How do personality disorders develop?

I've just posted about a pair of siblings with personality disorder (only one actually diagnosed but the other clearly has one too).  It got me thinking, how much is it nature and how much nurture?  Do these siblings have it because of a genetic link or because of the exposure to similar parenting, similar childhood environments?

I don't believe that anything psychological is wholly nature or wholly nurture but some things fall more heavily on one side than the other.  I don't know much about PDs though.  I'd be interested to know what people who have experienced PD either themselves or as an observer thinks caused it.  Was it environmental, and if so, what kind of things influenced it?

With the siblings i mentioned above, I think that parenting played a role.  Perhaps the PDs were there anyway, especially since they've manifested in different kinds of PD, but I think the pandering style of parenting helped the disorders to develop.  The father very much gives in to them both, always takes their word for things, never questions anything they tell him.  He gives a lot of blind praise and will not say a bad word about his kids.  It goes beyond healthy parental support; as a parent myself I know there are times when you need to give your kids a bit of a reality check.  So I definitely think this has had some effect on the development of their disorders.
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  • people will be born with a genetic predisposition to develop it BUT they might not, say for instance twins, they have the same genetics, one twin lives an 'easy' life, no traumatic events they probably won't develop it, the other twin goes through a certain life altering experience for example sexual abuse, or abuse during childhood verbal and physical (these are actually linked causes for many mental disorders) this will chain their brain chemistry and way of coping to that of a personality disorder. i think of it like a protective mechanism in some ways.

    yes, Borderline Personality Disorder is also called Emotional Unstable Personality Disorder, the term borderline was 'misleading' or confusing to people who didn't understand borderline between what and what.. but Emotional Unstable Personality Disorder(traits) can also be seen in depression, eating disorders, self harm and the other way around.

    yes the traits are very similar thats why they're all personality disorders and not mood disorders, but there will be additional traits which separate them other wise there would only
    be one diagnosis of personality disorder.

    typically a person with this type of disorder had trouble coping or feels they suffer more than average humans, this interferes with how they manage their feelings or interact with others.

    BUT they are not all the same, did you know the ICD classifies Transsexualism as a personality disorder; while DSM-5 addresses Gender dysphoria.. now this is not the same as scitzophernia.

    i found a table which emphasizes the differences also..

    Cluster A (odd or eccentric disorders)

    Paranoid personality disorder: characterized by a pattern of irrational suspicion and mistrust of others, interpreting motivations as malevolent
    Schizoid personality disorder: lack of interest and detachment from social relationships, and restricted emotional expression
    Schizotypal personality disorder: a pattern extreme discomfort interacting socially, distorted cognitions and perceptions

    Cluster B (dramatic, emotional or erratic disorders)

    Antisocial personality disorder: a pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others, lack of empathy
    Borderline personality disorder: pervasive pattern of instability in relationships, self-image, identity, behavior and affects often leading to self-harm and impulsivity
    Histrionic personality disorder: pervasive pattern of attention-seeking behavior and excessive emotions
    Narcissistic personality disorder: a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and a lack of empathy

    Cluster C (anxious or fearful disorders)

    Avoidant personality disorder: pervasive feelings of social inhibition and inadequacy, extreme sensitivity to negative evaluation
    Dependent personality disorder: pervasive psychological need to be cared for by other people.
    Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (not the same as obsessive-compulsive disorder): characterized by rigid conformity to rules, perfectionism and control

    Other personality disorders

    Personality change due to another medical condition – is a personality disturbance due to the direct effects of a medical condition
    Other specified personality disorder – symptoms characteristic of a personality disorder but fails to meet the criteria for a specific disoder, with the reason given

    Unspecified personality disorder

  • People develop a personality disorder from their upbringing and childhood. Also, maybe from events that have happened in ones life. Emotional personality unstable disorder is the english term for Borderline personality disorder which is american.


  • It rarely happens. Most of the time someone develops a serious mental disorder it's usually a psychotic disorder.

  • Yes Borderline and EUPD are the same thing, EUPD is just the new name for it. They usually develop due to trauma or neglect in childhood.


