

The diagnosis of borderline personality disorder (BPD) is predicated upon the notion that those who suffer from it have aspects of their personalities which are problematic, self-defeating and dysfunctional so, in the first instance, it is useful to explain what is meant by personality.

In fact, there are several theories which attempt to describe what personality rather than one, definitive theory and one of the best known theories is called the five factor model of personality.

What Is The 5 Factor Model Of Personality :

The 5 factor model of personality proposes that personality comprises 5 main factors / traits / characteristics, represented by the acronym OCEAN.

These 5 factors are shown and elucidated below :

Openness To Experience (inventive /curious versus consistent / cautious).

Conscientiousness (efficient / organized versus easy-going / careless).

Extraversion (outgoing / energetic versus solitary / reserved).

Agreeableness (friendly / compassionate versus challenging / detached).

Neuroticism (sensitive / nervous versus secure / confident).

The 5 factor model of personality and BPD :

Because, as already stated, a diagnosis of BPD is based on the idea that aspects of diagnosed person’s personality are disturbed we would expect there to be some relationship between this model of personality and the personalities of those suffering from BPD.

In relation to this, researchers have posed the question : to what degree can a diagnosis of BPD be predicted from a description of a person’s personality based upon the 5 factor model?

Can a description of a person’s personality based on the 5 factor model predict a diagnosis of BPD in the same individual?

One study (Distel et al., 2009) that sought to answer this question, involving over 10,000 participants in total, found that, in terms of the 5 factor model, the traits that best predicted BPD were :

  • High Neuroticism combined with Low Conscientiousness

Another study (Kendler et al., 2011) came up with similar results, finding that the three factors which correlated most highly with BPD were :

  • High Neuroticism
  • Low Conscientiousness
  • Low Agreeableness

A third study (Terr, 1991) found that individuals who had suffered significant chikdhood trauma (extremely common among BPD sufferers) scored more highly than controls on :

  • Neuroticism
  • Openness to new experience.

For helpful links to sites that offer advice and support for those who have suffered childhood trauma and / or suffer from BPD can be found HERE.

Resources :

How To Be Kinder – Naturally | Self Hypnosis Downloads

Develop Self Discipline | Self Hypnosis Downloads

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Why Childhood Trauma Sufferers Can’t ‘Just Get Over It.’

If we have been unfortunate enough to have suffered severe and protracted childhood trauma and have, as a result, developed emotional and behavioral problems (which, in some cases may have led to diagnoses of borderline personality disorder or complex posttraumatic stress disorder) it is, to put it mildly,’ most unhelpful to be told or expected to ‘just get over it.’

A key reason why this is the case is that, if we are chronically exposed to high levels of stress in our early life, it can harm the way in which our brain develops, both in terms of its physical structure and in terms of its functioning. Examples of critical brain regions that may be adversely affected include (amongst many others) the AMYGDALA and the PREFRONTAL CORTEX.

Such damage can mean that, essentially, we become stuck in ‘fight or flight‘ mode and in a state of constant anxiety, fear and hypervigilance, as if perpetually on ‘red-alert.’ We may also lack self-control in the context of social behavior, have poor impulse control, and have difficulties with decision-making, planning and setting / achieving goals. Our brain, in effect, becomes wired for fear and hyper-alert to threat detection so that we find ourselves in a perpetual state of apprehension and even terror.

Furthermore, if we were not sufficiently emotionally soothed by our primary carer when we were distressed in early life and we have, as a consequence, failed to internalize self-soothing behaviors, we are likely to find it very hard to ‘self-soothe’ and to calm ourselves down when upset. An inability to self-soothe’ in a normal way may also make us prone to outbursts of anger (it has been hypothesized that one function of anger may be to soothe emotional pain).

As a result of ongoing childhood trauma, which the brain can interprete (usually on an unconscious level) as a threat to our very survival, we are likely to develop (again, usually on an unconscious level) various psychological defence mechanisms (including immature / psychotic defence mechanisms) and survival behaviors which may benefit us in the short-term (i.e. when we are living in the traumatic environment) but harm us in the long-term (i.e. if they become ingrained and continue to dominate our lives when we are no longer living in the former traumatic environment).

