One Way To Tell If You Might Be Developing A Borderline Personality

New research finds that self-disgust can be a precursor to Borderline Personality Disorder.

By Mark Travers, Ph.D. | April 9, 2022

A new study appearing in Personality and Individual Differences recognizes the presence of 'self-disgust' in adolescents as a sign that they may be in danger of developing Borderline Personality Disorder later in life.

"Although personality disorders are usually diagnosed in adults, they present a developmental path and initial symptoms that can be detected at early ages," explain researchers Diogo Carreiras, Marina Cunha, and Paula Castilho. "This was why we decided to study borderline symptoms in adolescence."

According to previous research, the following emotional patterns and behaviors are among the most common symptoms of BPD:

  • Feelings of abandonment and hyper-reactivity to rejection
  • Feelings of emptiness
  • A negative self-view often with harsh self-criticism
  • Emotional instability
  • Impulsivity
  • Risk behaviors, including self-harm

Precursors to BPD that typically manifest themselves during adolescence are as follows:

  • High impulsivity
  • Suicidal behaviors
  • Paranoid ideation (i.e., being suspicious about others' intentions)
  • Emotional instability
  • Uncontrolled anger

The researchers discovered self-disgust — defined as the emotion of disgust/revulsion directed at personal aspects and characteristics — to be another important risk factor in developing Borderline Personality Disorder after following the development of 158 adolescents over a six-month period.

"If adolescents view themselves as undesirable, repulsive and bad, they have increased risk to grow borderline symptoms," say the researchers. "Our results raise evidence that self-disgust should be targeted by psychological interventions to prevent adolescents' borderline features from evolving into a personality disorder."

Self-disgust is typically associated with a persistent feeling of being irreversibly bad, repulsive, or flawed in people with BPD. As a result, you may experience harsh self-criticism, self-hatred, or self-loathing. Previous experiences of invalidation, insecurity, or abuse can sometimes explain it.

The researchers have some words of advice for anyone experiencing feelings of self-disgust, or for guardians who may notice these behavioral patterns in loved ones:

  1. Don't be afraid to ask for help. This requires courage, but there are qualified people who can assist you in finding solutions to the problems you or your loved ones are experiencing.
  2. Learn to love yourself from the bottom to the top. Every human being is flawed. Accept yourself as you are and strive to be more of what you want to be. We all have a lot more goodness in us than we realize.
  3. Your feelings are valid and true but they don't define who you are. There are numerous research-backed approaches to managing BPD symptoms, but they all begin with self-acceptance and self-respect.

Early signs of BPD, according to the researchers, necessitate professional intervention when people suffer intensely as a result of it, isolate themselves from others, give up on their dreams or ambitions, or engage in self-harming behaviors. BPD can coexist with other disorders such as depression, anorexia, and/or post-traumatic stress disorder in some cases.

The researchers hope to develop group intervention programs for at-risk adolescents that can be implemented in schools in the future.

"This intervention program would be designed to teach practical skills and cultivate self-compassion in adolescents," say the researchers. "We believe that a kinder and more positive self-relationship could counteract the harmful effect of self-disgust and may help prevent the development of Borderline Personality Disorder. Prevention is better than cure."

A full interview with the researchers discussing their work on BPD and self-disgust can be found here: This one trait in teenagers might lead to Borderline Personality Disorder