5 Ways Emotional Neglect Causes Borderline Personality Disorder

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Emotional Neglect Causes Borderline Personality Disorder

Some say emotional neglect causes Borderline Personality Disorder. That doesn't mean everyone that's been emotionally neglected has Borderline Personality Disorder.

If you're curious whether emotional neglect causes Borderline Personality Disorder, consult a doctor. 

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Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD): lifelong pattern of unstable moods, unstable relationships, unpredictable emotions, and impulsive actions.

To live with borderline personality is to live with special pain and extra challenges, far beyond anything that most people ever experience.

"Research suggests that borderline personality disorder may arise from both genetic and environmental factors. Some people are born without the ability to regulate their emotions well. When bad things happen to them, they aren’t able to process their feelings, and they are deeply wounded," says marriage expert Frances Patton. 

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When you have BPD, you may feel positive and happy one minute and have that all change the next. You may feel wonderfully loved by someone one day and hated by that person the next.

You might put a friend, relative, or spouse on a pedestal, only to have them become your most reviled enemy soon after.

Life feels unpredictable. It’s difficult to like yourself or to have or sustain positive feelings in your life.

Research has shown several major factors to be the causes of Borderline Personality Disorder, including genetics, unpredictable parenting, and abuse.

Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN): A childhood characterized by the absence of enough emotional attention, emotional validation, and emotional responsiveness from one’s parents.

What is typical (Non-extreme) CEN?

CEN children grow up in a household that is essentially blind to emotion. Children whose emotions are not noticed or responded to enough receive the subtle but powerful message that their emotions are invisible and irrelevant.

In order to cope in their childhood home, they push their feelings down, so as not to burden themselves or their parents. These children grow into adults who are out of touch with their own feelings.

This causes a pattern of adult struggles, including feelings of emptiness, poor self-knowledge, lack of emotional skills, self-directed anger, and shame.

The CEN child hears two messages loud and clear: Your feelings don’t matter and you don't matter.

What is Extreme CEN?

Those who develop BPD often (not always because genetics are also a factor) were raised with an exaggerated, more punitive version of CEN, and often in an intensely emotional family.

The person with BPD’s parents not only ignored her feelings but also actively invalidated them.

Here are the 5 effects of extreme CEN:

1. You learn that your feelings not only don’t matter; they are bad.
2. You learn that you not only don’t matter; you are bad.
3. You do not learn the emotional skills that other children learn naturally in their childhood home: how to identify, tolerate, manage, express, or use your emotions.
4. You actively reject your emotional self; this leaves you feeling empty since you’ve rejected the most deeply personal part of who you are.
5. Your identity, or your sense of self, becomes fragmented because you have rejected important parts of yourself.

There is treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder.

Interestingly enough, although CEN is not generally listed as a contributing factor to BPD, the most effective treatment method identified to date by research is one that specifically targets the primary symptoms of CEN.

It’s Dialectical Behavior Therapy or DBT.

DBT teaches you a combination of mindfulness, interpersonal skills, distress tolerance, and emotion regulation.

It is a very specific, structured method that helps you begin to intervene between your feelings and your actions so that you can become less emotionally impulsive, and learn to regulate your responses and behaviors in relationships and in your internal world.

Studies show that even though BPD is very painful and challenging, it is possible to lessen the symptoms and to become more emotionally stable and resilient, with dedicated and persistent work and effective help over time........

To learn more about Childhood Emotional Neglect, how it happens, how it affects you in adulthood, and how to heal see EmotionalNeglect.com and the book, Running on Empty.

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Dr. Jonice Webb is a licensed psychologist who specializes in Childhood Emotional Neglect. If you'd like to learn more about this issue and how it affects you and your family as an adult, you can read her books, Running On Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect and Running On Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships With Your Partner, Your Parents & Your Children. You can also take a free Emotional Neglect test and receive her newsletter here.

This article was originally published at Psych Central. Reprinted with permission from the author.