Skip to Content

Is BPD caused by anything?

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a complex mental health condition that currently does not have a single known cause. However, research suggests that BPD likely develops from a combination of factors, including biological vulnerabilities, environmental influences, and traumatic experiences.

Genetic and Biological Factors

There is some evidence that BPD has a genetic or biological component. For example:

  • People with a first-degree relative who has BPD are 5-7 times more likely to develop BPD themselves.
  • Identical twins are more likely to both have BPD than fraternal twins.
  • People with BPD often show differences in certain areas of the brain involved in emotion regulation.
  • Abnormalities in neurotransmitters like serotonin may contribute to BPD symptoms.

However, no specific “BPD gene” has been identified. This suggests that while biology may raise someone’s vulnerability, it does not directly cause BPD on its own.

Environmental Factors

A person’s environment, particularly during childhood, seems to play a significant role in BPD development. Environmental risks include:

  • Childhood trauma – Sexual, physical, or emotional abuse in childhood is strongly linked to later BPD.
  • Unstable or invalidating environment – Growing up in a chaotic and insecure home environment can affect personality development.
  • Poor communication/learning – Problems expressing emotions or understanding relationships as a child may contribute.
  • Loss of caregiver – Early experiences of abandonment or separation from parents/caregivers increase BPD risk.

These kinds of environmental influences, especially when persistent, can negatively impact a child’s emerging self-identity, ability to regulate emotions, and relationships.

Traumatic Experiences

Traumatic or stressful life events often precede the development of BPD. These may include:

  • Neglect or abuse (physical, sexual, emotional)
  • Sudden separation from parent or caregiver
  • Death of someone close
  • Victimization/bullying by peers
  • Romantic rejection or betrayal

Research indicates that people who later develop BPD are more emotionally sensitive to adverse experiences like these. Trauma at specific developmental stages may disrupt healthy identity or relationship patterns.

Interactions Between Factors

The development of BPD is complex and not fully understood. But current evidence suggests it likely involves a combination and interaction of:

  • Biological vulnerabilities (genetic, neurological)
  • Environmental influences (upbringing, family dynamics)
  • Traumatic trigger events

Having an underlying biological susceptibility may predispose someone to being more emotionally reactive. Then growing up in a stressful environment could further shape personality patterns. Traumatic experiences might overwhelm a person’s coping abilities.

Together, these factors may lead to the thought and relationship patterns characteristic of BPD. However, more research is needed to fully understand causal pathways.


In summary, while no single cause for BPD has been identified, research points to contributing factors like:

  • Genetic and biological vulnerabilities
  • Unstable or invalidating childhood environments
  • Traumatic experiences during key developmental stages

The development of BPD is complex and influenced by an interaction of these predisposing factors. However, having these risk factors does not mean someone will necessarily develop BPD. Continuing research aims to better understand the origins of BPD to improve early intervention and treatment.