Is Borderline Personality Disorder Genetic? Understanding the Root Causes of BPD

An exploration of whether borderline personality disorder stems from genetic factors or others leads us to the treatment solutions that are available. If you have a family member with BPD, you can help by discouraging stigma around the disorder, supporting them on their treatment journey, and participating in constructive family therapy for long-term harmony in recovery.

As we grow in the world, our identities and personalities are a complicated result of diverse factors inside and outside of ourselves. Our natural hair color is a product of our mother’s and father’s paired genes, but environmental forces such as stress and even sunlight can influence changes to hair color, altering the original genetic map. Our personalities, likewise, can be influenced by both biological and environmental factors and the interactive dance between the two. Looking back on the life that leads up to now, it’s difficult to draw precise lines between causes and effects because the web of impact is so dense and complex.

When we ask, “Is borderline personality disorder genetic?” we must allow for the vast collection of factors that have played a part up until the onset of the disorder. Some of these factors we can see and recall, and some of them we cannot. What causes borderline personality disorder is still being studied, but the treatment options that can help someone with the disorder to stabilize and live a balanced and fulfilling life are known and available. Comprehensive and on-going care can return hope to families struggling with the troubling symptoms of borderline personality disorder.

Is Borderline Personality Disorder Genetic?


The reason one person develops borderline personality disorder, or BPD, may be entirely different from the reason another person does. Such reasons are difficult to pinpoint, even for researchers. But observation can offer links and risk factors for the disorder. Genetic predisposition is believed to be one of these risk factors. Studies of families and (and, specifically, twins) have revealed a likely genetic factor when borderline personality disorder runs in the family. Other probable risk factors include past trauma, childhood abuse and neglect, and demonstrated personality traits such as aggression and impulsivity.

If one or more people in a family have borderline personality disorder, it means that other closely related family members may be at risk for developing the disorder as well. This association doesn’t necessarily mean that they will develop BPD, but a significant interaction of genetic and environmental factors may lead to the onset of the disorder. It’s important to keep in mind that not only are genes passed among family members, but relationship patterns and family dynamics are often shared as well. So the home environment and relationships in which a child is growing up may look a lot like the home environment in which a parent grew up—because it is what the parent knows. If a parent developed borderline personality disorder in that context, their child may be predisposed, both genetically and environmentally, to develop the disorder as well. This is a simplified way of looking at something very complex, but it helps to paint a picture of a cause and effect relationship that we cannot understand precisely and absolutely.

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When BPD Runs in Your Family, What Can You Do?


A diagnosis of borderline personality disorder depends on the perspective of a mental health professional, as well as a medical evaluation, consideration of any other mental health disorders present, and consideration of family history. To avoid misdiagnosis and for urgent attention to treatment, it is critical that someone exhibiting signs of borderline personality disorder gets help from a psychiatric professional. Without comprehensive treatment for BPD, an individual may be at risk of further complications, including:

  • Difficulty managing day-to-day life
  • Inability to keep a job or pursue education
  • Dissociation from oneself or from reality
  • Dysfunctional relationships with family, friends, and romantic partners
  • Destructive relationship dynamics, including abuse, sexually transmitted infections, unplanned pregnancies
  • Lack of social and family support
  • Self-harm, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts
  • Harm and other complications of aggression and impulsive behavior
  • Impulsive spending
  • Substance use and abuse
  • Other medical or mental health illnesses
  • Legal problems
  • Poverty and homelessness

Living with borderline personality disorder can be a constantly fearful and unstable experience. The longer someone lives with the daily distress of BPD without receiving treatment, the more likely they are to feel disempowered and unable to cope with the roller coaster of their symptoms.

Because BPD can bring so much stress and damage to relationships, people with the disorder often find themselves isolated. They may be less likely to seek treatment on their own. But family members and friends can draw strength from the hope of treatment. They can remember that the individual is not the disease, and their loved one deserves compassionate understanding and help for their overwhelming symptoms. Loved ones can reduce the stigma surrounding borderline personality disorder by giving positive attention to the treatment solutions and believing that their family member with BPD can have healthy, rewarding relationships with comprehensive care and family support.

Comprehensive treatment for a client with borderline personality disorder includes guidance and therapies for the family so that a stable support system can develop and interpersonal dynamics can be restored on the path of recovery. Through the family programming, you can learn a lot more from knowledgeable experts about borderline personality disorder and about the effective treatment options available. The more the family is involved, the more they’ll be able to offer support to the loved one in treatment, and they’ll be prepared if another family member does exhibit signs of the disorder in the future.

Hanbleceya offers comprehensive treatment for people struggling with mental health disorders as well as co-occurring substance use disorders and process addictions. Contact us to learn more about our renowned San Diego-based program and how we can help you or your loved one start the journey toward recovery.