#4 – Is Borderline Personality Disorder Caused by Faulty Genes?

This site aims to consider contentious questions about BPD head on. In that light, I will address the “broken brain” theory of borderline personality disorder. What is this theory?

The Broken Brain / Genetic Causation Theory of BPD

The broken brain theory states that children who grow up to become borderline are born with a specific constitutional weakness based on unfortunate genes passed down to them by their parents. Supposedly these children, unlike healthy individuals, are constitutionally unable to regulate their emotions from birth. Their severe emotional problems therefore have little to do with environmental influences, and are instead a consequence of bad genes which prevent their limbic system from functioning properly. This idea is discussed on many online forums about BPD. Although I find it difficult to take seriously, I will discuss this notion at length because many borderlines and their family members believe it.

Cui Bono?

It is useful to first consider the possible benefits of this belief before contesting it. “Cui bono?’ is a Latin phrase meaning “Who benefits?”, and in its idiomatic form it implies the existence of a hidden motive. Understanding how pharmaceutical companies, psychiatrists, and family members benefit financially and emotionally from the promotion of such a belief system is important in understanding how the belief system develops.

The benefits of promoting a genetic basis for BPD include:

1) Simplification – Viewing the often-difficult person with BPD as having a broken brain relieves that person’s therapists and/or family members from having to consider them as a complex human being with a unique history that has contributed to their condition. The simple idea that their brain doesn’t work replaces an in-depth understanding of the borderline as an individual. This way of thinking crucially eliminates the possibility that a broken brain might be partially or wholly the result, rather than the cause, of their past and present emotional problems. In other words, it seeks to minimize the role of the environment and past interpersonal relationships.

2) Relief of Guilt and Shame – The broken brain theory relieves family members from feelings of guilt or shame about how they related to the borderline individual in the past. If the borderline’s problem is genetic, nothing different could have been done to stop them turning out this way. For a formerly abusive and/or neglectful parent, it might be a great relief to think that their child’s problems are due to genetic bad luck, rather than to physical abuse and lack of love. For an ineffective therapist, it might be comforting to feel that the patient’s continued suffering and seeming inability to change is due to misfiring neurons, rather than the therapist’s own lack of knowledge about how to treat BPD.

This is not to blame the parents. Parents who mistreat and neglect their children, as parents of borderline-children-to-be often do, usually have their own severe emotional problems passed down to them from their own parents. They cannot be held morally responsible for continuing a generational legacy of poor parenting that often began before they were born.

3) Financial Benefit – Pharmaceutical companies make billions of dollars by over-medicalizing BPD and hundreds of other “disorders.”  It is well known that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders continually expands to encompass dozens of new mental health “disorders.” In the last few decades, these companies have made massive gains in sales of their products, developing pills for patients with almost every emotional problem imaginable.

In this light, promoting the idea that Borderline Personality Disorder is caused primarily by genetic and biological factors, and thus requires long-term medication to treat its symptoms, makes financial sense for drug companies and psychiatrists. It is part of a long-term movement in the US and global mental health industry. Pharmaceutical companies make tens of billions of dollars annually by promoting the pharmaceutical treatment of hundreds of supposed emotional disorders. Psychiatrists make hundreds of thousands of dollars annually for prescribing pills which have dangerous side effects and often do not work.

It is no surprise then that these companies and psychiatrists are heavily invested in promoting the genetic/biological-causation viewpoint, since it supports their income and continued existence. Even if the validity of certain diagnoses and treatments are doubtful, Big Pharma attempts to profit from them anyway. If one doubts that Big Pharma companies would distort the truth to protect their profits, one should look at how Big Tobacco companies lied on a massive scale about the true harm of tobacco during the 1970s and 1980s.

(Aside: I was recently entertained to read about the new disorders in DSM V. Do you have Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder, Caffeine-Induced Sleep Disorder, or Disruptive Mood Disregulation Disorder? Do you think that your psychiatrist can reliably diagnose these disorders, and prescribe you the appropriate pills to treat them? If yes, then you should be a supporter of DSM V!)

Evidence for the Genetic Basis of BPD – The Problem of Diagnostic Validity and Reliability

So, is there good evidence that Borderline Personality Disorder is caused by a broken brain, i.e. by genetic and hereditary factors?

To begin addressing the genetic argument, it is useful to note that in scientific research, the burden for proving a theory is placed on the person who proposes it. In other words, a theory is not accepted until it can be proven via repeated, observable experiments that it has validity and reliability. Validity means that a given result is true, accurate, and meaningful, and reliability refers to the notion that a process can be consistently repeated and yield the same result.

