Is There a Link Between Borderline Personality and Violence?

What to Expect From A Loved One With Borderline Personality Disorder

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Is Borderline Personality Disorder Associated with Violence?

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a complex mental illness that affects both men and women. Along with intense emotions and feelings, people with BPD can also experience intense anger, known as borderline rage. If you have a family member or loved one who has BPD, it's important to understand how violence relates to BPD and how it can be handled.

Prevalence of Violence in People with BPD

There is research demonstrating that both men and women who have committed violent acts have elevated rates of borderline personality disorder compared to the general population. However, this does not necessarily mean that a diagnosis is associated with an increased risk of violence. Impulsive behavior, which includes physical aggression, is one of the diagnostic criteria for BPD, even though someone can meet criteria for the disorder without demonstrating this symptom.

A large 2016 study in the U.K. found that BPD alone did not suggest a tendency for violence, but did show that those with BPD are more likely to have "comorbidities," associated conditions such as anxiety, antisocial personality disorder, and substance abuse which do raise the risk of violence. A systematic search of studies that year confirmed the same finding, with a lack of evidence that BPD alone increases violent behavior.

There are several reasons why people with BPD are more likely to be violent in their relationships. First, people with BPD are often victims of violence themselves, such as through child abuse. While it's not true for all people, many people with BPD may have learned to use aggression to deal with strong emotions because adults modeled that behavior for them when they were young.

In addition, people with BPD often experience an unstable sense of self and difficulty trusting others in interpersonal relationships. They may experience very strong emotions if they believe they are being rejected or abandoned; this is known as rejection sensitivity or abandonment sensitivity. These intense feelings of rejection can sometimes lead to aggressive behaviors.

Finally, people with BPD often have difficulties with impulsive behaviors. When they are experiencing the strong emotions that are typical of the disorder, they may do things without thinking about the consequences. If they engage in violence, it is usually not planned. It is an impulsive act done in the heat of the moment.

Will My Loved One Be Violent?

The information above only provides general information about the link between borderline personality disorder and violence; it is not possible to predict whether one particular individual with BPD will be violent. If your loved one has not shown any violent tendencies or aggression, it is quite possible that she won't be violent.

Many BPD patients never commit any aggressive acts during their lives.

On the other hand, if you are feeling threatened, even if no violence has occurred in your relationship, you should take that seriously. If you already feel unsafe, it is very possible the situation could escalate to the point of violence. You should consider getting yourself to a safe place away from that loved one, whether that means getting a hotel or staying with friends. It's important that you are safe before trying to help your friend or family member get help.

Once you are secure, your best bet is for both of you to seek professional help through therapy with a therapist specializing in BPD. This may help you figure out whether the relationship can be improved and may prevent violence from happening in the future. Therapy can also help you decide whether this is a relationship worth working on.The therapist can also recommend a course of treatment to help your loved one get on the path to recovery. 

Preparing Ahead When You Have BPD

Having a diagnosis of BPD not only may increase the risk of violence against others, but against self. Thoughts of suicide and of harming your self are just as serious as those of harming others. Some therapists recommend that people fill out a safety plan for borderline personality disorder. This safety plan can be helpful not only in preparing for possible violent or suicidal thoughts, but can help you identify triggers in your daily life.

Sources:

Gonzalez, R., Igoumenou, A., Kallis, C., and J. Coid. Borderline Personality Disorder and Violence in the UK Population: Categorical and Dimensional Trait Assessment. BMC Psychiatry. 2016. 16:180.

Lowenstein, J., Purvis, C., and K. Rose. A Systematic Review on the Relationship Between Antisocial, Borderline and Narcissistic Personality Disorder Diagnostic traits and Risk of Violence to Others in a Clinical and Forensic Sample. Borderline Personality Disorder and Emotional Dysregulation. 2016. 3:14.

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