I think this article applies to anyone trying to heal from any personality disorder, PTSD, or the fallout of narcissistic abuse, so I’m posting it here too.
This week has been very difficult for me emotionally. It started with an unnamed, free-floating but intense anxiety and panic, to the point I could barely function. A few days ago I plummeted into a black depression that seemed different somehow in quality from my prior zombie-like apathetic depressions. it felt more alive and more proactive in some way. I’m pretty sure I had an idea all along of what was about to happen but it hadn’t quite bubbled into conscious awareness yet. Its rising through the murky swamp of my unconscious caused me to panic and then a kind of grief took over but I still couldn’t name what it was.
Most of you who read this blog regularly know I began this blog almost a year ago as a form of self therapy (because I couldn’t afford a therapist). From the beginning, I committed myself to 100% honesty. Well, I’ve probably fallen short of that goal, as I’ve omitted some important discoveries and other things about myself that I simply didn’t feel comfortable sharing, even under my alias.
Last night–nearly 11 months from the day I started this online journal–I had a huge breakthrough. Prior to this, I tried to sleep but could not. When I did my dreams were upsetting and I had this overwhelming sense of aloneness and separateness. I woke up shaking and close to tears. I gave up trying to sleep and talked to 2 close Facebook friends for awhile. They’ve been a bit worried about me this week because my mood has been so erratic and I’ve done so much crying, which until recently has been unusual for me. I cried all the time as as a child but then dried up sometime during my teens.
Several things have led to my breakthrough: writing a LOT about my feelings and recovery from narcissistic abuse, reading as much about narcissism, BPD and PTSD as I could get my hands on, trying my best to always be honest no matter how painful or embarrassing (but not always succeeding), and finding God and the power of prayer. It’s been an incredible roller coaster ride.
For several weeks prior to last night, I’d been praying for the ability to regain the easy access to my emotions I had as a child, only tempered with the wisdom and restraint of an adult, of course. I kept reading, writing, and trying to elicit emotion through music, movie-watching, and self-reparenting. I knew this required making myself as vulnerable as possible. I took myself to see “Inside Out,” which loosened something inside me but not quite enough. It was like one of those almost-sneezes that never quite comes out and leaves you wanting to punch a wall in frustration. Nothing much happened after that. I was growing impatient.
A week ago, I fell into my panicky, anxious state followed by a “wet” depression (that included tears instead of my usual catatonic apathy). I didn’t even know what I was crying about. I lost my motivation to write (in retrospect, I think this as a form of self protection when I needed it). I was snappish and irritable on the job but would come home and set aside alone time so I could just let everything out without fear of embarrassment or shame. I knew instinctively something important was about to make itself known and that scared me, but I felt a kind of excitement too.
It happened last night at about 3 AM after my Facebook friends and I ended our conversation. I read something that triggered a deep knowledge that hit me like jolt of electricity. For a few terrifying minutes I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath and I might even throw up. I felt hot and cold flashes and started to shake. What I learned was overwhelming and devastating–but I also knew I’d known this for a long time but had repressed it.
Everything suddenly made sense and I felt like I was seeing my situation and all my relationships—hell, over 50 years of my life–with eyes that had been closed since I was very young. I remembered, vaguely, that someone told me something when I was four years old. I couldn’t remember what was said or who said it but I did know whatever it was had been the catalyst when all my problems started that would not abate for over 50 years. One day when I’m ready I’ll remember what actually was said and who said it. I cried harder than I’ve cried since I was about 12. I can’t go into detail right yet about what this discovery was–I’m not ready. I may never be ready. But it’s something that although its discovery is incredibly upsetting to me, it’s also something I needed to have in my conscious awareness before I could really start to do the hard work necessary for real healing.
God answers prayers in his own time. He’s working on me. I have faith he works on all of us if we reach out with a sincere heart and ask for help. Now that I have this information that was revealed to me, the next step is to figure out what to do with it. Right now I just feel shell shocked. I have to be gentle with myself while I work through and try to understand everything that happened. I’m working on finding a therapist to help me sort it out because I think it’s too big for me to handle all by myself anymore. All I can do right now is keep on praying and writing every day and working on myself and being as mindful as I can until I find someone appropriate. I know the work ahead of me is going to be harder now than it has been and that’s okay. It may take a long time and that’s okay too. I feel like I graduated from something last night. I’m ready for the next step. Bring it on!
Somehow I feel lighter today although I’m exhausted and desperately need a good night’s sleep.
I know I can do this thing. But for the love of all that is holy, WHY DID IT TAKE SO LONG?
I read an excellent article (thank to Natasha!) last night about covert narcissism, which is not currently recognized by the DSM, although it’s been considered as a provisional diagnosis.
