From Childhood’s Hour: 10 risk factors for BPD

And how to minimise their long term impact

Kevin Redmayne

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If you have been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, you first question might be why me? Stuck in an unrelenting crisis of emotional instability, you may feel like you’re in a nightmare you can’t wake up from. But this illness does in fact have a cause. While the condition begins in adolescence, the roots stretch back into childhood. Just knowing them, means you can begin a process of disentanglement. Here are ten risk factors for acquiring BPD.

  1. Genetics — Contrary to popular belief it’s in the genes; perhaps even the serotonin transporter gene 5HTT, thought to have a role in regulating emotions and impulsivity. While the true culprit is yet to be determined, it’s beyond doubt, BPD, or at least its symptoms, can be inherited. In fact, twin studies suggest the risk of acquiring the condition is around 30 to 50%. Take a look at your own family, notice anything peculiar? Even if you don’t see personality disorder, it’s likely there’s someone with a condition which shares similar traits: ADHD, PTSD or Bipolar. Sometimes it’s just bad luck. Don’t forget though, as well as inheriting ‘bad’ qualities, you also inherited plenty of good ones as well.
  2. Stressed-out Mothers — Researchers have long suspected stressed-out mothers can cause BPD in their children. It begins in the womb. New research has revealed mother’s who experience severe stress during gestation are ten times more likely to have children who later acquire Borderline Personality Disorder. These intra-uterine factors are still being unravelled; but it stands to reason, in this antenatal ecosystem whatever affects the mother will affect the infant. Psychiatry’s ignominious history of mother-bashing, has meant research once overlooked, is now being reexamined. No blame, just honest enquiry: With good maternal mental healthcare, both mother and child can avoid this risk factor all together.
  3. Clingy Children—Secure attachment is a requisite for success, insecure attachment is a recipe for disaster. A failure in mother and infant bonding leads to clingy children; clingy children are at risk of a developing BPD. Communication errors abound, and “object constancy” is lost. The result is an anxious-ambivalent attachment style, where children…

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Kevin Redmayne

Freelance journalist writing on mental health and disability. Words have the power to shine a light on realities otherwise missed.