To start with, a valid, reliable theory about a mental health disorder should involve a disorder which can be reliably diagnosed. On this measure, the broken brain theory of BPD is a failure. The problem is that BPD itself, along with most other mental health “disorders”, is not a a valid or reliable diagnostic entity. Rather, the entire notion of BPD is built upon a fragile foundation, involving subjectively assessed traits which no brain scan, blood test, or gene test can reliably diagnose.

Since there is no physical test which can reliably diagnose BPD, therapists must use their subjective judgment about whether or not a person meets at least 5 out of 9 DSM criteria. As noted in the books listed below, different therapists often disagree as to whether the same individual has a given mental health disorder, and this certainly applies to BPD. Where does one draw a line before which one is non-borderline or even healthy, and beyond which one suddenly has BPD?

When I began to consider this question, BPD’s weak position as a scientific diagnosis became apparent. Are there great therapists who can reliably detect when someone has just enough fear of abandonment, or just enough evidence of black and white thinking, or just enough self-destructive acting-out, for these traits to collectively qualify them for the clinical picture needed with a BPD diagnosis? Who decides exactly what degree of poor self-esteem, how severe of an identity disturbance, or how much splitting, counts as a trait contributing toward a BPD diagnosis? How does one scientifically and reliably include or discount such symptoms in all their different degrees and presentations?

If these questions cannot be reliably answered, the whole notion of establishing a genetic basis for BPD is undermined. If mental health professionals cannot reliably diagnose who has BPD at a given time, how can researchers reliably test what causes it? How can one be sure that the people one chooses for testing do have BPD, and they they continue to have it throughout one’s experiment? It makes little sense to test a theory based upon a condition which has not been proven to exist as a discrete entity, and which cannot be reliably diagnosed.

This argument might strike some as outrageous, crazy, or outside the norm. If so, that is fine, since I am merely stating my opinion. My view of BPD is unconventional, but that is not a bad thing. Rather, it is something that has helped me. I do not think that BPD is a useless concept. Instead , I view BPD as a developmental metaphor – one that symbolizes the lower part of a continuum of human functioning stretching between emotional health and psychotic illness, rather than a scientifically valid, reliable diagnosis. I understand why some people simplistically believe that BPD exists as a discrete disorder that one “has” just like one has diabetes or cancer. But that is not my viewpoint.

Can Brain Scans Prove a Genetic Basis for BPD?

Back to the issue of whether the genetic basis for BPD has been proven. Let us assume for the sake of argument that BPD is a valid diagnosis that can be tested scientifically. One possible way of proving a genetic basis for BPD might be to identify the existence of long-term abnormalities in the brains of those diagnosed with BPD when compared with healthy controls. Both groups – those who grew up to become borderline, and those who grew up to become healthy adults – would have to be studied from a young age, with their brains scanned repeatedly to detect changes in structure and function over time. Such a study would have to be massive in scale and timeframe, relying on repeated, costly brain scans over many years. To my knowledge, no one has yet attempted such a study for BPD.

Even if such a study were made, it would face the thorny challenge of conclusively proving that differences in observable brain function between borderlines and healthy control subjects were the cause of past and current emotional problems, rather than the result of past environmental problems. It would have to demonstrate that similar environmental  conditions (i.e. a similar amount of traumatic childhood experience) existed both for those who became borderline and those who remained healthy. Otherwise, the presence of environmental trauma could be a confounding factor, as the greater contributor in the cases of those who became borderline.

One might say that it is enough to simply scan the brains of borderlines versus non-borderlines, and identify differences that prove a genetic basis. This is scientifically baseless. Identifying present-day differences in the brains of borderlines and non-borderlines does nothing to prove the degree to which genes and/or past environmental influence caused these differences. This would be a circular argument.

Twin Studies

Several recent studies have indicated that a genetic basis for BPD has been established based on studies of identical versus fraternal twins. These studies usually find a higher concordance (diagnosis rate) for BPD among identical twins, who share 100% of their genetic material, versus fraternal twins, who share 50% of their genetic material.

However, such studies have come under severe criticism, with detractors asserting that they suffer from faulty assumptions and research methods. The most serious issue is the Equal Environment Assumption (EEA). The EEA, which is crucial to the twin study method, means that researchers assume the environments of identical twins and fraternal twins to be extremely similar, or at least not different enough to influence a study’s outcome. The problem with this is that in-depth observational analysis of twins’ home environments have undermined this assumption, a fact many twin researches have already admitted. It is clear that identical twins are often treated more similarly, pushed to engage in more similar activities, and experience a closer psychological bond with each other compared to fraternal twins. This environmental difference could easily confound studies,  accounting for the variation in rates of diagnosis for disorders including BPD.

