11 Reasons for BPD Violence, Abuse [Causes and Explanation]

As discussed in the research article "21 Facts & Statistics: BPD Violence And Relationship Abuse," BPD is highly associated with violence:

  1. 37% of partners of individuals diagnosed with BPD experienced either physical or psychological violence from their BPD partner
  2. 27% of females arrested for domestic violence perpetration meet the criteria for BPD
  3. 50% of female BPD patients report assault versus 26% of males
  4. Men with higher levels of BPD symptoms are more often found among batterers in both violent and nonviolent crimes
37% BPD Partners Face Violence Statistics Datingarmory_com

(See research article for full statistics and citations.)

But what about BPD causes these patterns of aggressive behavior and victimhood, both in their intimate relationships and broader social interactions?

Here are 11 factors that may contribute to this phenomenon:

BPD Violence and Abuse Causes Explanation thumbnail datingarmory_com

As always, all graphics are 100% free to share under the CC BY-NC-SA license. 

1. Emotional Instability

Individuals with BPD frequently grapple with emotional instability, a core feature of the disorder.

This instability can manifest in:

  1. Intense mood swings
  2. Heightened sensitivities
  3. Strong reactions to perceived slights or threats of abandonment

In the context of intimate relationships, this emotional turbulence can sometimes lead them to engage in behaviors that, to others, may seem like harassment.

For instance:

A BPD individual might repeatedly call or text their partner, fearing abandonment, or may become overly accusatory due to misconstrued perceptions.

These behaviors, stemming from their emotional challenges, can inadvertently create a pattern that their partners perceive as harassing or overwhelming. [1]

2. Heightened Emotional Reactions

Individuals diagnosed with BPD frequently exhibit heightened emotional reactions, where their instinctive response to intense negative emotions appears as an intrinsic, almost reflexive, reaction.

This deeply ingrained pattern, possibly influenced by genetic predisposition or early life encounters, may manifest as reactive aggression or violent behavior when confronted with overwhelming negative sensations. [2, 3]

3. Passive-Aggressive Communication

Individuals with BPD often use a passive-aggressive communication style and may lack effective conflict resolution skills, leading to hostile behaviors within relationships. [4]

4. Interpersonal Sensitivity

Adults displaying borderline characteristics often report increased interpersonal sensitivity and distress, predisposing them to conflicts [5]

5. Childhood Trauma And Adult Relationships

Individuals with BPD often experience significantly higher instances of childhood maltreatment, which profoundly influences their adult intimate relationships.

For instance, BPD patients are 13 times more likely to report a history of childhood maltreatment compared to healthy participants

Within this group:

  • 48.9% reported experiences of physical neglect
  • 42.5% emotional abuse
  • 36.4% physical abuse
  • 32.1% sexual abuse
  • 25.3% emotional neglect
BPD patients are 13 times more likely to report a history of childhood maltreatment compared to healthy participants datingarmory_com

These early-life traumas frequently manifest in adult relationships, as individuals with BPD may recreate or 'mirror' such violent experiences. [6, 15]

6. Antisocial Traits In The Male Partners

52.9% of male partners of women with BPD meet the criteria for antisocial personality disorder, as evidenced by symptoms of conduct disorder before age 15.

This predisposition is known to foster aggressive behavior, which invariably influences the dynamics of the relationship. [7]

52.9% of male partners of women with BPD meet the criteria for antisocial personality disorder datingarmory_com

This situation is further complicated by the elevated prevalence of other personality disorders among male partners in these relationships.


44% are diagnosed with a personality disorder, a rate substantially greater than the 9%-14% observed in the general population. [14]

Disproportionate Prevalence of Personality Disorders Among Men in Relationships with BPD Women statistics datingarmory_com

7. Codependency And Increased Victimization

People with BPD, who demonstrate pronounced codependency by frequently placing their partner's needs above their own, may be less likely to resist abuse, leading to increased victimization. [8, 9]

Click below to to learn more BPD relationship facts & statistics:

BPD Marriage, Divorce & Parenthood Statistics Thumbnail DatingArmory_com

8. Emotional Needs And Manipulation

The feelings of unmet emotional needs can lead individuals to become vulnerable to manipulation and abuse, resulting in victimization.

Conversely, trying to satisfy these needs might drive some to exert control over others, leading them to become perpetrators. [10]

9. Coping Mechanisms: Victimization And Perpetration

When distressed, some BPD individuals might seek to regulate their negative emotions through victimization, seeing it as a form of validation or attention.

Conversely, others might perpetrate abuse as a way to regain control or divert their own feelings of powerlessness.

Both behaviors serve as coping mechanisms, albeit unhealthy ones, to manage overwhelming emotions. [11]

10. Adolescent BPD And Gender-Specific Violence

In adolescents, the expression of BPD varies between genders, potentially explaining the disparities in TDV and overall violence patterns.