Covert (vulnerable) narcissists are essentially low-functioning narcissists who present a shy, avoidant, humble, or caring image but they also constantly struggle with feelings of inferiority, emptiness, and self hatred. Like overt narcissists, they are hypersensitive to criticism but don’t hide it as well. They can become quite parasitic, relying on the support of others, either financially, emotionally or otherwise–but never giving back, even if they try to make a show of how “giving” they are. From what I’ve read in this article, it seems that the symptoms of covert narcissism, a subtype of NPD, are remarkably similar to those of BPD, with a few glaring differences:
— The covert narcissist suffers from more pathological envy than a person with BPD. The envy stems from a hidden sense of entitlement or superiority to others that belies their false humility and actual low self esteem. BPD is not characterized by a sense of entitlement. In a way they are wearing a double mask or have two false selves: the grandiose false self (that cloaks the emptiness they really feel) which is cloaked by false humility and shame. A covert narcissist may constantly be apologizing, but they don’t really mean it.
— A covert narcissist is more likely than a borderline to seek out friends who they perceive as “beneath” them so they can feel superior in comparison. This also stands out from an overt narcissist, who will seek out anyone who can provide them with supply (and likes to be associated with those they look up to). Covert narcissists avoid people they perceive as superior or having more than they do, which is most people.
— The covert narcissist has Avoidant (or introverted) features not associated with the DSM-recognized symptoms of BPD (although it’s possible for a borderline to be introverted and socially phobic, or for Avoidant PD and BPD to be comorbid with each other, as they are for me). Covert narcissists are more socially awkward than borderlines and can seem very similar on the surface to someone with Aspergers or Social Phobia. But behind the avoidant or socially awkward traits is a fear of being discovered and a hidden feeling of superiority to other people, unlike someone with Aspergers who simply finds relating to people exhausting or uncomfortable or a person with Social Phobia, who finds relating to others terrifying.
— They have no empathy. Any “empathy” they show is false, intended to get supply by bolstering their image as a “nice” person. Borderlines usually have at least a rudimentary ability to experience empathy.
— Like a classic narcissist, a covert narcissist lives in fear of their own emptiness being exposed, while someone with BPD lives in fear of being abandoned.
— Borderlines are more likely to be suicidal or self-harm than a covert narcissist, who may do self destructive things or threaten suicide for attention (supply) but will rarely make a serious attempt.
— Borderlines are more impulsive.
This is also a very good article comparing covert NPD with overt (classic, grandiose) NPD: http://narcissisticbehavior.net/revealing-the-two-faces-of-narcissism-overt-and-covert-narcissism/
Some people believe covert narcissists are actually more malignant than classic narcissists, because their agenda is so hidden (covert) and they can seem like such nice, humble people. Although they are harder to detect, I think they really want people to see them as “nice” even though their motives are entirely selfish. I think the reason some narcissists become covert is because early in childhood they learned that acting grandiose or entitled was too dangerous (they were likely to be punished for it) so they cloaked their grandiosity behind false humility and shame. This is why they often feel victimized by everyone but at the same time feel entitled to be treated as if they are special and separate themselves from others, who they see as morally inferior (but actually feel inferior to–yes, it’s very confusing!) At the same time, a covert narcissist is more likely to seek therapy than a classic narcissist because their lives are so unsatisfying and limited–and for the same reason also more likely to be cured if they commit themselves to getting better. In this way they don’t differ too much from people with BPD.
A person with NPD can also switch back and forth between the covert and overt subtypes. When things are going well and supply is abundant, a covert narcissist may become grandiose and aggressive, and a normally grandiose narcissist can become much more covert when their supply is running low or has been removed.
Informative video about the Cluster B disorders that discusses what they have in common and what causes someone to develop them. BPD has been unfairly stigmatized because of its similarity in some ways to the other disorders in this cluster, but few people recognize that borderlines don’t lack empathy or a conscience the way people with NPD and ASPD do, even though they can be difficult to deal with and even abusive when they are triggered.
I’t’s uncanny how often people with NPD and BPD seem to find each other. Every one of my boyfriends (except for one, who was severely bipolar) and my ex-husband were narcissists. I know a lot of other borderlines who say they have the same problem–they simply are not attracted to a man or woman who is not a narcissist. There are reasons why this happens.
Both BPD and NPD are included in the category of Cluster B personality disorders in the DSM-V (along with Histrionic and Antisocial personality disorders). Cluster B disorders are all characterized at their root by problems establishing an identity early in childhood and integrity of the Self which causes people with these disorders to act out toward themselves or others in destructive ways and to have problems either accessing or developing prosocial emotions like empathy. All are prone to lie excessively and manipulate others.
All Cluster B’s are easily offended and quick to anger, which can be expressed either covertly or overtly. Here’s a quick description of these personality disorders.
Antisocial personality disorder (ASPD or psychopathy) is the most likely to break the law and violate the rights of others (many are in prison), act impulsively, and have no empathy at all. People with ASPD who aren’t lawbreakers will be ruthless in business or their chosen profession, and feel no compunctions about hurting others to succeed and may even take pleasure from it.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is less likely to break the law (but this is not a given–some narcissists will break the law if they think they can get away with it) due to wanting to present a good image to others, but have little, if any, empathy, and act out toward others and manipulate them to protect the False Self they use in place of their true one which cannot be accessed. They act arrogant, entitled, paranoid and touchy. Think of the most spoiled or brattiest child you know. If you saw that same behavior in an adult, that’s what NPD looks like to others.
