Does Child Abuse Lead to Borderline Personality Disorder?

December 19, 2023

Borderline Personality Disorder and Childhood Emotional Development

Following a celebrity's brave confession of struggling with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) on a TV show, many became aware of BPD through news articles and other sources. With the increase of relationship advice shows and YouTube channels illuminating partner dynamics, more people are wondering if their significant other's incomprehensible behavior might be symptomatic of BPD.

Recently receiving significant attention, Borderline Personality Disorder is characterized by an intense fear of abandonment lurking in one's psyche. Those with BPD often experience emotional instability, volatile relationships, and extreme responses. When somebody caring appears, they tend to idealize that person and feel empty and depressed when they’re not around. They may be engulfed by fear of abandonment at even the slightest sense of separation and resort to self-harm or suicide attempts.

This disorder affects approximately 1.6% of the population, indicating it's more common in our society than many may think. So why does BPD occur? In September 2021, a study in the prestigious journal Frontiers in Psychiatry synthesized nearly 600 existing studies to identify the risk and protective factors contributing to the development of personality disorders.

The study's findings are heartrending. Six factors significantly increase the risk of developing BPD. Childhood emotional abuse was found to be the most potent risk factor, increasing the likelihood of developing BPD by 22.86 times compared to the general population for those who experienced it.

Childhood emotional neglect and physical abuse also emerged as strong risk factors, raising the risk of BPD by 22.86 times and 9.3 times, respectively. Additionally, sexual abuse during childhood increased the risk by about eightfold, having a devastating impact on normal emotional and personality development.

Regrettably, all risk factors identified by researchers are associated with childhood. It implies that the way parents treat and raise their children profoundly influences how those children form relationships in adulthood. Our society must set up institutional mechanisms to quickly identify neglected and abused children and pay greater attention to mental health from an early age.

Anyone who has had a traumatic childhood could naturally feel sad, depressed, and anxious. It's understandable and justified. Experiencing depression and anxiety in such circumstances is not one's fault. However, childhood experiences don't have to dictate one's life forever. Effort, distancing from negative thoughts, and moving past old pains might just lead to moments of progressive change towards becoming the person one wishes to be.

It’s undoubtedly hard, but the Distancing team is willing to employ all resources to help those wanting to make that effort, because such assistance can be as significant as the universe to someone.


Solmi M, Dragioti E, Croatto G, Radua J, Borgwardt S, Carvalho AF, Demurtas J, Mosina A, Kurotschka P, Thompson T, Cortese S, Shin JI, Fusar-Poli P. Risk and Protective Factors for Personality Disorders: An Umbrella Review of Published Meta-Analyses of Case-Control and Cohort Studies. Front Psychiatry. 2021 Sep 6;12:679379. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2021.679379. PMID: 34552513; PMCID: PMC8450571.

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