Recently, twin researchers have attempted to take the position that identical twins’ genes cause or elicit more similar treatment from the environment, and that genes therefore explain the more similar environment of identical as compared to fraternal twins. In this way, the researchers maintain that the EEA is still valid, since genes are supposedly still the cause of observed environmental differences in how identical twins are treated, rather than these differences stemming from any choice by people in the external environment.

To me, and many other critics, this position relies on circular reasoning and is extremely weak. It is circular reasoning because it brazenly asserts that its conclusion proves its premise – i.e. it assumes to begin with that genes are the cause of the more similar treatment of identical twins versus fraternal twins. It then states that therefore the environment itself is not the cause of the more similar treatment of identical as compared to fraternal twins. In fact, without such circular reasoning, that “fact” has not yet been proven. For some people, this might be hard to wrap one’s mind around, but it is important to understand in order to undermine the basis of twin researchers. Without the Equal Environment Assumption, the whole foundation of twin research collapses.

There are many other problems with twin research, including small sample sizes, unreliable diagnoses of disorders under study, and investigator bias. Anyone seriously considering twin studies as indicative of a genetic basis for BPD should read the work of Jay Joseph, the preeminent critic of twin studies worldwide. Josephs’s books, The Missing Gene and The Gene Illusion, mercilessly expose the weaknesses of twin studies. Joseph’s work is notable for its meticulous attention to detail and to the importance of the scientific process.

Of course, even if twin studies themselves were to be valid, they would still face the problem, with Borderline Personality Disorder, of studying a diagnosis that has not been demonstrated to be scientifically valid or reliable. Therefore, twin studies of BPD face the Scylla and Charybdis of the severe methodological problems of twin research on the one hand, and the inherent unreliability of the BPD diagnosis on the other.

Views of Present Day Psychiatrists, Therapists, and Family Members

Psychiatrists and family members of borderlines often promote the idea that Borderline Personality Disorder is caused by a broken brain, without relying on any experimental evidence that proves that notion. In my view, the more plausible reality is that the symptoms collectively called BPD arise from a complicated, long-term interaction between the individual and their environment. In this view, constitution and genes are not unimportant. A person’s genetic endowment affects their level of vulnerability to stress and trauma, and therefore their vulnerability to developing “borderline” symptoms. But genetic endowment has not been proven to be the primary force that causes these symptoms, as in the broken brain theory of BPD.

Many more evolved psychiatrists and therapists actually subscribe to this dynamic or broader view, in which both environment and genetic endowment are important. Such therapists believe that the relationship between nature and nurture is complex, and therefore the proportional influence of each varies from case to case. In my experience, the therapists who have worked the most extensively with borderline individuals give a heavy weighting to the influence of environment trauma versus genetic contributions, while still acknowledging the importance of both. In my personal opinion, the environment is usually more important than genetic endowment in causing severe emotional problems. Everyone has a bias, and that is mine. Without the severe physical abuse and emotional deprivation that I endured over many years as a child, I highly doubt that I would have been diagnosed with BPD at age 18.

Many psychiatrists without in-depth therapy training, who do not understand the psychodynamic and/or psychoanalytic viewpoints on emotional illness and how to treat it, believe that “it is all biological”, regarding the environment as relatively important. Genetic researchers in universities and foundations sometimes subscribe to an almost entirely genetic viewpoint on mental illness. These researchers rarely work with or even encounter mentally ill people in person like therapists do. To me, their position is difficult to take seriously. However, given that their academic funding for research often depends on their promoting a genetic basis for emotional problems, with Big Pharma companies expecting them to find genes that cause the conditions under study, it is easy to see why they might cling to flimsy evidence for genetic causation.

The extremists who promote purely or mostly genetic theories of BPD need to be called out and discredited. They should not be given serious attention until they provide proof that BPD can be reliably diagnosed, along with experiments that clearly separate the causes and effects of brain-based biological differences.

The Tragic Effect of Genetic Theories of Mental Illness and BPD

The worst effect of genetic theories of BPD is to promote a sense of hopelessness in the person diagnosed with the disorder and their family. If the borderline has problems that are caused by a broken brain and bad genes, problems that can only be managed but not cured with medication, then they are doomed to suffer for life with a severe set of emotional problems from which deep recovery is not possible. This is often the underlying belief of biologically-based psychiatrists who treat BPD primarily using medication. As I have said elsewhere on this site, nothing could be further from the truth.