An examples is that our psychological development may become arrested or regress. An illustration of this would be a teenager who, when distressed, demonstrates toddler-like tantrums in a desperate (usually unconscious) way of expressing his / her overwhelming need for emotional support and comfort. And, in relation to ‘arrested development,’ it has been suggested that those whose childhood trauma was so severe that they have gone on to develop borderline personality disorder (BPD), in many respects, remain (in the absence of effective therapy), stuck at a much earlier stage of psychological development than their chronological age suggests they should be at.

Also, because of possible damage to the amygdala and the associated perception of being perpetually under threat and in danger, as well as difficulty controlling emotional responses, the individual, objectively speaking, may give the impression of dramatically over-reacting to stressors that others might easily be able to take in their stride (indeed, research suggests that those who have gone on to develop borderline personality disorder as a result of their childhood trauma are prone to over-reacting to facial expressions). And, because of their inability, as previously mentioned, to self-soothe, such outbursts may be very long-lasing and difficult ro extinguish.

Another defence mechanism / survival behavior that may be displayed is calleddissociation’ (often colloquially referred to as ‘zoning out’). Dissociating / ‘zoning out’ is a way of trying to cope with unbearable feelings. Dissociation can be an unconsciously driven process (when a person ‘spaces out’ without deliberately intending to) or deliberately induced (e.g. via alcohol and other drugs).

There exists a growing school of thought that the kind of survival mechanisms described above can sometimes lead to a misdiagnoses, particularly a misdiagnosis of ADHD (for example, dissociation can be mistaken for being deliberately inattentive ; difficulty controlling behavior and mood fluctuations may be viewed as wilful disruptiveness ; and hypervigilance may be seen as distractability. If the child is, due to such misinterpretations, then diagnosed as suffering ADHD when, in fact, he or she is suffering from the effects of severe trauma (and may, for example, in fact be suffering from complex PTSD), this can prevent the child from receiving the most appropriate and effective treatment.

Traumatized children desperately need to feel safe, secure and emotionally supported and, if therapy is necessary, the earlier it is provided the better the child’s outcome is likely to be.

The good news is that therapies such as dialectical behavior therapy (originally developed to help individuals with borderline personality disorder) can be extremely effective, even for those who have suffered very severe early life trauma. Indeed, it is now known that, even if the brain’s development has been impaired due to the effects of growing up in a toxically stressful environment, this can be reversible due to a quality the brain is now known to retain throughout life known as ‘neuroplasticity.‘ To read my article about 3 ways the brain can recover via this process, click here.

To view a list of links that may be helpful to those who have suffered childhood trauma, click HERE.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).


Abnormal Brain Chemistry In BPD Sufferers And Its Effect On Behavior.

Various research studies have provided evidence to suggest that borderline personality disorder (BPD) sufferers may have abnormal levels of the following brain chemicals (also called neurotransmitters), blood fats and hormones :

Acetylcholine :

This brain chemical activates muscles and is also thought to be involved in learning, memory and mood regulation. Studies (e.g. Gurvits et al., 2000) suggest its levels may be abnormal in BPD sufferers. Research also suggests that elevated levels of it cause more serious and intense symptoms of depression in individuals with BPD when compared to individuals who do not have BPD.

Adrenaline (also known as epinephrine) :

This is a hormone that also acts as a brain chemical and it plays a major role in the ‘fight / flight’ response. The visceral functions it affects include raising blood pressure, speeding up the heart rate, expanding air passages in the lungs, dilating the pupils of the eyes, pumping increased amounts of blood to the muscles and changing the body’s metabolic rate in order to increase blood glucose levels.

Excessive amounts of adrenaline can also cause extremely distressing feelings of intense anxiety.

Cholesterol :

Cholesterol is a blood fat. One study (Atmatca et al., 2002) has found levels of cholesterol to be low in sufferers of BPD. Furthermore, various studies have found low levels of cholesterol to be associated with impulsivity, aggression and suicidal thinking.

