What is a personality disorder?

What causes personality disorders?

Page last updated: May 2007

Personality disorders develop in childhood and the thoughts and behaviours become increasingly ingrained in adulthood.

Some personality disorders are more common in men (ie antisocial personality disorder) and others are more common in women (ie borderline personality disorder).

Many people with a personality disorder do not seek help until after years of distress, if at all. This contributes to our lack of knowledge about their causes and development.

Different causes appear to be associated with the different types of personality disorders. However, like most mental illnesses, the causes appear to be a complex combination of genetic factors, biochemical factors, and individual, family and environmental factors.

What causes borderline personality disorder?

It is well established that the tendency to develop borderline personality disorder runs in families. This is similar to a predisposition to other illnesses, such as diabetes and heart disease.

There is some evidence that borderline personality disorder may be related to a chemical imbalance in the brain.

Childhood abuse, neglect, and child separation from caregivers or loved ones are believed to be major contributing factors, particularly sustained and severe abuse.

Women are more likely to develop borderline personality disorder than men.