There are many great books that carefully consider the proof or lack thereof for gene-based theories of the etiology of mental health problems.  Some of my favorites are listed at the bottom of this page. My favorite author in this regard is Jay Joseph, the California psychologist who was noted above.

My Own Experience as a Refutation of Genetic Theories

Several years ago, my therapist told me that you can only truly know something if you experience it for yourself. At the time, this was a new idea for me, since I did not trust my own thoughts and feelings.  This statement came in the context of my starting to feel much better in several areas of my life, but having trouble believing in that feeling. I had trouble trusting my own progress partly because of my fear that if BPD were a hopeless, genetically-based condition, then my experience could not be real or would not last. My therapist encouraged me that if I felt better, that was real. Over time I came to trust my own experience more.

My own experience has been the best guide informing me about the validity of biological, genetically-based explanations of mental illness. The severe physical beatings that I received from my father, along with my mother and father’s inability to communicate love and make me feel secure, were massive factors in my development. They destabilized me emotionally as a young child and teenager, causing me to develop the symptoms that comprise Borderline Personality Disorder. I simply never had the chance to develop a secure sense of identity, self-esteem, and healthy, intimate relationships with my parents and peers. In its place, I was forced to use the primitive defenses of denial, avoidance, projection, splitting, acting out, etc. to defend against overwhelming fear, rage, and grief. The use of these defenses and my inability to trust others to help me as a teenager led me to develop all nine of the symptoms of BPD to varying degrees.

To me, it is obvious that genes and biology – while they are not unimportant – are not the primary causative factor for borderline symptoms and Borderline Personality Disorder. I understand why that might be hard to understand for those who have not experienced the symptoms and history of BPD. Although it is controversial, I believe that family members of borderlines are sometimes motivated by the oversimplification and the avoidance of guilt and shame that genetic theories of BPD allow for. If anyone has experienced a genuinely happy, secure childhood, and then gone on to inexplicably develop chronic, long-term BPD (and not just normal teenage angst), I would be morbidly fascinated to hear about that. However, I doubt that I will be hearing from too many people with that history, given the statistics on how frequently neglect and abuse are associated with the disorder.

In sum, I am proud to reject the idea that Big Pharma and many psychiatrists promote about BPD – the notion that it is caused primarily by biology and bad genes. My childhood experience of abuse, along with my successful recovery from BPD over the last 10 years, is all the evidence I personally need to conclude that the genetic theories are faulty and do not universally apply. Beyond my personal experience, the analysis above, which questions the validity of BPD itself and of the associated twin and gene studies, are more evidence that the issue of causation is not settled.

When it comes to those who promote genetic theories of the cause of BPD, people like me are their reckoning, here to end the borrowed time their theories have been living on.


Further Reading

If you would like to learn more about the problems surrounding modern psychiatry, here are a few relevant texts. I bought these books used at Amazon for very low prices, often only $5-10 including shipping.

Saving Normal, – by Allen Frances – In this book, the former chair of the DSM Task Force fiercely criticizes the new DSM-V. Frances asserts that the DSM V, without any scientific proof, turns every possible aspect of normal emotional struggle into a new mental health diagnosis.

Mad Science: Psychiatric Coercion, Diagnosis, and Drugs – By Stuart Kirk and David Cohen. In this book, the authors assert that American psychiatry’s claims about mental health diagnoses are riddled with unscientific claims, faulty reasoning, and missing evidence.

Bias in Psychiatry Diagnosis – By Paula Caplan. Caplan cogently illustrates how therapists frequently make unreliable psychiatric diagnoses. Caplan shows how therapists often misdiagnose individuals based on gender and race, and how this can have serious adverse effects in the courtroom and workplace.

The Heroic Client – by Barry Duncan. While this book is mainly about a positive vision of the therapist-patient relationship, it contains a large section critiquing current methods of diagnosis and treatment based on the DSM and psychiatry.

Warning: Psychiatry Can Be Hazardous To Your Mental Health – by William Glasser. A brutal indictment of modern psychiatry, which lays bare its unscientific assertions and points the way toward a better, client-focused form of treatment.

The Missing Gene – By Jay Joseph. A fantastically-detailed exposition of twin research and all the unfounded assumptions it is based on.

The Gene Illusion – by Jay Joseph. Another devastating critique of twin research. Joseph’s books focus on schizophrenia, but his methods of reasoning are easily transferable to twin research which addresses BPD.