Histrionic personality disorder (usually found in women) is a somatic form of narcissism where there is obsession with physical appearance and emotions are expressed dramatically but the emotions themselves are shallow. Histrionics of both sexes are often sexually promiscuous.
Borderline Personality disorder is the most baffling of the four, because it’s a disorder of contradictions. BPD is characterized by black and white thinking, overpowering emotions, impulsivity, self-destructive behavior, and idealization/devaluation of others. People with this disorder oscillate rapidly between opposites–feeling love and hate for others, pushing others away and smothering them, and accepting or rejecting them. They do this because of their fear of abandonment. Unfortunately, borderlines in their desperate attempts to not be abandoned, cause others to abandon them, or are self sabotaging–they may reject others in order to avoid being rejected first. Borderlines, unlike the other Cluster B disorders, are able to feel empathy, but because they can get so overwhelmed by their fear of rejection and their overpowering emotions and drama, they can “forget” others exist. They can feel remorse and guilt when they realize they’ve behaved badly but it sometimes must be pointed out to them.
Borderlines are chameleons who don’t have a False Self per se, but instead adopt whatever “identity” will suit the moment and whatever person they are interacting with–to make the other person accept them. In some borderlines, this rapid switching from one persona to another can appear to others similar to DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder). Not only their behavior, but also their emotions (which they have trouble regulating or controlling), opinions, or even their appearance can change from one moment to the next. This differs from bipolar disorder, where dramatic mood changes oscillate much more slowly.
Of all the Cluster B disorders, people with BPD have a Self that is the most fragmented and least likely to have integrated into something called an identity (even a narc has a False Self so that’s a kind of identity). As a result BPD’s are the most prone to experience dissociative or even psychotic episodes, where the person loses touch with reality. Ironically, although Borderlines are “sicker” than narcissists, they are more likely to seek therapy (because their disorder is ego-dystonic and most are not happy with the way they behave and feel) and they are also more likely to be cured.
Because borderlines are chameleons,* they make perfect supply for a narcissist. They lack an identity of their own, so they “become” whatever others expect them to be. It’s not really a mask in the same sense as a narcissist, but they can wear a sort of temporary mask that can change from one moment to the next or disappear completely, leaving the borderline in a depressed or near-psychotic emotional state. A borderline can be whatever the narcissist wants them to be, and as a result are easily manipulated and can become very codependent.
Borderlines can be very manipulative themselves, but because their personality is less integrated and and the narcissist appears to have an integrated self (even though it’s a false one), they are no match for a narcissist. Unless the narcissist is very low on the spectrum (or is a covert and vulnerable one), they cannot be overpowered by a borderline and will always get their way over the borderline’s needs.
Borderlines (like narcissists) never felt loved or valued, but the borderline hasn’t shut out their need to be loved and craves it more than anything else. A narcissist (in the beginning of a relationship) can appear to be highly passionate and attentive, promising the borderline all the love he or she needs–and be convincing enough they capture the heart of a borderline, who thinks they’ve met the perfect mate.
Relationships between narcissists and borderlines may be stormy and “unhealthy,” but when they work, they work well, with the narcissist giving the borderline a kind of identity as a codependent to the narcissist, and the borderline giving the narcissist the supply they need.
I think there’s often a familial aspect too. Cluster B disorders tend to occur in families, in varying configurations. If one or more parents is a narcissist (or a borderline), they are far more likely to raise narcissistic or borderline children, because both disorders are due to abuse and Cluster B parents tend to put their own needs ahead of their children’s, even if (in the borderline) their selfishness isn’t intentional. Therefore, borderlines and narcissists who were raised in abusive families tend to be attracted to people who unconsciously remind them of other members of their families, especially the parents. This type of connection is called a trauma bond because the connection is due to shared trauma and a conscious or unconscious willingness to to be abused or to abuse a partner. A relationship between a borderline and a narcissist is not what anyone would call functional, and yet in a way it can work for both of them, if they don’t wind up killing each other first. Some of these trauma bonds are examples of Stockholm Syndrome, where the abused identifies with their abuser.
Going No Contact with a narcissist is the best gift an abused borderline can give herself (or himself), but separating may be especially hard for them and they are likely to be drawn to another narcissist, so they need to stay on guard and be especially vigilant of red flags.
* I think their ability to be emotional chameleons is the reason why the entertainment, film and television industries seem to have a plethora of actors who have BPD.
Splitting–more commonly known as black and white or all or nothing thinking–is a primitive defense mechanism used by both narcissists and borderlines when they observe a threat–that someone doesn’t agree with them or is challenging them in some way, or when they fear abandonment (borderlines) or exposure/loss of supply (narcissists). In narcissism, splitting is usually referred to as idealization/devaluation, but other than the unconscious motive (fear of abandonment for borderlines, fear of losing a source of supply for narcissists), the phenomenon is really the same thing.
