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Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline Personality Disorder & Emotional Trauma Connection

Have you wondered whether you, or someone you know, might have Borderline Personality Disorder? Sharmen talks about the connection between BPD and emotional trauma – they are both rooted in abandonment, neglect and abuse.

Borderline Personality Disorder & Emotional Trauma Connection

In the realm of psychology, the complexities of human behavior are often attributed to various diagnostic labels. Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is one such label that has intrigued experts and laypersons alike. To comprehend BPD and its connection with narcissism and trauma, we must delve into the intricate world of attachment, neglect, and abuse. This article explores how the fundamental concept of attachment disruption is intricately woven into the fabric of BPD and suggests some approaches to healing.

Attachment as the Root

Every psychological disorder, it seems, has its roots in attachment disruption. The idea that “it’s not good for man to be alone” takes on a profound dimension when we consider that our fundamental need for connection and attachment is deeply ingrained in our very existence. In its ideal form, attachment is permanent, transparent, and authentic. But in the context of psychological disorders, we see a stark contrast. Every dysfunction, such as BPD, stems from a broken connection or attachment somewhere along the way.

Diagnostic Labels

When attempting to make sense of disconnection and dysfunction in relationships, many individuals turn to diagnostic labels as a way to capture and understand these behaviors. Labels such as narcissism, bipolar disorder, and borderline personality disorder often make their way onto these lists. BPD shares common ground with narcissism, as it is often a response to narcissistic behaviors, and many of its behaviors are reactions to abnormal behavior. Moreover, trauma plays a significant role in the development of these behavioral responses.

Understanding Borderline Personality Disorder

The Mayo Clinic defines Borderline Personality Disorder as a mental health disorder that impacts self-image, emotions, behavior, and relationships. It results in difficulty in everyday functioning, self-image issues, and a pattern of unstable relationships. The disorder is marked by extreme black-and-white thinking and turbulent relationships, as defined by the ICD-9 diagnosis.

Attachment Issues

Borderline Personality Disorder is closely tied to attachment issues, primarily because it manifests in the form of unstable and turbulent relationships. All the dysfunction seen in individuals with BPD is triggered by what happens at the relational level, which is often compounded by historical experiences of relational trauma and attachment disorders. Individuals with BPD often find it challenging to tolerate rejection or abandonment because they require other people to validate their sense of self.

The Trauma Connection

Trauma, especially emotional abuse, triggers many of the same characteristics that are used to diagnose borderline personality disorder. In the context of an emotionally abusive relationship, individuals may exhibit BPD-like behaviors as normal responses to abnormal behavior. Emotional abuse not only results in the victim feeling neglected and abandoned by the abuser but also puts the victim in a position where they must neglect their own sense of self to meet the abuser’s demands.

Self-Destructive Behavior

Self-destructive behaviors are a common trait in individuals with BPD. They may engage in behaviors that harm themselves or others, often in response to perceived rejection or abandonment. These actions are a desperate attempt to fix their fear of abandonment, even if the actions are ultimately self-sabotaging. The trauma-informed person, driven by their internal chaos, views everything as a potential threat, even in what would be considered a healthy relationship. This constant state of hyper-vigilance results in self-destructive actions and an inability to see how their behavior pushes people away.

Healing and Recovery

The path to healing for individuals with BPD involves learning to regulate their emotions and developing strong, healthy boundaries. Approaches like Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) and other trauma therapies are effective in helping individuals regain a sense of self and the ability to attach appropriately in healthy, reciprocal relationships. While healthy relationships provide opportunities for corrective emotional experiences, individuals must take responsibility for their healing and seek separation from current abusive relationships.


In conclusion, the connection between Borderline Personality Disorder and emotional trauma is undeniable. The manifestation of BPD is often a response to past trauma, neglect, and attachment issues. Understanding this connection can open the door to healing and recovery. It is essential to recognize that while healthy relationships can be part of the healing process, the individual’s own commitment to self-improvement and the development of strong boundaries is paramount.

With the right therapeutic approaches and the willingness to heal, individuals can find their way out of the stronghold of fear and abandonment and move towards a healthier, more fulfilling life. If you suspect you or someone you know is dealing with BPD or its associated challenges, seeking help is the first step towards untangling the complexities and finding hope and healing.

To learn how we can help, reach out to us at (206) 219-0145 or info@marriagerecoverycenter.com to speak with a Client Care Specialist

Also read: Do Narcissists Have Empathy?

About Dr. Hawkins:

The internet is inundated with hyperbole and misinformation about narcissism, leaving many people confused and hopeless. Get the facts on narcissism and emotional abuse from someone who has been researching, writing about and treating narcissism and emotional abuse for over a decade.

Dr. Hawkins is a best-selling author and clinical psychologist with over three decades of experience helping people break unhealthy patterns and build healthier relationships.

He is the founder and director of the Marriage Recovery Center and the Emotional Abuse Institute which offers education, training and counseling for people who want to break free of, and heal from, emotional abuse. Whether the perpetrator of the abuse is your spouse, partner, parent, boss, friend or family member, we offer practical advice for anyone trapped in a toxic, destructive relationship.

In addition to narcissism & emotional abuse, you’ll learn about the lesser known forms of abuse, including covert abuse, reactive abuse, spiritual abuse, secondary abuse, relationship trauma and much more.


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