Some of Jay Joseph’s articles on twin research from 2013 and before are available for free here – http://jayjoseph.net/publications


I welcome any correspondance at bpdtransformation@gmail.com

If you are struggling with BPD yourself or are trying to help a borderline individual, I would be happy to listen to your story and provide feedback if possible. Feel free to provide constructive criticism of this site also.

This article is the opinion of a non-professional layperson, and should not be taken as medical advice or as the view of a therapist who is professionally qualified to treat Borderline Personality Disorder or any other mental health condition. Readers should consult with a qualified mental health professional before undertaking any treatment.

– Edward Dantes

25 thoughts on “#4 – Is Borderline Personality Disorder Caused by Faulty Genes?

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  3. Brian

    Hey Edward:

    Do you know anything about Ketogenic diets (low carbohydrate) and fish oils being helpful with this disorder? My expereince has shown me that eating low carbohydrate is helpful and I’ve had some of my most relational and emotionally grounded/stable days while sticking with this type of diet without caffeine or alcohol.

    Also, do you have any take on caffeine being supportive or problematic to long term healing from BPD?



    1. bpdtransformation Post author

      I think those are good things in general for one’s health, so definitely would encourage them. In terms of addressing severe emotional problems, I don’t think they the main thing that makes us get better (that would be positive human relationships). But if they help you and encourage you on your journey, maybe they can be a factor that helps you connect with others in a more positive way as you’ll feel better about yourself health-wise.


  4. Pingback: Five Myths About BPD Debunked | BPD Transformation

  5. Catherine

    I too get extremely irritated by twin studies and suggestions of genetic heritability which seem keen to point out that people with ‘borderline personalities’, tend to have close family members with the ‘disease’. Ah, you mean fucked up people produce fucked up kids?! Who’d have thought…


  6. Catherine

    I also meant to say, and I hope I haven’t misunderstood your comments, that I would go one further and suggest that genes are in fact pretty much unimportant in the development of mental health issues which are not clearly caused by some sort of solely organic problem (brain damage at birth, for example). Genes vs. environment seems like a completely false dichotomy to me (although I can see why it’s so seductive to so many people). If my genes were not completely influenced by my environment then I would not be pasty and fair haired!
    This is a nice blog. Well done 🙂


  7. gemmaluisa

    Wow you explain precisely what I’ve always thought,you write well and are very articulate .I also have bpd and totally agree with you in my mbt therapy group there are 14 of us from different background,cultures ages ,intellects etc but we all have one thing in common we all had narcissistic mothers who had been cruel and abusive and neglectful we all had enabling fathers who allowed this to happen or joined on the abuse .
    It’s amazing how our stories about our mothers are virtually identical having never met anyone else with my mother experiencesaid then being in a group where we all have bpd and we all have exactly the same experiences of our mothers,that’s not a coincidence.
    I hate it when articles say there is a high genetic factor because it negates the abuse we go through I can safely say if I was adopted at birth and brought up by two reasonably loving,non narcissistic understanding validating parents I would be completely different and not live in a pit of constant pain and despair as I do .
    Thank you for writing this article it needs to be said bless you x


    1. Brian


      Very well put. I can realte with this because this was my expereince too and my mother was definetly the fucked up one and my father disconnected and enabled her nasty emotionally abusive guilt and shaming behavior. He’s a good man, but he stopped short and caved into her abusive and then of course I learned that pattern.

      I’m a man so she particulary cut me down for being a boy and had to turn myself into a girl to survive. This was feminism at it’s worst – I’m all for women being empowerd and passionate – but as soon as that start trying to castrate me because of their own unresolved issues with the fathers and men that is where I draw the line now.

      I wish you the best and thank you for sharing your truth!


    2. bpdtransformation Post author

      Thank you. If you want to be more sure about genetics being a minor factor, if at all, in mental illness, I recommend Jay Joseph’s writing, both his books (e.g. The Gene Illusion) and his writing on www (dot) jayjoseph (dot) net (slash) publications. His insights really tear apart twin studies and the whole notion that mental illness is genetically or biologically caused. Best of luck to you!


  8. ramblingsfromamum

    I shall be emailing and soon. I’m going through your articles one by one. My daughter K did not have a bad childhood, two loving parents – me being one of them ☺️ But possibly other factors..


  9. Alaina

    Wonderful post, Edward.

    I have battled the “bad genes/broken brain” mindset since 1967, when I was diagnosed with schizophrenia at the age of fourteen. In 1969, a new psychiatrist took over my case and determined that I was not schizophrenic. Since then, numerous doctors and therapists have told me that I am not even close to having schizophrenia.

