Narcissism vs Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD vs NPD)

Hey Optimist Minds, if you’ve had a nasty experience with a narcissist, you might have started seeing similar behaviour everywhere. You now have a radar for potential red flags and notice when people around you display narcissistic tendencies. 

But did you ever feel that some narcissists act differently from others? They might not show off or be visibly self-absorbed, but they’re still controlling and manipulative. It could be that they don’t portray themselves as superior but still inflict narcissistic abuse.

That’s because not all narcissists have Narcissistic Personality Disorder or NPD. Studies show that even Borderline Personality Disorder, or BPD, can cause narcissistic behaviour. Experts even believe that the narcissism associated with BPD, also called vulnerable narcissism, is more dysfunctional than the grandiose kind.

So what are the differences between BPD and NPD? How can you tell one from the other?

In this video, we are going to discuss the similarities and differences between the two disorders. Please note that the information discussed here is for educational purposes only. Do not use it to diagnose yourself or anyone else.

Having said that, let’s begin. 

First, let’s talk about what BPD and NPD have in common.

Number 1

The most visible similarity between people with BPD and NPD is an external locus of control. These individuals almost always blame external factors or other people for what happens to them. They find it hard to take accountability for their behaviour and tend to shift the fault elsewhere. 

Because of this, they might appear vindictive. Especially because they need to project any guilt or shame they experience. If you live with someone with either of these disorders, you might have been made to feel guilty for things you probably didn’t even do.

Number 2

In both these disorders, people’s feelings create facts. For example, you met your friend for a casual lunch but your partner, who suffers from BPD or NPD, felt jealous and insecure about it. Suddenly, they’re accusing you of cheating on them and keeping it a secret. Even if none of that is true, your partner believes it to be a fact just because they feel that way.

This tendency makes them controlling and deceitful. They might be spying on you, sabotaging your other relationships, and lying to you about it. Their stunted emotional development fills them with insecurity and shame. They deal with these negative feelings by being emotionally and verbally abusive to others.

As a result, all their relationships are unstable or impaired. On some days they worship you, on others, they can’t stand you. This is also called splitting or black-and-white thinking. 

Number 3

Generally, both BPD and NPD are associated with parental abuse and neglect. They behave like this because they were deprived of a healthy childhood.

Now that we’ve covered what’s common between the two disorders, let’s look at what makes them different.

Number 1

In BPD, abusive behaviour comes from a fear of abandonment. The person feels like you will leave them so tries to keep you close by hook or crook. Unfortunately, this is counterproductive as no one likes being controlled that way.

However, in NPD, the abuse is a way to secure narcissistic supply. By making you feel small and insignificant, the person reinforces their feelings of superiority.

Number 2

BPD causes people to experience varying and intense emotions, whereas emotions in NPD are quite shallow. They may try to display emotions but it doesn’t seem authentic. The only intense emotion you’ll see in someone with NPD is rage.

Number 3

People with BPD tend to have thoughts of suicide or self-harm. These are unlikely thoughts in NPD because of the feelings of grandiosity and entitlement. If the person has BPD, you’ll see signs of an unstable sense of self. On the other hand, someone with NPD will clearly show a strong sense of superiority.

Number 4

In relationships, BPD allows for a genuine interest in other people. They probably do mean it if they say they love you. But the problem is that they either over-identify or under-identify with other people’s feelings. You either find them clingy and overly attached or aloof to your problems and concerns.

In contrast, an essential diagnostic criterion of NPD is the utter lack of empathy. Such a person doesn’t care at all about you or your feelings. If they’re being nice or considerate, it’s only because showing care is a part of the cycle of abuse. Sooner or later, they’re going to remind you of just how little they care.

Number 5

Finally, mental health professionals have established well-researched treatments for BPD such as Dialectical Behaviour Therapy. 

But unfortunately, treatment for NPD still requires a lot more research. That’s probably because not many narcissists admit that they’re facing any problems because of their toxic tendencies and hence don’t seek help.

Do the similarities and differences between borderline and narcissistic personality disorder seem clearer to you now? Do you think you’ll be able to spot the differences in behaviour the next time you encounter a narcissist? Let us know in the comments. We’d love to know what you think.

A link for further reading, as well as the studies & references used in the making of this video, are mentioned in the description below. 

Thanks for visiting optimist minds, take care. Until next time.


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