  • Well some people are just born with them. Even if they don't show it in the early stages of their life, they will develop later. In my opinion, personality disorders must be in your nature, as a sane person could barely develop one. And yeah, parenting is also a factor.
  • All of us had different personality in our own special ways. There are some people who are always quiet and shy and inactive while there are those who are very talkative, outgoing and are always confident with themselves.This personality traits are usually developed by what had happened in one's life especially during their childhood days or maybe they had just inherited this traits from their parents and from the kind of environment where they grew up. If one person cannot anymore control the behaviors and actions of their personality traits like they are acting negative and they are harmful already then a personality disorder is developed already which should be of concern before it becomes serious. 
  • I would imagine that it's more common for a child to develop a disorder like this, than what it is to be born with one. While genes might run in the family that causes a personality disorder, I think it will be more about how that disorder is managed by the parents that will playa big part in if it effects the child later on in life.
  • This is a really interesting question. As far as I see it personality disorders happen because of what we eat, breathe and do, our society is not organized for our well being and the results are here for us to see. 
  • This is a very complicated issue. I have been researching malignant narcissism for many years now. I have recently published an article which explains how narcissism and empathy (which are opposing ends of the same spectrum) are both necessary for our survival and for our evolution. Many people believe that NPD is a result of evolution (i.e. the "selfish" gene). The truth is that it cannot be either all nurture or all genetic - it's a combination of both. The environment we evolve within influences our thoughts and behaviours which, in turn, have an effect on our genes. It's likely that environmental factors would have led to the change in genetics originally though, therefore you could blame it entirely on nurture. It's very well known within psychiatry, however, that most narcissists were subject to childhood abuse, most often of a sexual nature.
  • I believe its part nurture/ part nature. The potential is there when someone is born, and how they are treated and taught will decide how much of their personality is going to be ruled by the disorder.
  • I always called what I experienced as a child a sort of torture. I knew that the things I was experiencing was different then what other families did. I made a conscious decision as early on and as an adult to disengage myself from that sort of behavior. Interestingly the result was then to try and make it as if I was the one that was not right. In my case I would say that what mental illness seemed to be in my family was from a learned series of coping mechanisms. That don't make it right though. Sometimes all it takes to see what is happening is as simple as spending some time someplace else.

  • I think it's both too, which is why I don't think it's effective to compare siblings because even though they come from the same family they are still different individuals deep down. As for the biggest cause, in my opinion, I attribute it more to a lack of self awareness more than anything. Everyone has faults, and becoming a mother or father doesn't automatically make people wise, so those faults usually stick around, but if the parents are aware of their limitations and aware enough of the human condition to give more respect to their kids as individuals and as humans rather than just merely seeing them as their kids that they can do whatever with, then they probably have a better chance of actually growing up to be human beings rather than psychopaths.
  • I agree that it is a mix when it comes to disorders in general, but when we're being as specific as with personality disorders, I think that it's both but far more leaning towards nurture. I have nothing to back it up really except that I know that so many of these things come not only from trauma or a bad childhood but also from copying. I don't particularly know where to draw the line with what is a personality disorder and what isn't, but my dad is prone to depression, so I am as well. I don't know if it's in our genes like some of the physical problems and disabilities I've had passed down or if I just got that from seeing him and copying his behavior until it became my own. Similarly, I found myself diagnosed with a phobia that when I heard the explanation of absolutely screamed my mother. Undoubtably, there are disorders of all kinds -personality and otherwise- that "run in the family." I hope I'm not sounding pretentious or like I'm repeating myself over and over. I just mean that I don't know how to tell nature vs nurture when it looks exactly the same in so many cases. I honestly can't tell what is in my genes and what is from copying my parents. 

    This post was just a ramble and probably missed the point of the thread somewhere somehow. Sorry. (Except if I were really sorry, I wouldn't be posting it. I guess I just want to butt in with my say that badly.)
  • I'm not really sure about this yet but it can be for a lot of reasons, experiences when we were kids, genetics, and even cultural heritage. There's millions of people in this world and it would be irrational to generalize all of them, so I think that it's a mix of all the factors that I've mentioned before.
  • Those interested in the nature/nurture debate might want to check out Uri Bronfenbrenner's ecological systems theory of development; it is one of the few theories out there on human development that looks at how biology can influence the environment, which can in turn influence biology, and so forth...and also looks at the different levels of influence from the factors in someone's immediate environment (parents, schools, teachers) all the way out to the overarching "flavor" of the time period in which someone lives (for example, an event like the 9/11 terrorist attacks might result in subtle cultural changes that cause someone to develop differently than they otherwise would have).  At the clinic where I'm an intern, I just did a group therapy session on this theory, and the guys in the group loved it because it factors in so many things.  Here's a link to those who are interested:  https://explorable.com/ecological-systems-theory



