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Borderline Personality Disorder

Brain Activity Behind BPD

The Brain Activity Behind Borderline Personality Disorder


In this post, we will look into a brief overview of the brain activity behind Borderline Personality Disorder.  In addition, we will look at how these processes affect our behavior in ways that require more than self-control to change.

The Limbic System

The limbic system is a set of brain structures including the amygdala and the hippocampus, among others.  It is one of the oldest parts of the brain.  If you can imagine the idea of the caveman, you can imagine the importance of functions like survival instincts.  Also, the fight-or-flight response to predators or danger, memory, and a reward system for learning new behaviors.  The limbic system uses an tricky balance of brain chemicals to perform these functions,

Amygdala and Hippocampus

The amygdala and hippocampus have been shown to be smaller in people with Borderline Personality Disorder, using imaging like fMRI scans.  These brain structures are related to memory recall and learning.  They involve attention, response mechanisms, emotional functioning.  They even play a part in understanding social information like interpreting emotions from other people’s faces.  As you’ve probably noticed, these are some of the main symptoms we struggle with as BPD survivors.  It’s no wonder we have difficulties with interpersonal relationships and unprovoked mood swings!

Prefrontal Cortex

Also connected with the functioning of the limbic system is the activity of the prefrontal cortex.  This area shows itself in fMRI scans to be underactive in the BPD brain.  The prefrontal cortex affects personality, planning, decision-making, and short-term memory.  It also influences the amount of self-control we have when we are emotional.  Unfortunately, low activity in the prefrontal cortex can include symptoms like impulsivity and self-destructive behaviors.  So besides being emotionally and physically overwhelmed, we are logically impaired.


In other words, the brain activity behind Borderline Personality Disorder indicates we have a medical problem.  A problem that requires medical treatment if we are to stand our best chances at lasting recovery.  Medicine alone won’t cure us.  We need to build new habits and new ways of thinking for healthy lifestyles and relationships.  But therapy may not be enough, without the proper medical attention.

The mind and body are intricately combined.  Therefore, treating one will help the other.  In the same way, neglecting one will harm the other.