Borderline personality disorder (BPD) and narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) are two mental health conditions that can cause significant distress and impairment—this BPD vs. NPD overview will show you the key differences between the two.
They share some similarities, such as patterns of impulsivity and difficulty maintaining relationships. However, there are also critical differences between the two disorders. People with BPD tend to have a greater fear of abandonment and may engage in self-destructive behaviors, whereas people with NPD are more likely to be preoccupied with their success and power.
Learn in This Article
- BPD Symptoms vs. NPD Symptoms
- BPD Symptom Criteria
- NPD Symptom Criteria
- Motivations and Behavior
- Differences Between BPD and NPD
- Similarities Between BPD and NPD
- Can Someone Be Both Borderline and Narcissistic
- What Is a Borderline Narcissist
BPD Symptoms vs. NPD Symptoms
Borderline or narcissist?
For those who suffer from BPD, the symptoms can be all-consuming and significantly impact every aspect of their lives. By contrast, those with NPD generally only experience symptoms when interacting with other people.
However, both disorders share some common symptoms, such as a lack of empathy or sympathy for others, difficulty maintaining healthy relationships, and deep insecurity. The main difference lies in the severity of the signs and how they are expressed.
BPD Symptom Criteria
Individuals with borderline personality disorder experience a wide range of symptomatology.
According to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), individuals with BPD must display at least five of the nine listed symptoms to receive a diagnosis. The nine symptoms include
- Fear of abandonment;
- Intense and unstable relationships;
- Unclear or shifting self-image;
- Impulsive, self-destructive behaviors;
- Extreme emotional swings;
- Chronic feelings of emptiness;
- Out of touch with reality;
- Explosive anger.
While these symptoms can be incredibly distressing for both individuals with BPD and those around them, it is essential to remember that BPD is a treatable condition. With the help of a qualified mental health professional, individuals with BPD can learn to cope with their symptoms and lead happy and healthy lives.
NPD Symptom Criteria
Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental condition characterized by an inflated sense of self-importance, a need for admiration, and a lack of compassion—although the scope and the intensity of these might vary depending on if we’re talking about vulnerable narcissism or grandiose narcissism.
Just like for any personality disorder, the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) indicate that individuals with NPD must display at least five of the nine listed symptoms to receive a diagnosis. The nine symptoms include
- Grandiose sense of self-importance;
- Preoccupation with fantasies of success, power, or beauty;
- Belief that one is special and unique;
- Need for excessive admiration;
- Sense of entitlement;
- Lack of empathy;
- Exploitative behavior towards others;
- Arrogant and haughty demeanor; and
- Strong feelings of envy.
Like BPD, NPD is a treatable condition.
Motivations and Behavior
A deep fear of abandonment often drives people with borderline personality disorder. As a result, they may go to great lengths to avoid being alone or feeling rejected. They may also engage in self-destructive behaviors, such as cutting themselves, to numb their pain.
People with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) are motivated by a need for admiration and approval. Because of this, they may behave in ways designed to make them look good or feel important. They may also take advantage of others or be excessively critical of them.
Differences Between BPD and NPD
Although Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) are both personality disorders that can cause problems in interpersonal relationships, there are some key differences between the two—more obvious than between BPD and bipolar.
- BPD is characterized by a fear of abandonment, whereas those with NPD typically view other people as either an extension of themselves or as obstacles to be overcome
- People with BPD are more likely to self-harm and attempt suicide, while people with NPD are more likely to be harmful and verbally abusive towards others.
- BPD is typically treated with therapy, while NPD is typically treated with medication.
- People with BPD are more likely to have unstable relationships, while people with NPD are more likely to have difficulty empathizing with others.
BPD-diagnosed people are typically more prone to impulsive and self-destructive behavior, while those with NPD are more likely to exhibit grandiose behavior and a sense of entitlement. This is why when a narcissist’s ego is wounded—what we’d call narcissistic injury,—the mental repercussions can be extreme for them.
Although both disorders can be challenging to deal with, understanding the key differences can help to provide better treatment for each individual.
Similarities Between BPD and NPD
Characterized by problems with emotional regulation, impulsivity, and unstable relationships, both disorders share some common symptoms, including
- Intense mood swings
- Unstable relationships
- A sense of entitlement
- Manipulative behavior
- A lack of empathy
Both groups may also engage in self-harming behaviors such as cutting or substance abuse.
Can Someone Be Both Borderline and Narcissistic
While someone can meet the diagnostic criteria for both Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), it is essential to note that these are two distinct disorders with different causes, symptoms, and treatments. It’s more often that someone simply displays borderline personality disorder with narcissistic traits.
Someone can have features of both disorders, but this is typically rare.
What Is a Borderline Narcissist
A borderline narcissist meets the criteria for both Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD—typically someone who has BPD with narcissistic features. This is a rare condition that would require an expert evaluation to diagnose.
If you think you or someone you know may be struggling with this disorder, it is vital to seek professional help.
BPD vs. NPD FAQ
Yes. BPD and NPD share some common symptoms, making it difficult to diagnose one or the other accurately.
Both BPD and NPD involve feelings of grandiosity and a need for admiration from others and a lack of empathy. However, people with NPD are typically more concerned with maintaining their image of perfection, while those with BPD are more prone to mood swings and self-destructive behaviors.
How do borderline personality disorder vs. narcissism relate to each other?
There is a lot of debate on this topic, as with most issues related to personality disorders. However—from what we know—there is indeed a link between narcissism and BPD.
It’s believed that people with BPD often develop narcissistic traits due to their constant fear of abandonment and instability in their sense of self. In other words, they develop these traits to protect themselves from further hurt—it’s crucial to learn BPD vs. NPD differences to be able to help yourself and others.