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Can Borderline Personality Disorder Be Prevented?

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Updated June 24, 2008

Question: Can Borderline Personality Disorder Be Prevented?
I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) when I was in my early twenties. I am thirty now, and thinking a lot more about why I ended up with this disorder. I sometimes wonder whether I was just born with BPD, or whether my BPD might have been prevented?
Answer:

The answer to this question really depends on the individual. Researchers are not yet entirely sure what causes BPD to develop, but we do know that BPD has both genetic and an environmental causes. While nothing can be done about genes, it is possible to alter the childhood environment to reduce an individual's risk of having BPD. For example, there is evidence that childhood maltreatment or early separation from caregivers may increase risk for BPD, so creating a nurturing environment and making every effort to keep a child bonded to at least one supportive caregiver is critical.

It is likely that for some individuals, the genetic risk factors for BPD are so strong that the development of BPD is not preventable. For these individuals, even in a nurturing childhood environment, BPD will develop. However, research suggests that this is fairly uncommon.

Sources:

Lis E, Greenfield B, Henry M, Guile JM, Dougherty G. "Neuroimaging and Genetics in Borderline Personality Disorder: A Review." Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, 32:162-173, 2007.

Zanarini MC, and Frenkenburg FR. "Pathways to the Development of Borderline Personality Disorder." Journal of Personality Disorders, 11:93-104, 1997.

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