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The 4 Borderline Personality Subtypes

Updated: Aug 9, 2023

Borderline Personality Disorder(BPD) is a difficult disorder to diagnose, and it often overlaps with other personality disorders. When someone is diagnosed with BPD, it can still express itself very differently per individual. There are 4 subtypes of BPD: the discouraged borderline, the impulsive, the self-destructive, and the petulant.

Can you have all subtypes of BPD?

Despite the fact that there are 4 subtypes of BPD, an individual can find themselves in one or more, all or none of the subtypes. Borderlines do not all experience the same symptoms: some will have them more severe, while some will have just a couple of symptoms. Both will need help, but differently. The reason BPD is not the same for anyone is that BPD is a personality disorder that works on a spectrum. Additionally, the cause for BPD changes for everyone (genetic, psychological, environmental).

1. The Discouraged Borderline

This category is characterized by avoidant and depressive patterns. The discouraged Borderline has a “follower” mentality, completely lacking leadership and own opinions. Especially forthcoming in this group is a dependent and almost parasitic clinginess. A discouraged borderline finds a relationship where he/she can be submissive.

Discouraged Borderlines live in fear and helplessness, amplified by their lack of security in interpersonal relationships. This lack preoccupies them, and this is when the depression comes in. As soon as they find someone, they merge their identity with one of their partners, clinging even more to the relationship.

When discouraged borderlines have a depressive personality, they tend to be “proper”: they are respectful of authority and are grim and humorless. Discouraged borderline personality is also referred to as quiet borderline.

Some other signs found in the discouraged borderline are:

  • Excessive loyalty

  • Easily swayed by others

  • Constant feeling of dread/jeopardy

  • Feelings of worthlessness

  • Overly humble (as a result of the feelings of worthlessness)

  • Perfectionist

  • Successful/high functioning

  • Seek approval but also self-isolate

  • Self-harm or suicidal behavior

2. The Impulsive Borderline

This category is mixed with histrionic and antisocial personalities.

The histrionic personality is overly attention-seeking, excessively seductive, and in need of constant approval. The antisocial personality (also called sociopathy) is characterized by a lack of regard for right and wrong and a general absence of remorse.

When an impulsive borderline is not receiving constant attention, he/she will turn impulsive, seductive, and irresponsible. When the borderline leans towards the histrionic pattern, he/she (but most often she) will be more behaviorally hyperactive, showing superficial excitement, and a general dysregulation of positive effects. On the other hand, when the borderline leans more towards the antisocial pattern, he/she (more often he) becomes more impulsive and thoughtless.

The origin of the impulsive borderline lies in the environment they grew up in; often where drama was encouraged. The impulsive borderline was only really acknowledged if he was being exhibitionistic, dramatic, and over the top. Because Impulsive Borderlines are so centered on external judgment, they rarely form their own identity, making them even more unstable.

Other signs an individual with impulsive BPD may show are:

  • Charisma

  • Flirty

  • Engaging/motivating

  • A lot of energy

  • detached

3. The Petulant Borderline

The Petulant Borderline is passive-aggressive, unpredictable, irritable, complaining, pessimistic, stubborn, and overall resentful and envious. They cannot stand when others find happiness, they hate those they are closest with. This hate then turns inward and becomes guilt and a sense of worthlessness.

Typical of the petulant borderline is faking somatic symptoms to gain attention and burden others. Like the other types, the petulant borderline will have problems in relationships. They desperately want love and approval from those closest to them, but don't know how to ask for it. This inability turns into frustration, and eventually into hate towards the person they care for the most. The petulant borderline claims they aren't loved and cared for, when in fact they are the ones not being able to express and show love and affection.

4. The Self-destructive Borderline

All borderlines are inherently self-destructive, but this category turns almost masochistic. Individuals with this type of BPD have intense feelings of self-hatred, and cannot phantom how people can like them. They have a very unstable self-image and are extremely prone to self-harm and suicidal behavior. Because of the self-hate they feel, these individuals are often depressed, and they tend to sabotage their happiness and well-being.

Substance abuse, adrenaline-seeking activities, and threats of suicide are also big in this category.

Differences and similarities: using petulant as a reference

BPD Petulant and self-destructive

Both subtypes have a hard time connecting with others. However, while the petulant borderline becomes aggressive and cynical toward the individual in the relationship, the self-destructive borderline turns all his feelings towards the inside, causing emotional turmoil and self-hatred.

BPD Petulant and impulsive

Both subtypes struggle with managing their emotions, but impulsive borderlines are more often reckless and tend to disregard how others feel about the things they do and say.

BPD Petulant and discouraged

Even if both subtypes have anger issues and experience resentment, petulant borderlines are often deviant and express disappointment in the relationship more openly than the discouraged borderline. The latter will bottle it up as a result of their codependency and submissiveness.

Treatment for BPD subtypes

The 4 subtypes all differ from each other; the symptoms are different in both type and severity. Nonetheless, treatment is similar. For more information on BPD treatment, you may want to read Can Borderline Personality Disorder Be Cured?

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