Splitting is normal in a very young child. When Mommy is present and hugging the child, Mommy is perceived as “good.” When she denies the child another cookie or she goes to work, the child throws a tantrum, and Mommy is now “bad.” Because the child still doesn’t see himself as a completely separate person from Mommy, when Mommy does something that makes the child unhappy or fearful, the child rejects her and thinks of HER as all-bad. The child is not yet capable of the concept that Mommy is an individual who can be both good and bad at different times and to different degrees depending on the situation.
The fairy tales we read to young children engage them at a level they can understand: fairy tale characters are all-good or all-bad, heroes or villains, with no in between. Only an older child can fully understand that people come in varying shades of grey, and pure black or pure white in one person is exceedingly rare. Realizing that most people are both evil and good at the same time is a sign of maturity and indicates the child has come to see himself as a completely separate person with his or her own identity who can afford to see others as individuals too, rather than one-dimensional cardboard cartoon characters.
Narcissists and borderlines never make that transition. Due to early attachment issues arising from neglect, abuse, or sometimes maternal smothering, they continue to see others as extensions of themselves, not separate people with their own identities, interest and opinions. If someone is an extension of yourself, of course the other person must be seen as “all good.” If the other person fails to provide adequate supply (for the narcissist) or disagrees with them or has differing opinions, they are perceived as a threat and must be rejected, devalued, and demonized as “other.” The only way a narcissist or borderline can see another person as a separate entity is when they have become “other” and are demonized and seen as “all bad.”
Splitting is common in today’s political landscape. Candidate A believes in health care reform, the legalization of marijuana, the cessation of the outsourcing of jobs, raising taxes on the wealthy–and that a woman has the right to choose whether or not to terminate a pregnancy. Candidate B believes in health care reform, the legalization of marijuana, the cessation of outsourcing of jobs, raising taxes on the wealthy–and that abortion should be outlawed. Candidates A and B, rather than focusing on what they have in common and using that to help improve people’s lives, instead go on smear campaigns against each other focusing on the only thing they don’t agree on: abortion. Candidate A accuses Candidate B of being a throwback to the “unenlightened” 1950s, while Candidate B accuses Candidate A of wanting to legalize murder. Neither acknowledges the many things they agree on–all either can see is that the other is a “murderer” or a “throwback troglodyte.” (Notice too how the accusing labels have become exaggerated and more abusive). That many politicians are narcissistic by nature makes splitting come second nature to most of them. Unfortunately, splitting has become standard in political campaigning and is intended to garner more votes (narcissistic supply) for the accuser while taking them away from the opposing party.
Robin and Tim are madly in love with each other. Robin idealizes Tim–she thinks he is the most perfect man she ever met, and she can’t imagine a life without him. He is the most handsome, smart, funny, sexy, and interesting man in the world, and she can’t believe her luck in having met him. Recently they have started talking about getting engaged. Tim thinks Robin’s wild mood swings are rather charming–but he hasn’t been the target of them yet.
On Tim’s birthday, Robin cooks him a lavish dinner and has a bottle of champagne ready to pop open and enjoy. He is supposed to be home by seven. Eight o’clock comes, and he isn’t home yet. At eight-fifteen, Tim calls and says he got held up. He is in the door by nine, apologizing profusely about his lateness–he was called into an emergency meeting by his boss and couldn’t get out of it. Rather than accepting his apology at face value and proceed to have a nice dinner together, Robin goes on a rampage. She accuses Tim of having a lover and never having loved her. The champagne bottle gets smashed against the wall and the dinner thrown in the trash. After fighting for hours, Robin tells Tim to leave and that she never wants to see him again and that he’d make a terrible husband to any woman who would have him anyway.
In the course of two hours, Robin has turned Tim, a normal man who really did love her but couldn’t get out of a meeting, from “the most perfect man in the world” into an unfeeling monster who is cheating on her and would “make any woman miserable.” Because he disappointed her and she couldn’t handle it or see him as a separate person with his own life and his own needs, she must demonize him and make wild accusations against him, accusing him of doing things he never did and saying things he never said. She has turned the good into the evil, and rejected Tim because he is “all bad” now. Both the “angelic” Tim and the “evil” Tim are creations of Robin’s all-or-nothing, black or white, thinking. Both are fiction.
Splitting is really a kind of blindness–the failure to be able to see any shades of grey in an individual, situation, religion, ideology, belief system, or really, anything at all. It destroys relationships, creates hate and discord, kills community spirit, leads to war and killing, and ruins lives.
Ruji, a new commenter on this blog, made an interesting observation–that BPD should be divided into at least two subtypes: Empathy Challenged/Character Disordered (closer to NPD/ASPD) and Highly Sensitive Person with Emotional Dysregulation (closer to the type I have, although at different times in my life or when extremely stressed I have displayed the more character-disordered subtype). I agree with her. Ruji’s idea is remarkably similar to The World Health Organization’s two subtypes of BPD:
1. F60.30 Impulsive type
At least three of the following must be present, one of which must be (2):
–marked tendency to act unexpectedly and without consideration of the consequences;
–marked tendency to engage in quarrelsome behavior and to have conflicts with others, especially when impulsive acts are thwarted or criticized;
–liability to outbursts of anger or violence, with inability to control the resulting behavioral explosions;
–difficulty in maintaining any course of action that offers no immediate reward;
–unstable and capricious (impulsive, whimsical) mood.
