The impact of early childhood trauma on Borderline Personality Disorder
Though many people want to believe that there is a genetic link with BPD, the scientific research does not yet support that idea. There is, however a strong link between childhood traumatic experiences and personality vulnerabilities. My DBT therapist explained it to me this way:
More sensitive to certain stimuli
People who have BPD are more sensitive to the stimuli around them and this sensitivity primes them for more significant internalization of traumatic experiences. One scientific study seems to bear this theory out. A combination of environmental factors known as (GxE) when linked with certain biological vulnerabilities and the child’s exposure to a variety of traumatic experiences when young can set them up to develop BPD later in life.
According to several studies, the onset of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) depends on a combination between environmental factors and genetic predispostions. These studies found that this combination affected the brain chemistry of the individual. They proved that it was the alteration of something called the Hypothalmic-Pituitary Axis which was altered. The study also proved that there were certain morphological changes in particular areas of the brain which appeared to activate when the individual was under stress.
These finding are important
These findings are important because it is estimated that between 0.2–1.8% in the general community, 15–25% in the mental health community suffer from BPD. The findings support Marsha Linehan’s theory that says that BPD can result from the psychological interaction between psychosocial and biologically based temperamental sensitivities which some people are born with.
Thus, children who are exposed to these kinds of environments when young will be more likely to develop BPD as they grow up.
People with BPD tend to show heightened emotional states characterized by emotional dysregulation. This can make them unable to be unable to tolerate what they interpret as negative experiences. They are typically slow to return to a more normalized state of emotion.
Big negative feelings would engulf me
This was my biggest problem. When the big negative feelings would come, they would engulf me completely. Many experts attribute the development of BPD to growing up in an invalidating environment. That was certainly the case for me. This set up an almost unstoppable vacillation between emotional lability and complete despair.
The link to BPD and childhood neglect
BPD has also been tied to children who grow up in environments where they are neglected although these types of risk factors did not always mean that the child grew up to develop BPD and the researchers were unable to reach a conclusion as to why that might be the case.
So, is this good news or bad news for people with BPD. The answer is somewhere in between. You can’t change your brain but you can change the way certain neurons in your brain “talk”to each other. DBT gives the tools to slowly begin to alter your brain chemistry.