4 Types of Borderline Personality Disorder

Medically reviewed by Dr. Mark Hrymoc, M.D.

While Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a singular diagnosis, it manifests in various forms, leading to the conceptualization of different subtypes. These subtypes, though not officially recognized in diagnostic manuals, offer insight into the diverse presentations of BPD.

Borderline Personality Disorder, a complex mental health condition, often bewilders both those who experience it and the professionals who treat it.

This disorder embodies a spectrum of symptoms that vary widely among individuals, making a one-size-fits-all approach ineffective. To better understand and address the varied manifestations of BPD, clinicians have proposed four subtypes, each reflecting unique patterns of behavior and challenges.

In this article, you will learn more about the different types of borderline personality disorder and the treatment options available.

Understanding Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline Personality Disorder is characterized by intense emotional instability, impulsive behaviors, and a distorted self-image, often leading to tumultuous relationships and self-harm.

Patients with BPD experience a wide range of symptoms, including fear of abandonment, rapid mood swings, feelings of emptiness, and a chronic sense of instability. The disorder typically results from genetic, environmental, and social factors, and its onset is most common in adolescence or early adulthood.

BPD affects about 1.6% of the adult population, and while it is a challenging condition, with appropriate treatment, individuals can lead fulfilling lives.

4 Types of Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline Personality Disorder, in its complexity, presents in various forms. Recognizing the different subtypes helps in tailoring treatment approaches.

These subtypes include the Discouraged, Impulsive, Petulant, and Self-Destructive types, each with distinct characteristics.

Here’s what you need to know about the four types of borderline personality disorder.

Discouraged Borderline

Depressive features, such as feelings of inadequacy, worthlessness, and intense fear of abandonment, often characterize the Discouraged Borderline subtype.

Individuals with this subtype may exhibit dependent and clingy behavior and a pessimistic outlook. They often struggle with self-esteem and may turn to self-harm as a coping mechanism. These individuals crave acceptance and fear rejection, which can lead to a cycle of intense and unstable relationships.

Common characteristics of Discouraged Borderline:

  • Intense Fear of Abandonment: Experiencing overwhelming fear of being left alone or rejected.
  • Dependent Behavior: Tendency to rely excessively on others for emotional support and validation.
  • Low Self-Esteem: Persistent feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness.
  • Pessimistic Outlook: A generally negative and hopeless view of life and relationships.
  • Self-Harm: Engaging in self-injurious behaviors as a coping mechanism.
  • Mood Swings: Experiencing rapid and intense shifts in mood, often triggered by perceived threats of abandonment or rejection.

Therapy for this subtype focuses on building self-esteem, fostering independence, and developing healthier relationship patterns.

Impulsive Borderline

Individuals with the Impulsive Borderline subtype are characterized by their charisma, energy, and tendency for thrill-seeking behaviors.

They often act on impulse without considering the consequences, leading to risky behaviors such as substance abuse, reckless driving, or promiscuity. While they can be engaging and lively, their impulsivity can cause significant problems in their personal and professional lives.

Common characteristics of Impulsive Borderline:

Risk-Taking Behaviors: Engaging in dangerous or reckless activities without considering the consequences.
Impulsivity in Decision-Making: Making hasty decisions without considering long-term effects.
Charm and Charisma: Displaying a lively, engaging, and charismatic demeanor.
Unstable Relationships: Forming quick and intense relationships prone to sudden and dramatic shifts.
Mood Instability: Experiencing rapid mood changes, often in response to external stimuli.
Substance Abuse: A tendency to misuse alcohol, drugs, or other substances as a means of coping or seeking thrills.

Treatment for this subtype involves learning impulse control, emotional regulation, and strategies to manage risk-taking behaviors.

Petulant Borderline

The Petulant Borderline subtype is marked by unpredictable moods, irritability, and a tendency toward feeling unworthy or neglected.

These individuals often exhibit passive-aggressive behaviors and struggle with anger and resentment. They may oscillate between feelings of dependency and rejection, making their relationships particularly volatile.

Common characteristics of Petulant Borderline:

  • Unpredictable Moods: Exhibiting frequent and sudden changes in mood and temperament.
  • Passive-Aggressive Behavior: Indirectly expressing anger or hostility, often resentful or oppositional.
  • Feelings of Unworthiness: Persistent feelings of being undeserving of love or happiness.
  • Difficulty with Anger Management: Struggling to control or express anger healthily.
  • Volatile Relationships: Experiencing intense but unstable relationships characterized by conflict and mistrust.
  • Fear of Rejection and Abandonment: Intense anxiety about being rejected or abandoned, even in stable relationships.

Therapy for the Petulant subtype focuses on anger management, emotional expression, and developing stable and consistent interpersonal relationships.

Self-Destructive Borderline

Self-destructive Borderline individuals often engage in self-harming behaviors and have a profound sense of self-loathing.

They might indulge in self-sabotage, neglect self-care, and put themselves in harmful situations. This subtype struggles with a deep sense of emptiness and often exhibits suicidal behavior or thoughts.

Common characteristics of Self-Destructive Borderline:

  • Self-Harming Behaviors: Engaging in deliberate self-injury, such as cutting or burning.
  • Suicidal Thoughts or Behaviors: Frequent thoughts of suicide or suicidal behaviors.
  • Chronic Feelings of Emptiness: A pervasive sense of emptiness or void, often leading to a lack of purpose or direction.
  • Severe Self-Loathing: Intense and persistent feelings of self-hatred or disgust.
  • Neglect of Personal Well-being: Ignoring personal health, hygiene, or safety needs.
  • Impulsivity in Harmful Situations: Recklessly placing oneself in harmful or dangerous situations without regard for personal safety.

Treatment centers on safety planning, building a sense of self-worth, and developing coping strategies to manage destructive impulses.

Challenges in Diagnosing BPD Subtypes

Diagnosing the specific subtypes of Borderline Personality Disorder presents numerous challenges.

The symptoms of BPD are fluid and can overlap significantly between subtypes, making clear-cut categorization difficult. Additionally, these subtypes are not recognized in official diagnostic manuals, leading to inconsistencies in diagnosis and treatment.

Mental health professionals must carefully evaluate each individual, considering their unique symptoms and life experiences, to provide the most effective treatment.

Treatment Approaches for Borderline Personality Disorder

Treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder typically involves a combination of psychotherapy and medication.

The most effective psychotherapeutic approach is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), which focuses on teaching skills for emotional regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is also beneficial in identifying and changing negative thought patterns.

Medications, such as mood stabilizers and antidepressants, can be used to manage specific symptoms.

The key to successful treatment is a personalized approach that addresses the individual’s unique challenges and needs.

Contact Mental Health Center in Los Angeles

If you or someone you know is struggling with symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder, the psychiatrists and psychotherapists working with Mental Health Center in Los Angeles offer comprehensive and personalized care.

These experienced professionals are dedicated to providing the highest quality treatment tailored to each individual’s unique needs. We understand the complexities of BPD and are here to support you on your journey towards healing and wellness.

Contact us today to learn more about services and how you or your loved one can achieve better mental health.