Biology,  Borderline Personality Disorder

Genetics and BPD

In this study, researchers posit that traits associated with BPD are inherited (impulsivity and emotional regulation). Here is a quote from the abstract:

The effect of genes on the development of BPD is likely substantial. The effect of common family environment may be close to zero.

While the study doesn’t conclude that BPD is 100% inherited, it does point to certain genetic factors in the BPD adaptive behaviors (or maladaptive).

The main point of posting this is to chip away at the myth that BPD and other personality disorders are all the “fault” of parenting or abusive environments. One of the big problems that I have seen in the social, psychological and medical community is that when a child is identified as borderline, the parents immediately come under suspicion as being abusive or neglectful. This can cause more consternation and confusion on the part of the parents who are already dealing with a serious mental illness and the issues that come with it.

There is a common myth concerning BPD. That myth is that BPD is completely and only caused by abusive environments. Invalidating environments can be a contributing cause – but these invalidating environments do not have to be abusive. If a certain child is emotionally unstable, sometimes the parents’ reaction is “cut it out” or “get over it”. The problem with this approach is that the child feels how they feel regardless of their adpative abilities (or lack thereof). In other words, the child may feel scared or angry even if there is no external reason to feel that way. These feelings (or the inability to control them) CAN be genetic – it might be that that is just the way that they ARE.

That being said, BPD is not a sure thing or a life sentence. The sufferer can learn skills to adpat to their emotional states. Their families can also learn these skills and, if they do, they can stop contributing (even unknowingly) to the borderlines problems.

It is saddening that personality disorders (particularly Borderline and Schizotypal) are classified as Axis II disorders when other disorders (like Bipolar and Schizophernia) are Axis I. Why does it matter? It matters because of access to mental health care is restricted due to life insurance coverage limitations.