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Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a chronic, complex psychological condition that listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). It is characterized by a pervasive pattern of instability in interpersonal relationships, self-image issues, and difficulty managing emotions and behaviors, which interfere with one’s ability to function in everyday life. BPD typically develops in early adulthood, often with more severe symptoms occurring in the early stages of onset. Young people that struggle with borderline personality disorder often experience bouts of intense, uncontrollable anger, anxiety, and/ or depression. BPD symptoms can last anywhere from a few hours to several days. 

BPD Triggers

A trigger, in the context of BPD typically refers to something that precipitates the exacerbation of one’s BPD symptoms. Johns Hopkins Medicine explains “triggers are external events or circumstances that may produce very uncomfortable emotional or psychiatric symptoms, such as anxiety, panic, discouragement, despair, or negative self-talk.” While BPD triggers can vary from person to person, there are some types of triggers that are more common in BPD, such as the following examples:

  • Perceived or real abandonment
  • Rejection of any kind
  • Locations that invoke negative memories
  • Reminders of traumatic events
  • Ending a relationship

Many borderline personality disorder triggers arise from interpersonal distress

Risk Factors and Causes

Since the root of borderline personality disorder remains unknown, it is impossible to isolate a single cause that accurately and universally explains its development. Rather there are several contributing factors that have been recognized as possibly playing a role in its development, potentially increasing one’s susceptibility to BPD. These factors may include, but are not limited to the following, provided by the National Institute of Mental Health

  • Genetics: people with a family history (e.g., parent, sibling, etc.) with BPD may be at increased risk of developing borderline personality disorder. Psychology Today assert that BPD is approximately five times more common among people with close biological relatives with BPD. 
  • Environmental factors: growing up in an unstable, neglectful, and/ or abusive environment could increase one’s risk for developing BPD. 
  • Brain factors: some studies have indicated that individuals diagnosed with BPD have structural and/ or functional abnormalities, specifically in the areas of the brain that reign emotion regulation and impulse control. Furthermore, deviations from typical serotonin (hormone that works to stabilize one’s mood, happiness, and feelings of well-being) production could increase one’s vulnerability to BPD. 

Although the above factors may contribute to the development of BPD, exposure to one or more risk factors does not indicate an individual will inevitably to go on to develop borderline personality disorder. 

For Information and Support 

Every family in need of mental health treatment must select a program that will best suit the needs of their family. When one member of a family struggles, it impacts everyone in the family unit. To maximize the benefits of treatment we work closely with the entire family to ensure that everyone is receiving the support they need through these difficult times. Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person’s life, long term. Pursuing support at the beginning of one’s journey can put the individual in the best position to learn how to manage themselves in a healthy way so they can go on to live happy and fulfilling lives.


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