Corticotropin-Releasing Factor (CRF) :

Corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) is a hormone and corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) testing is used as a way of diagnosing hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) hyperactivity.

The level of this hormone has been found to positively correlate with the degree of severity of childhood trauma the individual has experienced (Lee et al., 2005), adding further weight to the theory that early life stress (commonly found in BPD sufferers) is associated with stress hormone abnormalities in later life. The hormone acts on the adrenal glands causing them to release adrenaline.

Another study (Rinne et al., 2002) of BPD patients who had been chronically abused as children also found elevated levels of CRF in these individuals.

Cortisol :

Cortisol is a major stress hormone and the body produces it in large quantities when it is in a state of ‘fight or flight.’ A study involving 22 women with BPD found that those women who had been diagnosed with BPD and (co-morbidly) with PTSD, and who had, additionally, experienced childhood trauma, had significantly elevated levels of cortisol in their blood-stream than controls.

Dopamine :

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter (brain chemical) that regulates feelings of pleasure and plays a major part in the motivational constituent of our reward-motivated behavior. It is also involved with movement of the body and attention. It has been inferred that BPD sufferers may have dopamine related problems from the finding that some BPD patients are helped by taking medication that blocks dopamine (Friedel, 2004).

G Protein :

G proteins act as molecular switches that transmit signals from stimuli outside the cell to the cell’s interior. One study suggests that people suffering from BPD may have a gene variation of the G protein. Another study found that a gene variation of the G protein may also be associated with individuals who self-mutilate (self-mutilation is a symptom that is very common in BPD sufferers).

Leptin :

This is a hormone that acts to suppress appetite and burn fat. One study has found levels of leptin to be very low in BPD sufferers who are feeling suicidal and also in those who had symptoms of aggression and / or impulsivity.

Serotonin :

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter involved in learning, memory, mood, thought and behavior. Research has found (e.g. Hansenne, 2002) that BPD sufferers frequently display symptoms indicative of serotonergic dysregulation, including problems controlling impulses, difficulties regulating mood, aggression and suicidal ideation.

eBook :

Above eBook now available for immediate download from Amazon. Click here for further information.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Childhood Trauma, The Hippocampus, Depression And Neurogenesis.

Childhood Trauma Can Harm Brain And Increase Risk Of Depression. However, The Good News Is The Brain Can Recover. This Article Explains How.

When we are at our most depressed, we may look at (as others perceive it) a beautiful sunset and derive no more pleasure from it than we would from looking at a rubbish dump or ugly building site. In short, nothing can lift our spirits and we feel unvaryingly, utterly desolate. It is as if the part of our brain that once experienced pleasure is now dead and unresponsive, never to be revived.

In fact, the latest research suggests that, indeed, a part of the brain, known as the hippocampus (a structure involved with long-term memory, the formation of new memories, and associating emotions with such memories), is impaired in function and reduced in volume in those suffering from severe, recurrent depression.

The good news, however, is that research also suggests that this brain region’s functioning is NOT irrevecocably impaired due to a specific type of brain neuroplasticity (the ability the brain has to repair and rewire itself) known as NEUROGENESIS (the brain’s ability to generate new neurons).

THE RESEARCH :

The research to which I refer has discovered that, in individuals who are severely depressed and suffer recurrent depressive episodes, the hippocampus has become significantly reduced in size. (We know, too, from numerous other articles that I have published on this site, that those who have suffered severe and chronic childhood trauma and, as a result, have gone on to develop conditions such as borderline personality disorder or complex posttraumatic stress disorder are also liable to have incurred developmental damage to this particular brain region ; and, indeed, sufferers of these conditions frequently also receive a co-morbid diagnosis of clinical depression).

The study involved 8,927 participants of whom 1,728 had received a diagnosis of major depression. This allowed the researchers to compare the brains of the depressed individuals with the brains of the healthy individuals using data that had been obtained using a brain scanning technique technique known as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Of the depressed individuals, 65 per cent had recurrent depression and it was this subset of the depressed individuals who were found to have shrunken hippocampi (those participants who were experiencing their FIRST depressive episode had hippocampi which were of normal size).