2. F60.31 Borderline type
At least three of the symptoms mentioned in F60.30 Impulsive type must be present [see above], with at least two of the following in addition:
–disturbances in and uncertainty about self-image, aims, and internal preferences;
–liability to become involved in intense and unstable relationships, often leading to emotional crisis;
–excessive efforts to avoid abandonment;
–recurrent threats or acts of self-harm;
–chronic feelings of emptiness.
–demonstrates impulsive behavior, e.g., speeding, substance abuse
Psychologist Theodore Millon has gone even further, proposing that BPD should be divided into four subtypes:
1. Discouraged (including avoidant features): Pliant, submissive, loyal, humble; feels vulnerable and in constant jeopardy; feels hopeless, depressed, helpless, and powerless.
2. Petulant (including negativistic features) Negativistic, impatient, restless, as well as stubborn, defiant, sullen, pessimistic, and resentful; easily slighted and quickly disillusioned.
3. Impulsive (including histrionic or antisocial features) Capricious, superficial, flighty, distractible, frenetic, and seductive; fearing loss, becomes agitated, and gloomy and irritable; potentially suicidal.
4. Self-destructive (including depressive or masochistic features) Inward-turning, intropunitively angry; conforming, deferential, and ingratiating behaviors have deteriorated; increasingly high-strung and moody; possible suicide.
Millon’s Types 1 and 4 would correspond to the Highly Sensitive Person/Emotional Dysregulation type mentioned above (and therefore closer to the Avoidant/Dependent PDs); Type 2 sounds very much like NPD; and Type 3 seems closer to ASPD or Histrionic PD.
There are so many diverse–almost opposite–symptoms that can appear with this disorder that one person with BPD can be very different from the next. In fact, you can take 10 borderlines and they will all seem very different from each other, with barely any similarities in their behavior at all. One will be shy, fearful and retiring, never making waves, acting almost like an Aspie or an Avoidant; while another may break the law, lie constantly, and act obnoxious and rage whenever things don’t go their way. A borderline could be your raging boss who drinks too much and ends every annual Christmas party with one of his infamous rages, or it could be the sweet and pretty schoolteacher who goes home every night and cuts herself. She could be the come-hither seductress or the nerdy computer programmer. He may have few or no friends or a great many.
This diversity is not the case with the other personality disorders, which have more cohesiveness in the symptoms their sufferers display. So I wonder–is BPD really a personality disorder at all? Does it even exist, or is it really just a group of trauma-caused symptoms the experts in their ivory towers stuck in a single box called “BPD” because they didn’t know how else to classify them?
In fact, all these diverse subtypes have one thing in common–they are all very similar or identical to the symptoms of someone with complex PTSD (C-PTSD). People with C-PTSD are often misdiagnosed as Borderlines because their behaviors can be just as baffling and manipulative, and both disorders also include dissociative, almost psychotic episodes. Extrapolating from that, I wonder if ALL borderlines actually have C-PTSD.
Earlier today I posted an article outlining 20 signs of unresolved trauma, and I was struck by how similar these were to the symptoms of BPD. And there is also this article that Ruji just brought to my attention that also describes how remarkably similar the two disorders are, but that the idea of fear of abandonment (which is recognized as the root cause of BPD) is not recognized as a factor in causing PTSD and that may be part of why they have been kept separate.
The BPD label, like any Cluster B label, is very damaging to its victims because of the “evil and character-disordered” stigma it carries. One psychologist has even included us, along with narcissists, among the “People of the Lie”!
Yes, it’s true some borderlines do act a lot like people with NPD or even Malignant Narcissism or ASPD, but most probably do not, and are really much more similar to people with Avoidant or even Dependent personality disorders, which hurt the sufferer more than anyone else. But if you have a BPD label, people start backing away from you slowly due to the stigma. Therapists are reluctant to treat you because they assume you will be either difficult and hateful in therapy sessions, or will never get better. Insurance companies won’t pay claims where there is a BPD diagnosis, because it’s assumed there is no hope for you. I’ve had this problem when I’ve tried to get therapy. I remember one therapist who I had seen for the intake session, who told me he needed to obtain my psychiatric records before we could proceed. The session had gone smoothly and I felt comfortable with him. A few days later I received a phone call and was told he did not treat “borderline patients” and wished me luck. So that’s the kind of thing we’re up against if we’ve had the BPD label slapped on us.
Also, as an ACON blogger who works with a lot of victims of narcissistic abuse, my BPD label sometimes makes people wary of me and they begin to doubt that my motives here are honest. At first I was reluctant to talk about my “Cluster B disorder” here, because I knew it might be a problem for some ACONs, who think borderlines are no better than narcissists. But I eventually decided that to hide it away like an embarrassing family secret would be misleading so I “came out” about having BPD (I never actually lied about it, but played it down in the beginning and rarely mentioned it). I’m glad I fessed up, but there have been a few people who left this blog after I came out about it or began to doubt my motives. So there’s that stigma and it’s very damaging.