    Because of the belief that schizophrenia is genetic and therefore incurable, it has been assumed that my initial 1967 diagnosis was wrong. I want to believe that — because who in their right mind (pun intended) wants to believe they were ever psychotic? But in my personal research on the topic of mental illness, I have reluctantly concluded that I did, indeed, have schizophrenia when I was fourteen to sixteen years old. And then… I got over it!

    Like you, I endured extreme, repeated trauma and abuse in my childhood. When I became an adolescent and the abuse literally became unbearable, my mind “broke” for a time. It wasn’t genetic at all, otherwise how was I able to recover ?


    1. bpdtransformation Post author

      That’s right… the predominant narrative of “schizophrenia” being a “disease” with genetic roots is a lie.
      If you want to read about other “schizophrenics” who were completely cured, and to further refute the genetic narrative, read the following:
      Treating the Untreatable by Ira Steinman – 14 long cases of schizophrenics who became non schizophrenic in long-term therapy
      Weathering The Storms: Psychotherapy for Psychosis by Murray Jackson – 15 long cases of schizophrenics being cured in treatment
      Rethinking Madness by Paris Williams – a forward development of the above works and 6 long stories of people who were diagnosed schizophrenic and then fully recovered, several of them outside of therapy.
      The Infantile Psychotic Self and Its Fates by Vamik Volkan – this is an incredibly deep analysis of how psychotic states work at a psychodynamic level. Volkan treated many schizophrenics who were cured. In this book, the case of Jane is absolutely incredible – you should read it. Volkan’s 3 or 4 case studies in this book are extremely long; about 50 pages each, and after reading them there can be doubt that the notion of schizophrenia’s incurability is wrong. In fact, Volkan specifically wrote this book as a refutation to American psychiatrists who had been saying that psychotherapy should not be used with psychotic patients.
      The Gene Illusion by Jay Joseph – this is difficult reading but it a brilliant breakdown of why schizophrenia cannot be considered to have a strong genetic basis. It is fascinating how misleading twin studies are when looked at closely.
      Schizophrenia: A Scientific Delusion by Mary Boyle – this is the most devastating attack on schizophrenia’s validity and reliability as a “diagnosis”. After reading this I never again thought of schizophrenia as a real disease. Or in other words, all the symptoms are real to different degrees and in different varieties, but there is no evidence that schizophrenia symptoms cluster in any form that would allow them to be labeled a meaningful, repeating syndrome/pattern.
      You can get all of these books used on Amazon, some for very cheap.
      The most obvious reason though, why “schizophrenia” cannot be genetic, is that in many parts of the world where schizophrenics are heavily stigmatized and poorly treated, the majority of schizophrenics do not have children. If this is true, then within a few generations schizophrenia would have disappeared via elimination from the gene pool, rather than remaining a constant 1% of the population. That is has not disappeared is proof positive that whatever “schizophrenia” is, it is not primarily genetic. But such common sense eluded American psychiatry long ago.
      The truth is that “schizophrenia” or psychotic states are curable, just like BPD is. But if that truth were to be widely known, American psychiatry and the drug companies would lose their stranglehold on a business which unfortunately profits by promoting a hopeless vision of mental “disease” that often ruins people’s lives.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Alaina

        “Thank you” seems woefully inadequate to say in response to this. I am amazed by your generosity and your wisdom.

        I have read Paris Williams’ Rethinking Madness and will definitely be getting the books you recommend. I regularly buy used books through Amazon. When I’m looking for a particular title I search for it on Amazon, eBay, and on Abebooks (dot) com. The best bargains are most often found on Amazon, but sometimes eBay or Abebooks has the better deal.

        Back to the topic of schizophrenia not being a genetic disorder — when I was 12 and my dad was 30, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Two years later, when I had my “mental breakdown,” it was assumed that I had inherited it from my father. However, my dad’s diagnosis was later changed to Multiple Personality Disorder, which today is known as Dissociative Identity Disorder. From 1969, when my new psychiatrist told me that I was not schizophrenic, until about 1994, I did not have any psychiatric diagnosis. Then, after being put on a beta blocker for a heart problem, and not knowing that beta blockers can cause severe depression, I became deeply depressed and went to a shrink. After about a 15 minute interview in which I acknowledged that I had not always been so depressed, that sometimes I have a lot of energy and feel pretty good (which had been the case until I had recently been put on the beta blocker, but I did not know to put those two things together, then) I was diagnosed Bipolar and put on Lithium, and then Depakote, both of which really screwed up my head.