IMPLICATIONS OF THE ABOVE FINDINGS :

As the researchers pointed out, these findings suggest that it is the depression which causes the damage to the hippocampus, rather than the other way around and this discovery helps to emphasize how important it is to commence treatment for depression at the earliest possible opportunity, especially in teenagers and young adults whose brains may be more susceptible to physical damage due to their greater plasticity when compared to the brains of adults, in order to prevent such organic damage to the brain from occurring.

Indeed, the researchers. underlining this point, drew attention to the fact that the longer depression goes on, and the more depressive episodes an individual suffers, the greater the reduction in size of that individual’s hippocampus is likely to be.

EFFECT OF DAMAGE DONE TO THE HIPPOCAMPUS :

There now exists an increasing body of evidence that one of the functions of the brain’s HIPPOCAMPUS may be the recognition of novelty and it has been theorized that, because, as we saw above, it may be damaged in depressed individuals, particularly those individuals who have suffered long-standing, recurrent depressive episodes, these people may lose the ability to respond to novelty and this loss then contributes significantly to their depressive state. For instance, it helps explain why they may not respond with pleasure to a beautiful sunset (see opening paragraph) and why they are prone to seeing whatever they do as ‘being the same’, by which is meant everything produces the same feelings of flatness, emptiness, meaninglessness ; in short, a state of anhedonia.

THE GOOD NEWS : EVIDENCE THAT THE DAMAGE INCURRED BY THE HIPPOCAMPUS IS REVERSIBLE :

The good news, however, as has already been alluded to above, is that numerous studies have demonstrated that such damage to the brain is, in fact, reversible ; this is due to a quality that the brain possesses known as neuroplasticity (which I have written extensively about in many other articles that I have already published on this site – e.g. see my article about three ways in which the brain is able to repair itself in relation to the damage it has sustained as a result of childhood trauma).

Indeed, one of the leading researchers involved in the study, Hickie, described how the hippocampus was one of the brain regions within which it is known that cells can rapidly generate new connections between themselves (this process is known as neurogenesis, see above) to replace the connections that were lost during the periods of untreated depression.

WHAT KINDS OF TREATMENT DO THE RESEARCHERS INVOLVED IN THE STUDY SUGGEST?

Hickie further states that there is some evidence that medication (antidepressants) protect, to some degree, the hippocampus from shrinking but also stressed the importance of meaningful social interventions as a form of treatment, pointing out that if, when depressed, we simply sit alone in a room and isolate ourselves, failing to interact socially with others, then this lack of social interaction, in itself, is likely to reduce the size of the hippocampus – a good social support system, then, is an extremely important factor to be considered when deciding how best to treat depression.

Furthermore, Hickie states that there is also evidence that treatment using fish oils can be ‘neuroprotective.’

In the case of young people, Hickie suggests that psychotherapy may often be the first-line treatment offered, rather than medication. (N.B. Always consult an appropriately qualified professional when considering medical treatments).

eBook :

Above eBook now available for immediate download from Amazon. Click HERE for further details.

Related Research : Hippocampal Volume Reduction In Major Depression.

RESOURCE :

Depression Self-Help | Self Hypnosis Downloads

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Useful Links For Recovery From Childhood Trauma

Behavioral Tech : A Linehan Institute Training Company.

Here you can learn about scientifically validated treatments for complex and severe mental illness.

NCTSN The National Child Traumatic Stress Network.

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) provides children and families who experience or witness traumatic events access to services and works to increase the standard of care offered by such services.

ISTSS International Society For Traumatic Stress Studies.

This organization promotes the advancement and exchange of knowledge about traumatic stress including the consequences of experiencing trauma, treating these consequences and prevention of traumatic events.

NAPAC The National Association For People Abused In Childhood.

Offers support to survivors of child abuse, as well as to their friends and families.

MIND (Complex PTSD)

One of the U.K.’s leading mental health charities explains PTSD and complex-PTSD, including possible causes and ways to obtain support and treatment.