Both C-PTSD and Borderline PD are caused by trauma. Both are complex defensive reactions against future abuse and both involve things like splitting, dissociation, psychotic episodes, self-destructiveness, wild mood swings, and behavior that appears to be narcissistic and manipulative.
The way I see it, the only real difference between C-PTSD and BPD is that the traumatic event or abuse happened at an earlier age for someone with BPD, perhaps during toddlerhood or infancy, while all forms of PTSD can happen at a later age, even adulthood. But the symptoms and defense mechanisms used to avoid further trauma are the same for both.
I have been reading a blog written by a self-confessed Psychopath (who scored 36.8 on Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist) who writes engaging and well-informed articles about his disorder. I’ve always wondered myself about what it is exactly that distinguishes Malignant Narcissism from Psychopathy, because a MN can be every bit as cruel and callous as a psychopath. The primary difference is the Psychopath is not an attention-seeker, but the malignant narcissist is still trapped by his or her need for approval, attention and adulation from others. That is also one of the things (along with impulsivity–which ASPD has in common with BPD–as well as the likelihood of law-breaking) that distinguishes Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD) from NPD/malignant narcissism.
There are those who believe that ASPD is on the same spectrum as NPD (but is at the top of the scale, while NPD is in the middle), but I’m not sure if it should be because there are qualitative, not just quantitative, differences. My opinion is that malignant narcissism is high spectrum NPD with ASPD traits. But they still need narcissistic supply. Psychopaths do not.
This writer has an interesting observation–that perhaps the only type of person able to control and/or take down a narcissist is a psychopath. He has little respect for narcissists due to their need for others (even as supply) and emotional sensitivity to rejection and criticism.
I think this article will explain these differences better than I can.
Narcissism or Psychopathy–Differences?
A Reader asks:
I would be interested in reading anything you wrote on psychopaths need for attention/acceptance. Have you? Like, how would they react to rejection?
Basically the need for attention and acceptance, if it’s a prominent and dominating aspect of what drives a person, is a distinctive trait in Narcissism. As such it is not exclusively something psychopaths are known for.
It is often said that psychopaths have strong narcissistic tendencies, and the statement isn’t completely wrong. But I also often see statements saying Malignant Narcissism and Psychopathy are the same, and this is not the case. There are some very important fundamental differences between psychopaths and malignant narcissists.
Narcissists may be callous and abusive – malignant narcissists definitely are callous and abusive! – and they lack empathy. These are things they have in common with psychopaths. But narcissists have a very strong emotional need for attention or Attention Seeking, Acceptance and Admiration. Their self esteem depends on whether or not they receive these things, and this makes them very vulnerable to rejection and other forms of negative attention such as humiliation, being out shined by someone else, or of being deliberately or naturally ignored.
Psychopaths do not need attention and we certainly do not need acceptance, at least not just for the sake getting it. Their emotional well being does not depend on whether or not they get these things, but they do play a part for most psychopaths’ sense of satisfaction. In this we’re probably not that different from normal people: We like to get attention, to be admired and respected just like everybody else, but we do not feel bad if we don’t get these things.
For psychopaths getting attention and respect from others is most of all a technique to get what they want without having to resort to coercion – threats, blackmail, and physical violence, i.e. – with the same frequency as we otherwise would. Having attention and respect – and acceptance – from others is really only paramount for as far as it is necessary to avoid the risks associated with the more negative techniques. In short: Attention and acceptance to psychopaths are not goals or ends, they’re means to ends.
When we (psychopaths) do care about whether or not we get attention it is not because we have an emotional dependency on being recognized or confirmed by our surroundings. It doesn’t matter to us that people speak badly about us, or that they try to avoid us. Being feared makes an opening for controlling those who fear you, and control leads to possible power.
Making sure you get a lot of attention is also a kind of control, it is a potential opener for gaining power, and it is the central, and often the only, reason why we seek to get it.
This is a well known fact, and the entertainment industry – just to mention one – knows and uses it: Make yourself known, make sure people notice you and that they can’t overlook you, and you have the basis for influencing how people respond to you.
If people like you, there’s a greater chance that they’ll support you or help you in other ways, especially if it’s mutual. <– This is what I've chosen to do, but I certainly did not always use a friendly approach. I've been very abusive in the past, and it has worked very well for me too. – But I've changed in many ways, and I find the mutual idea much more interesting now – and that is good, because it keeps me out of prison, and it has created a good possibility for me to actually do something valuable that others can benefit from… But that was a side note.
Narcissists seek attention and acceptance for it's own sake, and are miserable if they don't get it.
Psychopaths seek attention and acceptance because it is part of a technique to get something else. Attention and/or acceptance for it's own sake doesn't matter to how a psychopath feels.
A Narcissist, opposite a psychopath, is very vulnerable to Social Rejection and rejection in general. If you deny them admiration and respect, and – more important still – if you humiliate them publicly, you can crush a narcissist completely (provided you do it right and with timing).