        After “compliantly” taking my bipolar meds for several years, only to feel like I was only half alive, I weaned myself off of everything and then checked myself into a mental health clinic. This was in early 2003. After a full battery of physical and psychological tests, my diagnosis was changed to PTSD. No more psychosis and no more bipolar.

        The trauma I went through was very extreme, and from what I know about my father’s childhood, he went through extreme trauma, also. Learned abusive behavior that leads to Complex PTSD is what runs in my family, in my opinion, not a genetic defect that causes irreversible neurological damage.

        What you are doing here on this blog is so incredibly valuable. I hope you are also writing a book.


      2. bpdtransformation Post author

        Thanks! But I don’t know nearly as much about sz as the writers I mentioned. If you read those 30-40 case studies, you will be shocked and I predict you’ll never think about “schizophrenia” the same way again. Volkan, Jackson and Steinman are even more convincing than Williams, who is a young therapist (only about 40-45 years old) at this point.

        The sad thing is that millions of people labeled as schizophrenic are only fulfilling a tiny fraction of their true potential, because they could be cured or at least recover significantly, in treatment as is described in these books…. however, the lack of proper psychotherapy combined with the long-term overuse of antipsychotic meds are turning them into zombies who live an emotionalless half-life and don’t even know what they are missing out on.

        The tragic irony is that while people are saying that long-term therapy is too expensive to give to people who are severely troubled on a large scale… the long-term cost of people being on disability for decades is actually FAR greater than the cost of giving people psychotherapy for a few years and allowing them to recover their humanity and their ability to work and contribute.

        But again common sense cannot be allowed to prevail in America or in many other developed countries,, because then the psychopharmaceutical executives would have to admit that the prevailing view of mental illness is fatally flawed, and they would not be able to buy such big mansions and so many new Mercedes and Cadillacs.

        Yes I do look at those 3 book sites you mentioned. Good ideas. However, recently I’ve become lazy and only look at Amazon because it has so much already. I should go back to Abe/Alibris too.

        It sounds like you made a brave decision to come off of psych meds. IMO they are not necessary once one gets to a certain point of interpersonal support/inner strength. It is too bad that those psychiatrists labeled you with those terms when you were young and vulnerable, but thank goodness you overcame them and started thinking for yourself, which again is more than can be said for most psychiatrists. In case you haven’t figured it out, I’m not a speaker that gets invited to psychiatric conferences 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  10. David

    You mentioned that we cannot tell whether the ‘differences in observable brain function between borderlines and healthy control subjects were the cause of past and current emotional problems, rather than the result of past environmental problems’ but my question is that either way (cause or effect) the structure of their brain is observed to be different to a normal person’s at this point in time. Because there is a fundamental biological difference in the structure of the brain, for instance a lower volume in the amygdala and hippocampus region (http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/borderline-personality-disorder/index.shtml#part_145389), how is it possible for someone with bpd to be fully cured because I cannot see how therapy alone could create new matter in these regions of the brain.


    1. David

      What I am saying is – the brains of people with BPD is clearly different, if it is different today because of that person’s early traumatic experience which caused their brain to develop differently. Is it possible that the environment caused their brain to develop in a different way and now it is impossible to reverse back since it is indeed biological? Thanks


      1. Chris

        It is possible that BPD is the result of a faulty brain wiring that is caused by emotional trauma that occurs during childhood development, which can’t be altered in any significant way once the person reaches adulthood?


      2. bpdtransformation Post author

        Of course it can be altered significantly in adulthood! Read my article #22. Many people who get intensive psychotherapy and form good relationships recover from so-called BPD and stay well. Of course, it’s possible that such people won’t get better – if they do not receive effective help or their circumstances don’t change for the better. But it’s always theoretically possible that the can improve and stay well, with the right resources…. it’s relative, not absolute.