NHS (Borderline Personality Disorder)

Information from U.K.’s National Health Service about borderline personality disorder (BPD) including possible causes and treatments.

besselvanderkolk.net (Leading Trauma Expert)

Bessel van der Kolk is one of the world’s top experts on the effects of trauma on children and adults and, according to his website, he has a special interest in the physiological effects of trauma and the importance of stabilizing these effects in treatment as well as of increasing executive function and of increasing individuals’ feelings of alertness and of living in the ‘here and now.’ Specific treatments of interest to Bessel van der Kolk include EMDR, yoga and neurofeedback.

Alice Miller (Expert On Child Abuse And Mistreatment)

Alice Miller (!923-2010) was a leading world expert on the effects of maltreatment of children and was the author of 13 books translated into 30 languages.

Official Website Of R.D. Laing

The official website of R.D. Laing refers to him as a ‘controversial figure‘ and ‘hero to the counter-culture movement of the 1960s’ as well as a ‘pioneering humanitarian whose works displayed an authentic existential understanding of psychosis.’

traumahealing.org (Somatic Experiencing)

Somatic Experiencing is a therapy developed by Dr Peter Levine which focuses on the body in its approach to healing the adverse effects of trauma and aims to alleviate the condition of those who are ‘stuck’ in the ‘fight / flight / freeze’ response and to reduce or eliminate associated symptoms.

MN Trauma Project

The main aim of this project is to increase public awareness of the effects of trauma.

The Blue Knot Foundation

This organization is committed to empowering recovery and increasing resilience of those affected by complex trauma.

Australian BPD Foundation Limited

Support and advocate services for those suffering from BPD who live in Australia.

Early Life Bonds With Parents Parallel Adult Bonds With Romantic Partner.

According to Shaver’s research, which is based upon Bowlby’s attachment theory but extends it into the realms of adult romantic relationships, the type of relationship we had with our primary carer (usually the mother) in terms of the quality of the bond that we developed with her during early life (or, to use Bowlby’s phraseology, the type of ‘attachment style’ we formed with her), is reflected in the types of attachments / relationships that we form with romantic partners in our adult lives.

Shaver points out the following parallels between our early life relationship with our primary carer and our adult relationships with our romantic partners :

  • Just as, in early life, our primary carer was our main attachment figure, so too, in adulthood, our romantic partner becomes our main attachment figure.
  • Just as, in early life, we relied on our primary carer as our secure base, so too, in adulthood, we rely on our romantic partner as our secure base.
  • Just as, in early life, we relied on our primary carer as our safe haven, so too, in adulthood, we rely on our romantic partner as our safe haven.
  • Jn adulthood, our responses to separation from, or loss of, our romantic partners resemble our responses to separation from, or loss of, our primary carer in early life. And, in relation to separation and loss, Shaver suggests that it is sometimes only when our relationship with our romantic partner breaks down that we become fully aware of the emotional bond that exists between us and our him / her (relecting the adage that you only understand the true value of something when you lose it).

Adult Romantic Relationships Tend To Mirror Early Life Attachment To Primary Carer

Shaver also states that there exist fundamental similarities between our adult romantic relationships and our early life attachment to our primary carer. For example, both types of relationship involve : ‘eye contact, holding, touching, caressing, smiling, crying, clinging, a desire to be comforted by one’s primary carer / partner when distressed, the experience of anger, anxiety and sorrow following separation or loss and the experience of happiness upon reunion.’

Shaver’s research also suggests that individuals who have had a secure and emotionally healthy bond (or, in Bowlby’s phrase, ‘attachment’ ) to their primary carer in early life tend to have long-lasting relationships as adults, whereas those who have had a problematic, less emotionally healthy and more insecure bond with their primary carer in early life tend to have more relationship difficulties as adults, are more likely to divorce and have a generally more cynical attitude towards the concept of love than those who had enjoyed a secure bond (attachment) to their primary carer in early life.

RESOURCE :

TEN STEPS TO OVERCOME INSECURITY IN RELATIONSHIPS | SELF HYPNOSIS DOWNLOADS.

David Hosier Bsc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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