The Link Between Childhood Trauma and BPD

link between childhood trauma and Borderline Personality DisorderResearch has identified that some form of childhood trauma (eg lack of secure emotional attachment to primary caregiver, sexual or physical abuse) is often seen in adults diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

It is estimated that Borderline Personality Disorder is found among 2-5% of the general population, with the cause likely to be a combination of environmental (eg childhood trauma) and genetic factors (the heritability factor is around 40%).

When a child suffers trauma such as abuse or neglect, they frequently do not have experience or knowledge of how to build and maintain healthy relationships with other people. As a result, they develop maladaptive behavioural patterns.

Signs of Borderline Personality Disorder

People with Borderline Personality Disorder tend to:

  • have an abnormally high sensitivity to rejection and thoughts and fears of possible abandonment, which interfere with daily living;
  • continually seek reassurance, even for small things;
  • express inappropriate anger towards others, whom they consider responsible for how they feel;
  • have a fragile sense of self and one’s place in the world.

As a result of these feelings of insecurity, the individual may:

  • Experience intense or uncontrollable emotional outbursts;
  • Have a history of unstable interpersonal relationships;
  • Have a fragile self-esteem;
  • Turn to self-harming behaviours;
  • Experience problems with depression, anxiety, anger management and substance abuse.

The good news is that it *is* possible for people who have experienced childhood trauma, to improve the quality of their lives in adulthood. However, just as it took many years for the maladaptive behavioural patterns to develop, so too can it take time and commitment to therapy, to overcome these.

What maintains Borderline Personality Disorder is the existing neural memory network in the brain, which drives thoughts, feelings, and behaviour. It takes time to change this neural network, as it has been strengthened and reinforced throughout the sufferer’s life, every time they repeat the same patterns of thinking, feeling and behaviour.

Therapy will require the individual to learn new ways of thinking, behaving and feeling. Most importantly, they need to learn to feel safe with other people and build positive experiences with healthy relationships, to counteract against their old habits.

Consequently, treatment for BPD with a psychologist or other mental health professional, will likely include:

  • Developing assertive communication skills;
  • Learning more positive ways of thinking about life, relationships and the world in general;
  • Gaining skills to better manage anxiety, stress and anger;
  • Learning and practising mindfulness techniques;
  • A focus on developing a better lifestyle (eg improving diet, exercise, sleep and socialisation patterns).

Although it takes a long term commitment to therapy to overcome childhood trauma, and learn how to manage the fragile emotions which can result, research shows that it can indeed lead to a better quality of life, with less stress, anxiety, mood and relationship problems.

Yu TakizawaAuthor: Yu Takizawa, B Sc (Hons), M Couns, M App Psych.

Yu Takizawa is a Brisbane psychologist, fluent in both English and Japanese. He is particularly interested in offering counselling and psychotherapy services to people who are facing challenges, such as anxiety, mood and personality disorders.

To make an appointment with Brisbane Psychologist Yu Takizawa, you can try Online Booking – Mt Gravatt or call Vision Psychology (Mt Gravatt) by freecalling 1800 877 924.