      3. bpdtransformation Post author

        I think it may not be possible to reverse it in terms of time traveling back to an exact earlier brain state. But changed brain functioning is transformable in terms of good loving experiences and working out bad feelings being able to make a “borderline’s” brain similar or as healthy as the brain of a person who is functioning better, sure. Why not? Remember, again BPD is just a label for a cluster of behaviors related to trauma. It’s not an illness that one has or doesn’t have, i.e. not like getting HIV or diabetes…


    2. bpdtransformation Post author

      Therapy does change brain chemistry. That is a very well researched fact! Just search on Google and you will find loads of papers on psychotherapy and its effect on brain chemistry. You might look at authors like Allan Schore, Marty Teicher, and Brian Koehler. Furthermore, brain scans of some people labeled “Borderline” versus some people labeled “Normal” do not in any way establish that “BPD” is a valid, reliable, discrete condition. They just mean that they have a group of people who are having more trouble functioning and being emotionally stable at a given time, and a group that has less trouble. The first group likely has had much more trauma, so of course their brains will look different, because the brain is an organ for responding to what goes on between the brain and the environment. Trauma/problems in living alter brain chemistry. I hope that makes sense…


  11. tahrey

    The brain studies thing is definitely one where correlation is maybe being confused with causation – or, at least, there’s a failure to consider which direction the causation happens. I get a similar kind of feeling from up-to-date research on depression and its related conditions, which involves a fair bit of structural and functional brain research.

    Depressed brains have a reduced serum concentration of neurotransmitters, and reduced synaptic signalling … pharmaceutically raising the concentration has a degree of stabilising effect, and even a significant positive therapeutic outcome for some people … but it varies wildly with specific combinations of drug and patient, to the point that it’s impossible to ever predict which one will work… and in others improved mood stability through flattened affect is about all you ever see, and they all generally come with a whole raft of undesirable side effects, many of them which could be conceivably traced to spurious firing of unrelated synapses, both in the brain and elsewhere in the nervous system. It rather looks more like, instead of promoting greater healthy firing of cerebral neurons, the drugs just raise the neural background noise level. The troughs where activation of the positive neural pathways are compromised and even thinking in a coherent manner is diminished are smoothed out as a result, but there’s a whole load of extra randomness thrown in, with results ranging from enforced sexual refraction or compromised body temperature regulation through to severely provoked suicidal ideation and loss of normal inhibitory function. And actual meaningful positive signalling still doesn’t rise out of the noise.

    Could it be that, rather than a general cause of compromised mental functioning and reduced synaptic firing, reduced serum serotonin is in most people a *symptom* of those things? Some psychological trauma affects the wave-like signalling of the brain, slowing it down and reducing the signal strength in certain key areas, meaning less serotonin is released into the cerebrospinal fluid that bathes the signal interfaces, and a lower overall serum level is recorded. It’s the reduced signalling causing the lower serotonin, not the other way around.

    In which case, simply pouring more of it into the body isn’t really going to help anything, especially not when the method of action by the most popular drugs is to prevent it being absorbed by the axons either side of the synaptic clefts. What useful signals remain are less likely to get through, instead being lost in the noise, as the receiving side now needs a greater serum level in order to record a blip, and what’s coming from the transmitting side is more likely to be drowned out by fuzz. And that would rather explain the nasty symptoms suffered as the result of an insufficiently gentle taper, when the serum levels are still high but the axons are suddenly returned to being normally sensitive (and might even overshoot into hypersensitivity, if the patient had started to habituate to the drug).

    Again, as per depression, so per BPD. Why necessarily assume a different level of development, cortex size, frequency and strength of signalling is the cause of the condition, rather than an acquired symptom of it? All we can really tell, without long term and hyper-detailed study of a large patient cohort over a good chunk of their lives, is that the two features are frequently found to coexist. One could cause the other – or vice versa. Or it could yet be that some third root cause lies beneath *both* of them, and they’re both different symptoms of the same disturbance, rather than either being a cause in of itself. (Indeed, that may even hold for depression too)


    1. tahrey

      (side note / ersatz edit: the other part of the “background noise” hypothesis as regards depression is that the over-amplified negative firing patterns are also subsumed into it, somewhat – and their neurons also desensitised to the otherwise raised levels of serotonin in their synapses. Rather than change how much each group proportionally secretes, which would require a quite magical level of pharmaceutical selectivity to raise the secretion/reduce the reabsorbtion by “positive” cortices and lower/increase such in the “negative” ones, the drug just lowers the general sensitivity of both, and then reduces the differential concentration by adding a certain amount to the baseline levels in both areas; that is, reducing the brightness, but also reducing the contrast / adding a good bit of static to the picture. The general firing rate of the overactive areas is reduced, and that of underactive ones increases; although there still remains a small bias towards the former, this is sufficient to level out the patient’s affect, and in a lucky few that’s enough to break the cycle and return them to a net positive mood, which persists even more strongly once the drugs are tapered off. In the rest, it at least puts them in a position where other non-chemical therapies can be successfully instigated… and so the illusion of poor serotonin secretion rate / excessive reuptake being the root cause of the condition is maintained)



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