Specifically, male adolescents with BPD often exhibit externalizing issues and pronounced anger, whereas female adolescents tend to show internalizing challenges alongside emotional dysregulation. [12]

11. Emotion Regulation And Victim Impact

Deficient emotion regulation in BPD females may trigger violent reactions from their male dating partners, leading to the increased instances of victimization. [13]

Read more: 63 Signs, Challenges and Examples of a BPD Marriage


In summary, while some research suggests a correlation between Borderline Personality Disorder and instances of violence or abuse, it's critical to approach this complex issue with nuance and sensitivity.

Not all individuals with BPD engage in violent or abusive behavior, and many are more likely to be victims than perpetrators.

The multifaceted nature of BPD, often influenced by a range of environmental, genetic, and psychological factors, makes it unwise to generalize or stigmatize.

Understanding the intricate interplay of these factors can offer valuable insights into both the disorder and the actions of those diagnosed with it, but should never be used to stereotype or discriminate. It's crucial to remember that every individual is unique and that mental health issues like BPD are just one part of a larger, more complex human experience.


[1] Holmbeck, G. N. (1997). Toward terminological, conceptual, and statistical clarity in the study of mediators and moderators: Examples from the child-clinical and pediatric psychology literatures. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 65(4), 599–610. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-006X.65.4.599 

[2] Kingsbury, S. J., Lambert, M. T., & Hendrickse, W. (1997). A two-factor model of aggression. Psychiatry: Interpersonal and Biological Processes, 60, 224–232.

[3] Reuter, T. R., Sharp, C., Temple, J., & Babcock, J. C. (2015). The relation between borderline personality disorder features and teen dating violence. Psychology of Violence, 5(2), 163–173. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0037891

[4] Christensen, A., & Shenk, J. L. (1991). Communication, conflict, and psychological distance in non distressed, clinic, and divorcing couples. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 59(3), 458–463. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-006X.59.3.458 

[5] Trull, T. J. (1995). Borderline personality disorder features in nonclinical young adults: I. Identification and validation. Psychological Assessment, 7, 33–41. doi:10.1037/1040-3590.7.1.33

[6] Stepp SD, Smith TD, Morse JQ, Hallquist MN, Pilkonis PA. Prospective associations among borderline personality disorder symptoms, interpersonal problems, and aggressive behaviors. J Interpers Violence. 2012 Jan;27(1):103-24. doi: 10.1177/0886260511416468. Epub 2011 Aug 22. PMID: 21859760; PMCID: PMC3575083.

[7] Bouchard, S., Sabourin, S., Lussier, Y. and Villeneuve, E. (2009), Relationship Quality and Stability in Couples When One Partner Suffers From Borderline Personality Disorder. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 35: 446-455. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1752-0606.2009.00151.x 

[8] Krueger, R. F., Eaton, N. R., Derringer, J., Markon, K. E., Watson, D., & Skodol, A. E. (2011). Personality in DSM-5: helping delineate personality disorder content and framing the metastructure. Journal of personality assessment, 93(4), 325–331. https://doi.org/10.1080/00223891.2011.577478

[9] Bhatia, V., Davila, J., Eubanks-Carter, C., & Burckell, L. A. (2013). Appraisals of daily romantic relationship experiences in individuals with borderline personality disorder features. Journal of Family Psychology, 27(3), 518–524. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0032870

[10] Dutton, D. G. (2006). Rethinking domestic violence. Vancouver, Canada: UBC.

[11] Keltner, D., & Kring, A. M. (1998). Emotion, social function, and psychopathology. Review of General Psychology, 2, 320–342. doi:10.1037/ 1089-2680.2.3.320

[12] Bradley, R., Conklin, C., & Westen, D. (2005). The borderline personality diagnosis in adolescents: Gender differences and subtypes. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 46, 1006–1019. doi:10.1111/j.1469- 7610.2004.00401.x

[13] Zanarini, M. C., Frankenburg, F. R., Reich, D., Marino, M. F., Haynes, M. C., & Gunderson, J. G. (1999). Violence in the lives of adult borderline patients. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 187, 65–71. doi:10.1097/00005053-199902000-00001 

[14] Charitat, H., and L. Schmitt. "Épidémiologie des troubles de la personnalité." Les troubles de la personnalité. Médecine-Sciences (2002): 123-134.

[15] Porter, C.; Palmier-Claus, J.; Branitsky, A.; Mansell, W.; Warwick, H.; Varese, F. Childhood adversity and borderline personality disorder: A meta-analysis. Acta Psychiatr. Scand. 2020, 141, 6–20.

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About the author 

Coach Colt here, the founder of Dating Armory, your go-to source for no-nonsense, practical relationship advice. I'm a bisexual male in a same-sex open relationship and a researcher in sex, love, and relationships with 7+ years of experience. I specialize in helping both men and women navigate the crazy world of dating.

Don't miss my other guides packed with practical dating advice (no bullshit repeated Platitudes) and tons of real life examples:

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