  • They come from parenting. Parents are who we look to when we are children and learn how to act and react. They say it normally comes from the dad or from a broken home where the child looks externally for how to live..Nature vs Nurture, Persoinality Disorders are always nurture
  • This is usually a mental issue that you can be born with due to inheritance. But it can also be developed during childhood stages.
  • Personality disorders are either caused by genetics or acquired. For instance, relatives who marry have a great likelihood of producing offspring with behavioral if not mental problems. Kids with traumatic experiences - such as those victims of kidnapping or crimes at an age where comprehension is limited - also develop personality disorders as they grow older and nothing was done to address the source of trauma.
  • Ive always believed it is trauma in childhood. There may be factors such as genetics that might make someone predisposed but it comes out due to childhood neglect or stress or abuse.
    It makes me so angry how people can bring children into this world and raise them to be dysfunctional adults.
    Some people should really not be allowed to have children...
  • I am diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, I don't know if how I was raised caused this disorder, I do have a dad diagnosed with Bipolar 1 and is a narcassist, and a mom diagnosed with chronic depression and anxiety. But I have always been very close to my family, I always had support and tons of love. Although when I was growing up, there were times my dad would get extremely mad at me to the point where he would hit me, even if I did something small, and I would be terrified of him and stay in my room until my mom got home, but most of the time my mom would tell me to quit being a bad kid and ignore me -even though she knew I did something small and stupid and him hitting me was way out of line- then sometimes hours later he would apologize and take me shopping or something to show me he's truly sorry. This continued throughout my late childhood, got worse as a teenager, and stopped when I turned 18, but to this day the verbal abuse still happens occasionally with my father, even though he knows I have BPD he refuses to understand or acknowledge it, instead he calls me crazy, psycho, dumb, stupid, idiot, a b***ch, lazy, too sensitive, and tells me because I am these things is why I can't keep jobs, why all my boyfriends leave, and why no one likes me. When I try to talk to my mom about what I'm going through with my BPD, she doesn't really listen and deffinately doesn't believe me or she doesn't understand because all she tells me is I need to change my life and the way I think and then I would feel better. So, I live with my parents who love me and "want the best for me" but refuse to try and understand me or seriously listen. 
  • @Searing123 hello and welcome. thanks for sharing. i'm sorry you went through all that growing up and still have to contend with such now. are you able to move out and get a place of your own? or find a roommate or go rent a room off someone? 

    it sounds like a very unhealthy and toxic environment. if it were me, i'd be hell bent on getting out and on my own...you do not deserve any type of abuse.... 

    are you willing to attend a support group? or have you tried one in the past? they offer a great deal of support....might be helpful.

    the reality is that your parents may never listen to you...they seem to be stuck in their own issues....and are parenting from that place... so you may have to lovingly detach from them and keep your eyes solely on you...taking full responsibility for your life. even if you never have their "ear" or blessing, doing what you can to get on your feet and create a life that you love. 

    that's not easy...i know, but i believe it's possible. 
    hope this helps. 
  • @Searing123... Welcome to the community and thanks for sharing with us. I'm sorry that you struggle with BPD, and I'm sorry you had to endure so much stuff during your childhood. That certainly didn't help your mental health at all. 

    I completely agree with Dominica. I think you should do everything you can to find a way to get out of your parents' house. I think that change of environment would do you a world of good. Nobody deserves to subjected to the verbal abuse you get from your parents. Period.

    Have you talked to a therapist about your issues? I'm assuming you have, but if you haven't, you should definitely do that. I also think support group meetings would really help you. 

    We're here for you, my dear. We will support and help you any way we can. We will also listen anytime you need to get anything off your chest, so don't hesitate to reach out and lean on us. 

    I'm sending you lots of love and light, along with positive energy and hope. Things can change for you. I know they can. 
  • @Dominica, @DeanD, Thank you both for the love and support, it really does mean a lot to me. I am currently working at a better job and starting to save money to get out of my parents house. I have been to a therapist once, but I didn't feel comfortable talking to her, I know with my disorder I need to find a support group or therapist, I am still searching for one near me. Thank you guys so much!
  • @Searing123... From my own experience, finding the right therapist is a lot like dating. The first therapist you go to isn't necessarily the one you'll "click" with. I went to three therapists before I found one that was the perfect fit for me. When you find the right therapist, it's much easier to talk to them. So if I were you, I wouldn't give up on therapy yet.

    We are all behind you 100 percent!
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