Experts wonders whether there are actually distinct types of borderline personalities. The minds are divided but experts still try to distinguish between the different types of BPD in academic literature as well as in popular one. In Part III we will take a look at both of them. Please note that this list of types serves as a guidelines and person who suffers from BPD can have a mix of everything.
Dr. Christine Lawson in a book Understanding the Borderline Mother introduces 4 types of borderline mothers that fall into high functioning or low functioning category:
High-Functioning BPD Mothers
The Witch is someone who acts out viciously when they feel threatened, rejected and criticized. This type of mother seeks power and control over others, and reacts with unpredictable rage. Family members live in fear of triggering her. Unconsciously she is consumed by self-hatred and tends to be extremely hostile and cruel towards their children. She tends to be self-obsessed and has little or no concern for others. The Witch has no remorse and will not apologize for hateful acts she has done to her child. At the base of their need for power and control is their intense desire to prevent abandonment. This particular sub-group of BPD is very resistant to treatment. It is not uncommon for their children to develop depression, shame, insecurity, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.
- “There was a problem with my report card, showing I had a 0, even though I knew for a fact I had done the assignment. I didn’t have enough time to tell the teacher about it, so I would do so the next day, in order to fix my grade. I showed my Mother, trying to explain it to her, and even though I had a simple solution to fix it the next day, she proceeded to slap me across the face and scream at me for getting a 0, as well as proceed to call me lazy and not caring about my education. Yeah, I had the proof to show her I had done the assignment, could easily get my grade changed, and even then, I was still getting yelled at, grounded, and getting my things taken away. And slapped across the face.”
The children of a Queen Mother are supposed to be her loyal subject. Queen needs to be the center of attention and uses her children to fulfill her own needs. “Pay attention to me! Love me, love me, prove to me you love me and do everything as I say!” If you disagree with her, don’t do as she says or you have your own needs, you don’t love her. Children are not permitted to have their own needs or opinions, and are not encouraged to become individuals in their own right. She pretends to be a perfect woman who has it all together, independent, powerful, and in control of everything. They can be manipulative and vindictive and have a strong sense of self entitlement. They cross boundaries without recognition or regret. Inside they experience chronic feelings of emptiness and inability to self-soothe when distressed.
Low-Functioning BPD Mothers
The Waif portrays the helpless victim, exhibiting how everyone is treating them and how they need protection. They can suffer from depression, anxiety, irrational fears, and feelings of vulnerability, helplessness, hopelessness and are prone to deep despair. But they are rejecting attempts by family members to help them. In this way, they passively control others and are generally unable to nurture anyone. They expect from the children to “save her” and believe that people are out there to get them and do not trust others. Children may feel that they can help if only they do more, learn more, and give more. Unfortunately the Waif continues to stay helpless as a means to control and avoid abandonment. She neglects her children, often they feel angry and alone and may develop codependency issues as adults.
Hermits may have a tough exterior and a superficial image of being confident, determined and independent. Except, they’re actually terrified of the world, and distrust everyone and are prone to rage and paranoia. They feel constantly betrayed by others and take criticism as a condemnation of who they are. Perfectionism is a hallmark of the Hermit, and they can rage or criticize (which they often do) when others fail to meet their expectations. They have no desire to go out in the world and have close friends outside of their family, especially their children. They gain their self-esteem from work or hobbies.
- “My mother often said that as she got older, she became afraid of everything. We could never get her to try and go out with friends unless we took her out for coffee or shopping. We were the only real “friends” she had. And honestly, we were because we had to, or else, who else would she have?”
BPD types in academic literature
There were quite a few attempts to find different subtypes of BPD in academic research.
In The Essential Family Guide to Borderline Personality Disorder, Randi Kreger grouped BPD into:
- Lower-functioning/conventional types is described as engaging in a lot of self-destructive behavior that requires frequent hospitalization. They are very low-functioning, meaning they may not be able to work or go to school. The author calls this self-destructive behavior “acting in,” an idea that correlates with the concept of internalizing symptoms.
- Higher-functioning/invisible type is described as functioning well in most contexts, but engaging in a great deal of “acting out” behavior, such as verbal abuse, criticizing others or becoming violent. This description correlates well with the concept of externalizing symptoms.
