If you have been following my Blogs at www.searchingforgrey.com, I have been doing a series on the different types of Borderline Personality Disorder. As I wrote in my first Blog in this series, “The Quiet Borderline”, I was intrigued to find out, through research, that not all of us with BPD are alike. There are variations to this Personality Disorder that are very distinct. To categorize or lump all of us who live with Borderline into one big group stamped “Borderline” does a huge disservice for obtaining the proper protocol or treatment. I have learned that it is extremely important to find which type of Borderline we display. In past years, I have read descriptions of BPD that just didn’t quite “fit me” and now I know why as you can see from my last blog the “Quiet Borderline”, (www.//are-you-a-quiet-borderline). Now, I will discuss four other types of BPD in this Blog. There are other intricate variations of BPD I will discuss in one final Blog later, but let’s dig in here.
There is a lot of written information about those who suffer with Borderline Personality Disorder. We know that for most abuse is very dominant in their childhood and the symptoms of BPD can lead the Borderline to wreak havoc in close relationships with family and friends. These symptoms even spill out into the workplace and other social settings. It is common for BPD persons to display symptoms that cause the person to act impulsively, with a self-destructive nature, severe mood swings, anger or rage displays and an inability to process emotions in a healthy or “normal” way. This disorder can also lead the person to such things as substance abuse, eating disorders, financial difficulties, promiscuity and other displays that are socially unacceptable.
The reason those who suffer with BPD act out in these ways and have extreme difficulty processing emotions is due to the lack of growth in the amygdala area of the brain. The Borderline child, from ages 0 to 5, suffers through trauma or neglect, which causes the grey area in the brain, called the amygdala, not to develop properly. Scientists are not sure as to why this happens, however this very important emotional regulation system of the brain in pictures of those with BPD is smaller and deformed in nature versus those who do not have BPD. BPD is still a mystery, however having pictures that prove BPD is a legitimate brain disorder is huge for those of us who live with Borderline Personality Disorder.
An American psychologist Theodore Millon created a recognized system of classification of BPD subtypes. I will be using his categories as the baseline in describing the four different types in this blog. Theodore Millon was a great contributor to early findings and research of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). A highly respected personality, his theories on BPD gave mental health professionals of the past an additional tool to aid in their analyzing and treatment of patients living with BPD as a diagnosis.
The four types I will address in this Blog are: The Discouraged Borderline, The Impulsive Borderline, The Petulant Borderline and the Self Destructive Borderline.
The Discouraged Borderline:
The Discouraged Borderline can display a nature that comes across as being very codependent. Think of the character Eeyore the donkey in the “Winnie The Pooh” book series by A.A. Milne. They can be very clingy, unassertive as they typically have a “follow the crowd” mentality. They walk around in a very somber, depressed mood and seem quite dejected all the time. Inside, they harbor great feelings of anger and disappointment with those they are in relationships with. Bump them the wrong way and that anger has the propensity to explode into a full rage attack. They have the ability to go from zero to a hundred in about a minute. If you have ever witnessed this, it can be quite scary as it comes seemingly without warning. These types are much more likely to harm themselves by self-mutilating (cutting themselves with a blade, burning themselves with a cigarette), or will resort to suicide as a final attempt to end their intense internal pain. This type of BPD is the most fatalistic and if I could flash a red caution light right now about this diagnosis, I would! I have personally found this type of Borderline to be very uncommunicative, and they are apt to isolate for long periods.
Another issue is they tend to be treatment resistant. They will often not choose to participate in therapy sessions or taking psychiatric medication that may help with their symptoms. You can coerce, beg, plead, bring them personally, yet they will not open up as to their issues to a therapist. They will deny medication saying it is for weak people. They will deny their diagnosis of Borderline. This type of BPD is most likely to engage in physical abuse. Typically, it is because they themselves have been through physical or sexual abuse at an early age. I would say, from my personal observation, most of the Borderlines I know of who committed suicide, have this type of BPD and could be described as the “Discouraged Borderline”. In my opinion, if your loved one is displaying the symptoms I’ve described in this diagnosis, it is imperative that you pull out “all the stops” in helping them to maneuver through their symptoms. Put your work boots on, it's going to get dirty!
The Impulsive Borderline:
The impulsive borderline is a cousin of another personality disorder called Histrionic Personality Disorder. They display personalities that are extremely charismatic, flirtatious, elusive and superficial. Most times, they are very attractive and possess a high energy level. They are thrill seekers, risk takers, and they love to live on the edge of life. It seems they don’t care about consequences concerning their mortality. They act first, think later, and will not only get themselves into a mess of trouble; they will bring others with them! This type of BPD has an endless appetite for attention and affirmation. They will do whatever it takes to get noticed.