Narcissists get very hurt when they get rejected.
Psychopaths do not feel any emotional pain or discomfort when they get rejected.
No narcissistic person can go through public humiliation and not feel emotionally very disturbed by it. With this knowledge one can destroy a narcissist quite easily… This is the typical area of most psychopaths' expertise, and it is why we so easily can control most narcissistic people. For the same reason most psychopaths have a lot of contempt for narcissistic people. We see individuals who love to abuse and humiliate, but who are even more vulnerable to these things themselves, and it's hard to find it in your heart to respect such people…
– I suspect we may have this in common with most neurotypicals.
I don’t generally like the sort of comparisons I see so often that stigmatize BPD as a less stable, “crazier” form of NPD, but it’s a fact that people with both disorders have problems with rage, and their rage can manifest in very similar ways, even though the motives behind the rage are different.
Here’s an article from Narcissist’s Wife that talks about the similarities and differences, and how you can protect yourself from the angry B’s. (sorry for the bad pun, I couldn’t resist).
Borderline Personality Disorder has many symptoms in common with Narcissism. In fact, the two disorders often overlap to some extent. This can cause a lot of confusion for the spouses and partners of these people as they go from seemingly normal and ok and you start thinking “well, maybe they aren’t a narc, maybe they were just having ________” (Insert whatever excuse you happen to go to when they’re behaving badly). Not everyone is 100% psychopathic Narcissist with the heart of a snake. As with anything in life, sometimes Narcissism comes in shades of grey.
All that said, Borderline Personality Disorder can express itself in ways very similar to Narcissism and one of the most common is in rage. The temper tantrums narcissists throw are very similar to a Borderline, though they are motivated by different things. Knowing these things may help you not only anticipate an explosion, but temper it as well.
Unlike a Stone Cold Narcissist (who uses rages to manipulate, control, and assert his superiority) borderlines are extremely insecure and emotionally unstable. Nearly all their emotions go up and down (leading one to question Bipolar disorder) but anger is the most difficult for those around him/her to put up with. Their intense and fiery anger comes from a deep belief that you don’t care about them, are not listening to them or are otherwise not meeting their needs. They strike out in pain to punish the one who they believe is hurting them. Unfortunately, this may all be in their heads, and their pain could actually be coming from another source that they are not prepared to deal with or that they are otherwise bound to not be able to express anger at, so you become their emotional punching bag.
Those without an overlapping Narcissistic disorder may feel shame and embarrassment, and apologize when their emotions have calmed down a bit, for fear of losing you. Though they may feel remorse, their behavior will not get better unless they are in treatment. A Borderline with Narcissism though, will not make such overtures. Your perceived faults are deserving of their rage in their eyes and the punishment for your shortcomings in their eyes is their scorn and anger. They are more demeaning in their anger, and can be much more passive aggressive.
Read the rest of this article here: http://www.narcissistswife.com/borderline-personality-disorder-narcissistic-rage/#respond
Histrionic personality disorder (HPD) is the forgotten step-child of the Cluster B group of personality disorders, which also includes the Borderline, Narcissistic and Antisocial personality disorders.
HPD: the “other” Cluster B disorder.
NPD is of course the King of the Cluster B disorders (which is exactly the way a narcissist would have it). It’s one of the hottest topics on the Internet right now, with ACONs everywhere (adult children of narcissists) rising from the silence of abuse like vampire slayers on a mission of justice. In addition, there are probably hundreds of blogs and forums about NPD and the damage people with that disorder inflict on everyone else. If you Google the word “narcissist” or “narcissism” you will see thousands of articles, personal stories, quotes, videos and support groups for victims of narcissistic abuse (but only a sprinkling of the same for people WHO HAVE the disorder–because NPD normally hurts its victims more than its sufferers).
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is also widely discussed on the web, and it appears to be a common catch-all diagnosis, especially for women who were victims of abuse or sexual abuse and show emotional instability resulting from that. People diagnosed with BPD may actually be suffering from an array of other disorders (such as PTSD) and labeled BPD because the experts have so little understanding of BPD and it might not even be a real disorder anyway. Or maybe it is a real disorder but is a lot rarer than you’d think because so many people (mostly women) are erroneously diagnosed with it. In any case, there are blogs, support groups and forums all over the web for people with BPD and those who love them (or must cope with them).
And finally, if you’re like me and enjoy reading about psychopathic and sociopathic murderers, serial killers, mass murderers, cult leaders, and other violent (and non-violent) criminals, you are going to find out a lot about Antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), which is actually at the top of the narcissistic spectrum if you’re of the school of thinking that believes narcissism runs on a continuum from merely manipulative to heinous beyond words. Sociopath World is an interesting website that features blog posts written by ASPD writers. If you like this sort of stuff, or are just curious to find out what the inside of a sociopath’s head is like, I recommend checking out the site.
