5 Ways Emotional Neglect Causes Borderline Personality Disorder

People with BPD are not to blame.

Last updated on Nov 12, 2023

Woman with bi-polar disorder Igor Link | Shutterstock

Some say emotional neglect causes Borderline Personality Disorder.

That doesn't mean everyone who's been emotionally neglected has Borderline Personality Disorder. If you're curious whether your history of emotional neglect has caused Borderline Personality Disorder, consult a doctor.

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Here are 5 ways emotional neglect causes borderline personality disorder.

1. You learn that your feelings not only don’t matter; they are bad.

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 unique pain and extra challenges far beyond anything that most people ever experience.

2. You learn that you not only don’t matter; you are bad.

"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, they can't process their feelings and get deeply wounded," says marriage expert Frances Patton.


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.

3. You do not learn the emotional skills other children learn naturally in their childhood home: How to identify, tolerate, manage, express, or use your emotions.

Life feels unpredictable. It’s challenging to like yourself or to have or sustain positive feelings.

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


RELATED: 5 Uncommon Strengths Of People Who Were Emotionally Neglected

4. You actively reject your emotional self.

This leaves you feeling empty since you’ve rejected the most personal part of who you are.

Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN) is a childhood that is characterized by the absence of adequate emotional attention, emotional validation, and emotional responsiveness from the parents.

5. Your identity or sense of self becomes fragmented because you have rejected parts of yourself.

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There is treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder.

1. What is typical (Non-extreme) CEN?

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


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 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.

2. 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 the child's feelings but also actively invalidated them.


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 mindfulness, interpersonal skills, distress tolerance, and emotion regulation.

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


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

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Jonice Webb, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist and best-selling author of two self-help books. She specializes in childhood emotional neglect, relationships, communication issues, and mental health. Dr. Webb has appeared on CBS News and NPR, and her work has been cited by many publications.