I touched on this in my last post and it made me realise so many people aren’t aware of the neurological differences between a borderline’s brain and a healthy brain so I thought I’d wake ya up with some knowledge, I’m not a scientist but what I knows I gives so you’re welcome.
Similar to other mental disorders we know that genetics and biological factors coincide with environmental factors to cause and maintain BPD but in recent years more research has been carried out to determine the biological differences and their significance. People with Borderline Personality disorder have brain abnormalities in key areas within what is called the limbic system as well as the frontal regions of the brain , within the limbic system we have key areas that play a part in mood regulation as well as behaviour control and decision making.
The amygdala are responsible for emotions and motivations such as fear and anger but we have recently discovered they are also active during the processing of positive stimuli as well. In other words the amygdala are very important in regards to analyzing a situation and reacting logically. In a borderline brain the amygdala do not function correctly and are smaller in size; the smaller the amygdala the more active which can then result in emotional sensitivity. It also means that when a borderline experiences an emotion it takes longer to ‘cool off’ from said emotion than a healthy person.
The hippocampus is in charge of short and long term memory and more importantly, emotional regulation. When we encounter something in the world and we take it in via our visual cortex the hippocampus decides what we do with that information, in borderline brains this does not function properly and an abnormal reaction is observed for example, flying into a rage over a perceived negative facial expression.
We see atrophy of the hippocampus in BPD patients the same way we see it in patients suffering with post traumatic stress disorder which is linked to increases in impulsivity and aggressive behaviour.
The hypothalamus is responsible for the production of many important chemicals. For the purpose of this article we’ll focus on the production of cortisol and it’s abnormalities within a borderline brain. Cortisol is a chemical that is released during stressful situations and in tests we see that borderline patients have higher levels of cortisol in their system than healthy patients meaning everyday events are perceived as stressful to a borderline patient. These high levels of cortisol result in diminished cells in the hippocampus which impairs memory (another symptom of BPD)
Interestingly, the borderline brain is regarded by some in the same way we view the chicken and the egg conundrum in that we still don’t know if the abnormalities within a borderline brain are a result of childhood trauma or are what cause the disorder in the first place but based on a borderline’s brain production of cortisol and the fact that we know the chemical is released as a response to stressful events it is a fair assumption to deduce that the brain’s functioning is a result of trauma rather than the other way round.
I find it really useful knowing there are chemical differences in my brain rather than feeling like I’m a weirdo and a drama queen. So much of our struggles are seen as attention seeking and narcissistic so it can be a real comfort at times to realise the extreme reactions we have to events are not our fault.
wishing you a good week,