Their behavior can seem outrageous and very erratic all the time. They can almost come across looking like Bipolar 1 Mania; the difference is that they have the perpetual mood swings of BPD. With Bipolar 1, the person will exhibit a time of manic episodes and then digress into deep depression. With BPD, their moods shift all day. They will still display, if they are the Impulsive type of BPD, the risk-taking behavior. An example of the Impulsive BPD in a good mood is speaking very loudly, expressing energetically, or perhaps going for a motorcycle ride in the rain with no helmet or protection at very high rates of speed. They often have multiple sex partners, and probably would not use protection. It is my personal belief that the Impulsive BPD uses this reckless behavior as an odd form of self-harming. It makes sense when you think of the BPD propensity to want to bring harm to themselves. If the Impulsive Borderline is male, the sayings “boys will be boys” may be used to explain away the behavior. A female however may receive a label as a tomboy. In any event, in order to have a long-term relationship with this person, their partner must have great patience and the ability to forgive over and over again!
The Petulant Borderline:
This type of Borderline is unpredictable, impatient, irritable, and complaining. They come across as being defiant, very stubborn and pessimistic. Their attitude toward people and the world in general is very resentful and they feel as if the world owes them for the trauma they suffered during childhood. They have a conflict between having to rely on people and at the same time putting up walls to keep their distance in great fear of disappointment or abandonment. The Petulant BPD will have great feelings of unworthiness and anger. The anger can turn into rage and be quite explosive. They are very in tune with their environment, even the weather, and will display in accordance with what is going on in their environment. If they are hungry, tired or not feeling well, it is best to stay out of their way. You will become the object of their rage or anger should you try to induce them out of their mood or defy their attitude with a different thought. They have the feeling that they are always correct and backing them into a corner will cause great confrontation. There is the book “Walking on Eggshells” by Randi Kreger and that title describes perfectly what you will do having a relationship with this Petulant type of BPD. It is not a sense of pride that causes them to act this way. They are pissed off and mournful from the trauma that ensued during their childhood. The way they cope is to push it out onto the world around them. The petulant borderline can come across as a finger pointer, blame game type of personality and will use any reason as their excuse to act out. They use their symptoms of BPD as a crutch and don't understand why others cannot acquiesce to the fact that they have a reason to be pissed all day.
When they are in Black Mind, (see splitting black / white mind BPD), they are intolerable. Stay away. When they are in White mind, they spend the majority of their time apologizing for their despicable actions done while in Black mind to others. There will be much time spent consoling the Petulant BPD, along with trying to yank them out of their attitudinal problems. They have a very hard time self-soothing. For this reason they will turn to many variations of addictive behavior, such as recreational drugs, alcohol, sex, overspending, lying, gambling, affairs, the list is endless. The list also includes self-harm. Most all Petulant BPDs engage in self-harm due to the fact that they realize the amount of stress and pressure they put on those around them. The self-harming is their way of punishing themselves for the way they have acted. They live with much shame and guilt and have very low self-esteem.
The Self-Destructive Borderline:
This type of BPD has a constant sense of bitterness and resentment for life, which they turn inward. They often engage in self-destructive behaviors whether consciously or unconsciously. The level of hatred they have for themselves is so monumental it leads them into all types of self-destructive Behavior. This can range from lack of personal hygiene, poor health care, to reckless driving and performing humiliating sex acts. They might present okay on the surface, but underneath they are deeply troubled individuals in need of extreme help. Even the most experienced of therapists can be challenged by this type of Borderline and actually refuse to treat them. As the name suggests, people with Self-Destructive Borderline can be their own worst enemies. They engage in any type of dangerous behavior. They also have a tendency to sabotage themselves when it appears they might be making progress in life. Another symptom of the Self-Destructive Borderline is that they lack a stable sense of self. Although this is true for all who suffer with BPD, the Self-Destructive Borderline is so dependent on others that their fear of abandonment can run out of control. Their symptoms can express frequently as being moody, bitter, and filled with anger. Their anger and bitterness is a result of unconscious or unacknowledged desires. This can interfere with their ability to benefit from therapy.
I have explained briefly the four different types of Borderline based on Theodore Millon's research of this disorder. It is obvious in reading this there is much overlap and duplication in the four different styles. It’s important to treat all Borderlines with empathy and compassion. This can only happen if education is present and their loved ones understand the battles they fight on a daily basis.
Borderlines often present themselves as very charismatic and give off a lot of energy, therefore people are drawn to them. All too often, without psychological intervention and/or therapy, being involved with a Borderline can lead to perpetual arguments, drama, suicidal gestures, extreme emotional volatility and sensitivity to rejection. If you are not aware of the symptoms of Borderline, especially a type that refuses any treatment or help whatsoever, you might want to consider the price. As there is no cure for BPD, it is a lifelong journey for not only the suffers, but those that love them.
In conclusion, Theodore Millon’s findings show that the boundaries of those who live with BPD are extremely fluid and vulnerable to outside or social / environmental issues to fall into just one simple type of BPD. In my next blog, we will look at BPD sub-types. Get ready!
With You On the Journey, Alice