A fourth (and rather interesting) Cluster B disorder, HPD or Histrionic personality disorder, somehow got lost in the Cluster B shuffle. You don’t hear much about it and there’s very little written about it either, except for cursory mentions in the psychological and psychiatric literature, and it’s rarely featured by itself–it’s only mentioned in articles about the Cluster B disorders in general. But while it’s not widely talked about, Histrionics (mostly women) are frequent characters in movies, novels and TV shows because they make good theater.
People with HPD crave attention, so much that Sam Vaknin speculates that HPD may actually be the somatic, “female” form of NPD–or at least resembles it a lot. Most (but not all) Histrionics are women. A woman with HPD will act very much like a somatic narcissist, but may show somewhat more empathy or genuine (but shallow) emotion than a true narcissist. In fact, showing emotion is what Histrionics do best–hence their name. Their exaggerated emotional displays are over-the-top and dramatic. They are the original drama queens. I’m going to go out on a limb here and speculate that a lot of male HPD’s are probably flamboyantly gay men of the type who have exaggerated feminine affectations and interests (this is certainly not a slur on gay men, just an observation). Histrionics are also easily bored and besides attention, crave constant activity or social interaction. They tend to smother those they become attached to.
For convenience’s sake (and because most histrionics are women), I’ll describe a hypothetical woman with this disorder.
Haley was the youngest child of her family of origin, and also the prettiest. At the age of 12, her parents divorced and her mother remarried. Haley’s stepfather appeared to love her–but that was just how things appeared. In actuality, he came into her room at night and forced himself on her, telling her how pretty she was and what a beautiful woman she was turning into. He made her strip naked and lie down on the bed while he fondled her developing breasts. When Haley questioned him about why he did this, her stepfather told her he was just “checking to see how she was developing.”
Haley was spoiled by both her mother (a narcissist who actually hated Haley for “seducing my husband” but still needed her because Haley made HER look good) and her stepfather, who constantly bought her clothes, mostly revealing outfits that showed off her adolescent curves.
Haley was never encouraged to think for herself or develop her mind or any skills other than her physical appearance and flirting ability. Her mother, a somatic narcissist, taught Haley that acting helpless and exaggeratedly feminine was the most effective way to attract a boy. Haley was spoiled rotten but abused at the same time. She was attractive, obsessed with clothes, makeup and shopping, and used her “feminine wiles” to attract boys, who she proceeded to manipulate (usually using sexy smiles, skimpy outfits, exaggeratedly demure behavior, or tears) to get whatever she wanted.
Haley was highly romantic–besides being obsessed with cheap romance novels, she was constantly “in love” with someone. Unfortunately she never learned how to love anyone on a deeper level because she didn’t know how to give, only take. She learned that sex was the best way to obtain what she wanted, and that’s all most of her lovers wanted her for anyway, so she was more than happy to oblige. Due to her immaturity and emotional instability, she was prone to drawn out, over the top tantrums when she didn’t get her way. Of course, her frequent temper tantrums, crying jags, unreasonable demands, and general high-maintenance behavior caused all her relationships to be short lived. With each breakup, Haley got worse, and upped the ante for the next relationship, believing she hadn’t asked for enough the last time. It never occurred to Haley that she might be too demanding and high maintenance. She never learned from her own mistakes, because being needy and demanding was all she had ever been taught.
Haley had good social skills, and became the life of any party she attended. While she had no close friends (due to her inability to maintain any deep and meaningful relationship), she had plenty of acquaintances and casual friends, who though of her as a dynamic, fun and exciting woman. She had lots of charm, was very pretty, and adored being the center of attention–just as she had been in her family growing up. Each year she would throw herself a huge birthday party, and expansively invite more people than she could realistically afford to entertain. But that didn’t matter because she had so many admirers, no one cared that the food and drink always ran out. Haley kept everyone entertained. Even though she’d almost always wind up sobbing loudly and theatrically at some point due to some slight during these parties, even that in itself kept her admirers around, who became protective of her. Haley basked in all the solicitous attentions she received.
Haley also used her sexuality in inappropriate ways. On several job interviews, she wore revealing see-through tops or short shorts, or allowed her bra strap to “accidentally” fall down her shoulder from under a tight spaghetti strap tank top. She openly flirted with her male interviewers. While a couple of employers fell for the bait and hired her–Haley was never taken seriously as an employee and then she’d tearfully complain to anyone who would listen about how she was treated like a sex object and got no respect.
How HPD differs from BPD
Histrionic personality disorder resembles BPD in some ways–but the Borderline is ambivalent about relationships and tends to alternately smother and abandon people–their tendency toward “splitting” (black and white thinking) causes them to idealize others followed by devaluation or pre-emptive rejection when they perceive a slight. A histrionic will just keep on smothering and making more demands. They lack the ambivalence of a borderline.
While a borderline may be sexually promiscuous or seductive, not all are–and they don’t use their sexuality or body to exclusively the way someone with HPD does. Borderlines also tend to be more self-destructive (cutting, eating disorders, drug abuse, compulsive gambling, etc.) than a Histrionic, and more prone to suicide or suicidal ideation, as well as having dissociative and sometimes psychotic symptoms that Histrionics lack.