The Many Subtypes of Borderline Personality Disorder

August 25, 2014

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) has a wide range of symptoms and doesn't present the same way in everyone diagnosed. The primary symptoms of BPD include impulsivity, mood swings, inappropriate anger, fear of abandonment, difficulty with relationships, an unstable self-image, and intense emotions. Those suffering from BPD may have differing severities of each symptom.

Theodore Millon, a noted psychologist and author, published a book defining four distinct subtypes of borderline personality disorder. They include:

BPD is often comorbid with other disorders as well with overlapping symptoms (such as bipolar disorder and substance abuse disorder), making diagnosis problematic at times. There may even be other subtypes of BPD: affective, empty, aggressive, and dependent to name a few. More is being understood about BPD daily, and as more research is done, the terms will likely evolve further. For now, we will focus on the four defined by Milton.

Impulsive Borderline

The impulsive borderline will be prone to erratic actions as the name implies and likely be energetic and charismatic at times, and cold and hostile at other times. Those who suffer from impulsive borderline bore easily and are often engaging in reckless behavior and thrill-seeking activities.

Lack of impulse control is a major symptom of all suffering from borderline personality disorder, but in the case of the impulsive borderline, it can be even further exaggerated. Impulsive borderlines are also prone to self-mutilation and suicidal behavior. They may be quick to anger and resistant to seeking treatment.

Petulant Borderline

The petulant borderline is also sometimes referred to as the angry subtype. Those who suffer from it can waffle between feeling unworthy and explosive anger. They can be fearful, anxious, possessive, controlling, and jealous. Petulant borderlines fear rejection and abandonment, as do all those suffering from BPD, and they tend to vacillate between this and their need to rely on people. They may be irritable and overprotective, and they have a hard time soothing themselves, increasing their tendencies to develop a substance abuse or eating disorder in an attempt to combat this.

Discouraged Borderline

Discouraged borderlines are also often thought of as dependent. They are often clingy and passive as well as reliant on on others. They tend to turn feelings of anger inward and are prone to episodes of self-mutilation and suicidal behavior. The feelings of emptiness and intolerance of being alone indicative of BPD are exacerbated in a discouraged borderline.

Self-Destructive Borderline

As the name implies, the self-destructive borderline likely harbors intense feelings of bitterness and self-hatred, leading them to self-destructive behaviors. They are attention-seekers, generally high-strung and moody. Their self-destructive behavior (also known as self-injurious behavior) can range from reckless driving and substance abuse to risky sexual behavior and eating disorders.

Getting Help

Borderline personality disorder is a complex disorder with many layers and facets to it. There are many different subtypes, and no case is the same. BPD also often overlaps with other disorders like substance abuse disorders, eating disorders, anxiety disorders, and depression to name a few. This can make diagnosis difficult.

Those suffering from borderline personality disorder, regardless of the BPD subtypes, may have an unstable self-image and engage in self-destructive behavior. Treatment options are available, and research indicates that results are positive. With the right tools, individuals can learn to manage their symptoms successfully. OPI strives to treat each person as a whole individual and not just focus on the disorder, helping to teach life skills and change behaviors in a positive way. Many forms of therapy exist to treat BPD, and OPI is confident our skilled professionals can help each individual work towards a brighter tomorrow.