Personality

Borderline and Narcissistic Personality: Differences and Similarities

These two personality disorders have many similarities and key differences.

Posted Feb 28, 2021 | Reviewed by Gary Drevitch

guest post by Randi Kreger

In this post, I am talking about the majority of people with borderline personality disorder (BPD) who are not in treatment and do not self-identify as having BPD. Nearly 40% of those with borderline personality disorder also have narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).1 A person can have one disorder and traits of the other as well. It helps to understand their similarities and differences. 

By FGC/Shutterstock
Source: By FGC/Shutterstock

Differences in BPD and NPD

For people with BPD, the major issue is a fear of abandonment. For people with narcissistic PD, the person’s major issue is feeding their ego through narcissistic supply.

For people with BPD, their emotions are variable and very intense. For people with NPD, their emotions may be shallow, except for rage.

People with BPD have a fear of both abandonment and engulfment. People with NPD may have a pervasive sense of grandiosity.

People with BPD can have suicidal thoughts or self-harm. People with NPD have a sense that they are entitled to the best of everything, and they do not have to follow the rules that other people do.

People with BPD outwardly exhibit feelings of abandonment, woundedness, and vulnerability. People with NPD have a tendency to exploit others.

People with BPD can have dissociation. People with NPD may have an exaggerated sense of importance.

People with BPD may have an unstable sense of self. People with NPD can have a strong sense of superiority.

People with BPD may have chronic feelings of emptiness. People with NPD may have no empathy for others.

People with BPD may have a genuine interest in other people. People with NPD do not try to get to know others, except to exploit, impress, or manipulate them.

Similarities Between NPD and BPD

Note: Again, I am speaking here of people with BPD who are not in treatment and do not self-identify as having BPD, which is the majority of people with BPD.

Both rely on other people to manage functions that most of us are able to manage ourselves. People with BPD look to others to manage their moods, while people with NPD want others to prop up their self-esteem.

Both live in alternative realities in which feelings create facts.

Both project their feelings of badness on to other people, who become the target of blame.

Both blame everybody but themselves; neither will admit that they were wrong or made a mistake.

Both can be critical and judgmental, and both have to be right at all times. Neither will take responsibility for their words and actions.

Both carry grudges, see themselves as victims, and expect loved ones to agree.

Both are unwilling to listen to what they don’t want to hear.

Both may become exceedingly jealous over little or nothing.

Both feel a great sense of shame, which they cover over with layers of self-deception.

Both often lie.

Both try to control other people in their environment to feel safe. People with BPD use that control to manage their emotional stability, while people with NPD may use it to prop up their self-esteem.

Both need plenty of attention.

Both are so busy getting their own needs met that they have a little energy left for others.

Both have stunted emotional development, and are impervious to logic when they are triggered.

Both can be emotionally and verbally abusive and so they have unstable or impaired relationships.

Both see things in black-and-white, with no shades of gray.

Randi Kreger is the author of Stop Walking on Eggshells and The Essential Family Guide to Borderline Personality Disorder.

References

1. Grant, B. F., S. P. Chou, R. B. Goldstein, B. Huang, F. S. Stinson, T. D. Saha, et al. 2008. “Prevalence, Correlates, Disability, and Comorbidity of DSM-IV Borderline Personality Disorder: Results from the Wave 2 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions.” Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 69 (4): 533–45, 538.