How Biological Factors Contribute to BPD Diagnosis

If you or a loved one is exhibiting symptoms of borderline personality disorder (BPD), do not be discouraged. There are professional treatment programs available that can provide you with an accurate diagnosis as well as an individualized treatment plan, setting you up for lasting success in recovery. Whether you have a BPD diagnosis or not, becoming educated on the potential underlying causes of BPD can help to put your mind at ease. In addition, learning about BPD can motivate you to pursue professional treatment for healing and wellness.

Understanding a BPD Diagnosis

If you have recently obtained a BPD diagnosis or are in the process of seeking one out, you may feel overwhelmed or fearful when considering your future. Although BPD is a serious condition, it is important to know that obtaining an accurate BPD diagnosis is the first step in your healing journey. Once you have a diagnosis, a treatment plan can be curated for you that will fit your unique needs and goals for recovery. Without a diagnosis, a treatment plan cannot be made, and your healing journey cannot begin. 

According to the National Insitute of Mental Health (NIMH), “Borderline personality disorder [BPD] is a mental illness that severely impacts a person’s ability to manage their emotions. This loss of emotional control can increase impulsivity, affect how a person feels about themselves, and negatively impact their relationships with others.” If you have BPD, you are likely already aware of how your symptoms are affecting your ability to function normally in daily life. However, if you are not, it is important to become familiar with the common signs and symptoms of a BPD diagnosis. 

Signs and Symptoms

While emotional dysregulation is a key symptom of BPD, it is also a key symptom of other mood disorders, including bipolar disorder. For this reason, it is vital to recognize BPD as a personality disorder. Personality disorders are characterized by difficulties in social relationships, specifically in relating to others due to fluctuations in mood, whereas mood disorders are characterized by patterns of unhealthy emotions. 

Consider some of the following signs and symptoms of BPD coined by NIMH. You may have BPD if you experience:

  • Uncertainties with self-image; an unstable or distorted sense of self
  • Efforts to avoid abandonment, either real or perceived
  • Patterns of intense or unstable relationships
  • Dissociation
  • Chronic feelings of hopelessness or emptiness
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Impulsive – and often dangerous – behavior, such as unsafe sexual practices, substance misuse or abuse, and binge eating
  • Self-harming behavior

The Epidemiology of a BPD Diagnosis

Uncommonly, you may feel lonely and isolated as a result of your symptoms and BPD diagnosis. However, according to Borderline Personality Disorder by Jennifer Chapman, Radia T. Jamil, and Carl Fleisher, “Surveys have estimated the prevalence of borderline personality disorder to be 1.6% in the general population and 20% in the inpatient psychiatric population.” By understanding the high prevalence of BPD, you can feel confident in recognizing that you are not alone in your symptoms or experience.

Nature vs. Nurture

Whether you have been experiencing symptoms of BPD for several years or only more recently, you may wonder what past experiences triggered your potential BPD diagnosis. Like other mental health disorders, both nature and nurture must be considered in the development of BPD. As far as nurture goes, there are a host of environmental risk factors that are known to influence a BPD diagnosis. For instance, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) highlights the following nurture-related risk factors:

  • Abandonment in childhood or adolescence
  • Disrupted family life
  • Poor communication in the family
  • Sexual, physical, or emotional abuse

Nature-related risk factors, on the other hand, take into account any genetic factors that may have increased your risk of mental illness. One example of a nature-related risk factor is having a parent, sibling, or another direct relative with BPD or another mental health disorder, as, genetically, this can increase your risk of developing BPD. 

The Biological Etiology of a BPD Diagnosis

Moreover, an article by the Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience: JPN highlights the biological differences between individuals with BPD and those without BPD. The study explains, “Although psychosocial causes of BPD have been explored in many studies, relatively little data exist regarding biological causes.”

Although the study recognizes that its sample may not accurately represent the entire population of individuals with BPD, it discussed fascinating results. For instance, data from the study suggests that, for those with BPD, “areas of the brain that are used to regulate and control emotion are hypometabolic and that activation of limbic areas, when it occurs, is excessive. This might reflect a failure of rational thought to control emotional thought, leading to the emotional instability that is characteristic of BPD.”

The study also discussed the potential for epigenetic factors in facilitating a BPD diagnosis. It states, “We also wonder whether different developmental abnormalities may lead to different clinical manifestations of BPD and, specifically, if chronic versus acute abuse in childhood may be associated with different imaging abnormalities in adulthood.”

Treating BPD at Alter Behavioral Health

It is crucial to understand that leaving your BPD symptoms unmanaged can increase your risk of developing substance use disorder (SUD) and other co-occurring mental health disorders. If you have not yet begun a treatment program for BPD, Alter Behavioral Health can help. We offer a wide range of treatment programs and services for all types of mental health conditions. 

When it comes to BPD treatment, we have found both therapeutic interventions and medications to be effective, but most effective when used together in tandem. At Alter Behavioral Health, we also recommend family therapy groups for loved ones to foster whole-family healing and wellness.  In treatment, you will have constant access to psychological support in an environment free from potential triggers. Meanwhile, you will work with a variety of specialists to foster healthy emotional regulation and coping skills, learning how to live well with BPD. 

Receiving a BPD diagnosis can be a life-changing experience. On the one hand, you may fear what the future holds. However, on the other hand, it is true that obtaining a diagnosis is the first step in securing the treatment you need for lasting healing. At Alter Behavioral Health, we understand the challenges that the treatment and recovery journey often poses when seeking recovery from mental illness. Fortunately, our licensed clinicians specialize in a range of therapeutic approaches and modalities to ensure that care can be individualized to your unique needs and goals. Our BPD treatment plans often incorporate a combination of therapy and medication, fostering lasting healing and success. Call us at (866) 691-4386.