My Borderline PD Cause: How Emotional Neglect Contributes

May 28, 2024 Karen Mae Vister

Emotional neglect stands out as a significant borderline personality disorder (BPD) cause. Looking back on my childhood, I can clearly see how moments of emotional neglect contributed to my struggles with borderline PD. Below are examples of daily symptoms and their root incidents.

Emotional Neglect as a Borderline PD Cause with Impaired Emotional Regulation as a Symptom

One part of emotional neglect leading to my BPD symptoms includes my expression of emotions. 

In my childhood, every time I let my emotions show, it was like throwing a message in a bottle into a black hole. No response; or worse, punishment was the result. The silent treatment was my parent's language of love. They never told me how to be better, just how wrong I was. I grew up with this persistent feeling that I was fundamentally flawed. Emotional dysregulation became my constant companion, a hallmark of BPD. By my teenage years, self-harm was the only way I knew how to cope with the silence, the dismissal, and the punishment of simply feeling.

Emotional Neglect as a Borderline PD Cause with Interpersonal Difficulties as a Symptom

Another example of emotional neglect leading to BPD symptoms involves erratic cycles of affection.

My caregivers were like emotional weather patterns: unpredictable and always changing. Their erratic love brewed a deep-seated fear of abandonment within me, making stable relationships feel like a foreign concept. I was always on edge and always wondering if today's warmth would turn into tomorrow's cold shoulder. It's hard not to view the roulette wheel of emotional responses I grew up with as a BPD cause. Without a stable foundation, I never learned how to truly connect with others. Everything feels transient, like building castles in the sand.

Emotional Neglect as a Borderline PD Cause and Chronic Feelings of Emptiness as a Symptom

When I was young, I frequently felt this gnawing, bottomless emptiness, like some crucial piece of my existence was always missing. It's the BPD special, making me feel fundamentally broken and unworthy. For neurotypicals, it might be like never growing up mentally past those awkward prepubescent years. It wasn't until my late 30s, when I delved deep into trauma therapy, that I started to piece together a real sense of self. 

Even now, this arrested development challenges me daily. I have an idea of who I want to be after the past five years of trauma therapy, but what comes naturally to a neurotypical doesn't come naturally to me at all. That old emptiness sneaks back in, especially when I fear being abandoned or forgotten by those I love. It's like I could just vanish into thin air, and it wouldn't make a difference.

Understanding Emotional Neglect as a Borderline PD Cause

It wasn't until recently that I started seeing emotional neglect as a BPD cause. My 20s were a mess of desperately seeking validation and then distrusting it, always bracing for the inevitable abandonment. At 31, the fog started to lift, and I finally saw the trauma puppeteer pulling the strings behind my disorder. Realizing that my BPD symptoms were tangled up in the trauma of my childhood changed everything. It's like the absence of emotional support and validation during those crucial years laid the groundwork for all the emotional and relational chaos that defines BPD for me. 

I write this for anyone lost in the fog of their disorder's origins and for those who think their trauma doesn't qualify as trauma yet are suffocated by the weight of unvoiced agony. I don't have all the answers, but learning to show myself kindness for the first time seems like the only answer worth discovering. Maybe the path to healing starts with recognizing our pain and giving it a space to exist. Here's to trying, to treating ourselves with the care we've always deserved.

APA Reference
Mae, K. (2024, May 28). My Borderline PD Cause: How Emotional Neglect Contributes, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 15 from

Author: Karen Mae Vister

Karen Mae Vister, author of her blog, Over the Borderline, dedicates her work to providing valuable content and support for individuals on the path to recovery from borderline personality disorder. Find Karen Mae on Instagram and her blog.

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