Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) are both personality disorders, but they have distinct characteristics and patterns of behavior. Here are the key differences between the two (Please note that the absence or presence of one of more of these traits does not necessarily necessitate a diagnoses. A skilled clinician that has spent the time with these individuals and done the appropriate interviewing and utilized psychometric tools is the only way to properly diagnose. Harm can be done when applying these labels in an inappropriate manner. Females are typically disproportionally diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and Males with Narcissistic Personality Disorder):
Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD):
- Emotional Instability: Individuals with BPD often experience intense and rapidly shifting emotions. They may have extreme mood swings, going from deep despair to intense anger or elation in a short period.
- Impulsivity: People with BPD may engage in impulsive behaviors, such as reckless spending, substance abuse, binge eating, or risky sexual behavior. These actions often occur in response to emotional distress.
- Unstable Relationships: Individuals with BPD often struggle with forming and maintaining stable, healthy relationships. They may have a fear of abandonment and go to great lengths to avoid real or perceived rejection.
- Identity Issues: BPD is often associated with an unstable self-image. People with this disorder may have difficulty defining who they are, which can lead to frequent changes in goals, values, and career choices.
- Self-Harming Behavior: Self-harm, such as cutting or burning, is more common among individuals with BPD as a way to cope with emotional pain.
- Intense Fear of Abandonment: Individuals with BPD often have an intense and irrational fear of abandonment, which can lead to clinginess or dramatic reactions when they feel rejected or abandoned.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD):
- Grandiosity: One of the hallmark features of NPD is an inflated sense of self-importance and superiority. People with NPD often have a strong need for admiration and believe they are unique and deserving of special treatment.
- Impaired Empathy: Individuals with NPD typically have impaired empathy for others and have difficulty recognizing or understanding the feelings and needs of others. It is important to point out that they have empathy, but their defensive structures impair it to varying degrees. Further, people whom suffer with NPD are generally not psychopathic in nature, but in some cases Anti-Social Personality Disorder can be co-occurring.
- Sense of Entitlement: NPD is characterized by a sense of entitlement, where individuals believe they deserve special privileges and often expect favorable treatment without reciprocation.
- Fragile Self-Esteem: Paradoxically, beneath the grandiose exterior, individuals with NPD often have fragile self-esteem. They are highly sensitive to criticism or perceived slights, which can trigger anger or defensiveness.
- Difficulty in Relationships: People with NPD may have difficulty maintaining healthy relationships because they tend to prioritize their own needs and view others as tools to boost their self-esteem or achieve their goals.
- Fantasies of Success and Power: NPD individuals often daydream about success, power, beauty, or ideal love. They may become preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, brilliance, or beauty.
In summary, while both BPD and NPD involve challenges in interpersonal relationships and can be associated with emotional distress, BPD is characterized by emotional instability, impulsivity, and fear of abandonment. NPD is characterized by a need to prop ones sense of self up with grandiosity, and an inflated sense of self-importance (ie people collecting), and it is also characterized by and impaired empathy towards other beings. It’s important to note that these symptoms usually develop earlier on in life as defense mechanisms to protect themselves from the neglect and/or abuse that they endured. These individuals may have overlapping traits or co-occurring conditions, making accurate diagnosis and treatment essential for their well-being.
Everyone deserves compassion; however if you are close with someone whom exhibits these traits take steps to take care of your mental health and physical needs. You may want to seek support from your social network, and a therapist to help you cope. If you find yourself in an abusive and/or unhealthy situation, or may at risk, reach out to your support networks (family, friends…) or the local crisis line to find resources that can help you.