One study examined types of borderline personalities based on a personality disorders that co-occur often with BPD. They categorized person in one of the 3 clusters:
- Cluster A tended to engage in more paranoid thinking and eccentric behavior.
- Cluster B tended to have more dramatic or arrogant personalities.
- Cluster C tended to be more fearful.
Another study examined BPD subtypes in adolescent boys and girls. Interestingly enough study found reliable BPD subtypes in girls, but not boys. Girls with BPD tended to fall into one of the following categories:
- high-functioning internalizing
- depressive internalizing
- histrionic and angry externalizing
Another study found three BPD subtypes:
- severely disturbed–internalizing
Individuals with different presentations of BPD may respond differently to the treatment. In this study, individuals from the severely disturbed-internalizing subtype did not see symptom improvement with treatment, where those in the anxious-externalizing and withdrawn-internalizing subtypes did.
The last subtypes of BPD I want to write about is from T. Millon. He lists 4 subtypes of BPD:
- The Discouraged Borderline looks like individual with Dependent Personality Disorder (codependent). They tend to be clingy, go along with the crowd, and walk around feeling somber and somewhat dejected. Deep inside however, there are often angry and disappointed with the actions of those around them. Scratch the surface, and that anger could explode, but they are much more likely to do harm to themselves by self-harming or even suicide. Some of the symptoms common to this subtype are: excessive dependence upon others, cycles of withdrawal and aloneness, passive, permissive, recurrent depression including tearful episodes (more common than rage episodes), anger can feel sudden and surprising to others, paranoia and self-persecution, more likely to deprive rather than indulge oneself, victimized, tendency to evoke sympathy, feelings of abandonment can invoke psychotic episodes, trigger desperation and suicidality, irresponsible behavior, uses drugs, alcohol, food, money, or sex for self-soothing, tendency to use fantasy to escape reality, gives away or destroys belongings, suffers from chronic or recurring illness or somatic complaints.
- Impulsive Borderline seems to be a first cousin to the Histrionic Personality Disorder. These individuals tend to be flirtatious, captivating, elusive and superficial. They are highly energetic and seek out thrill after thrill. They are easily bored and seem to have it never ending appetite for attention and excitement. As their name implies, they will often act without thinking, getting themselves into all sorts of trouble. Such individuals can often be very charismatic and it’s easy to get caught in their spell. This type of person is in constant conflict with society. Bouts of violence are not uncommon. This person may have antisocial personality disorder as a co-occurring diagnosis. This person is operating in an Abandoned Child mode–a plea for attention, any attention–as well as an Angry Child mode. The Angry Child believes that other people deserve to be punished for his/her pain, and behaves accordingly. This type of person with BPD may have poor impulse control, abuse substances, or self-harm. On the other extreme he or she may not care about himself/herself, it’s all about what the other person thinks. This often results in extreme efforts to avoid disapproval and abandonment.
- Petulant Borderline is unpredictable, irritable, impatient, and complaining as well as defiant, disgruntled, stubborn, pessimistic and resentful. They are torn between relying upon people and at the same time keeping their distance for fear of disappointment. They vacillate between feelings of unworthiness and anger. This anger can be quite explosive. This is a passive-aggressive person. He or she will injure himself or herself, either physically or emotionally, in an attempt to get needs met. This person has an unstable sense of self, a frantic fear of abandonment. They operate in an Angry Child mode. He or she is angry and will hurt friends and family as a result. They often doesn’t recognize the anger-the world is the problem, not them. They don’t know how to express their needs in a healthy way, so relationships seem to be a game of “If you really loved me” or “You should know what I want”.
- Self-Destructive Borderline is marked by his constant sense of bitterness which they turn inward. They will often engage in self-destructive behaviors whether it is conscious or unconscious. Their levels of self-hatred can often reach monumental proportions leading them into all types of self-destructive behaviors, ranging from poor healthcare to reckless driving to performing humiliating sexual acts. This person often suffers from depression as a co-occurring diagnosis and is a self-injurer. This is a person who feels that no one cares, and reacts by not caring about himself or herself. They operates in an Abandoned Child mode. Since they don’t feel loved, they reacts in self-destructive ways in an attempt to feel something instead of nothing. They lives in terror of abandonment, is self-loathing, and has no idea who they are inside. Thoughts of self-injury or actions are a given in this type.