The Four Types of BPD

Borderline personality disorder can look different depending on the type

There are four widely accepted types of borderline personality disorder (BPD): impulsive, discouraged, self-destructive, and petulant BPD. It is possible to have more than one type of BPD at the same time or at different times. It's also possible to not fit any one of these borderline personality categories.

Types of Borderline Personality Disorders - Illustration by Michela Buttignol

Verywell / Michela Buttignol

People with this mental health condition have issues with emotion regulation, engage in impulsive behavior, and have trouble with relationships. The types of BPD can overlap significantly in terms of what this looks like, though symptoms like aggressiveness and anger may vary considerably between them.

This article looks at the four types of borderline personality disorder and what defines them. It also discusses how they are identified by a mental health professional.

Note: Not all healthcare providers agree on how many BPD types there are or what symptoms are common to each one. This article reports on the four main types as established by the late Theodore Millon, PhD, DSc, a leading expert in the field of personality disorders.

Impulsive BPD

Impulsive behavior is a primary symptom of BPD. A person with BPD can act in impulsive and often dangerous ways. They may do this without regard for others or possible consequences.

People with this type of BPD may appear:

  • Charismatic
  • Energetic
  • Elusive or detached
  • Flirtatious
  • Engaging or motivating

Some example behaviors include:

  • Bingeing behaviors: Binge eating, overspending
  • Risky and self-destructive behaviors: Unprotected sex, sex with multiple partners, driving under the influence, drinking alcohol to excess, doing illicit drugs, gambling
  • Aggressive behaviors: Outbursts, physical fights, breaking things, hitting things, yelling fits

Discouraged BPD

This is also known as quiet borderline personality disorder. People with this type are afraid of being abandoned. They may take extreme actions to prevent real or imagined abandonment.

Compared to people with other types of BPD, people with this type may keep their emotions inside. They also tend to blame themselves rather than others. 

Discouraged types may:

  • Be perfectionists 
  • Be very successful
  • Be high functioning 
  • Feel alienated and detached in groups
  • Feel like they don’t have real or strong bonds with others 
  • Seek approval but also self-isolate
  • Engage in self-harm or suicidal behavior
  • Feel lonely and empty a lot of the time

Signs of discouraged BPD include:

  • Clinginess
  • Codependency 
  • Neediness 
  • Anger and emotional mood swings if abandonment issues get triggered

Self-Destructive BPD

People with this type of BPD struggle with self-hatred and often feel bitter.

Example behaviors of people with this type of BPD include: 

  • Substance abuse: This includes recreational drugs and prescription medications.
  • Risky adrenaline-seeking activities: People with this type of BPD may do these activities without preparing for them first.
  • Self-harm behaviors: These may include cutting, burning, scratching, or hitting.
  • Threats of suicide

Symptoms of self-destructive BPD are similar to those of other conditions. These additional symptoms can help set it apart:

  • An increase in energy
  • A decrease in the desire to sleep
  • Feelings of euphoria

That said, these may be signs of a manic episode or bipolar disorder rather than self-destructive BPD. Talk to your doctor so you can be sure to get the right treatment.

Petulant BPD

People with this type of BPD may be angry one moment and sad or sulky the next. They may swing unpredictably between one emotion and another. They may also feel unworthy and unloved. This can lead to relationship challenges and an unhealthy desire for control.

People with this type of BPD can be manipulative. They often feel very dissatisfied in their relationships. Substance abuse and other dangerous behaviors often follow.

Example behaviors of people with this type of BPD include:

  • Irritability and impatience
  • Stubbornness and defiance
  • Passive-aggressiveness
  • Severe mood swings

Help Is Available

If you or someone you know is in crisis and threatening self-harm or suicide, contact the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988. This is a national toll-free number that is available 24/7 that will provide confidential support and connect you to local crisis centers. Never discount suicide threats from people with BPD.

How Do I Know What Type of BPD I Have?

There is no one "BPD test" that can diagnose the disorder or tell you what type of BPD you have.

To diagnose BPD, your healthcare provider may:

  • Ask you about your symptoms and medical history
  • Ask you about your family medical history, including mental health conditions
  • Have you complete a detailed questionnaire
  • Conduct a complete medical examination to rule out other conditions that may be causing your symptoms

Their evaluation may lead to the diagnosis of one or more types of BPD. However, some people have only the core symptoms of BPD and may not necessarily fit into any of the four types discussed here.

Your healthcare provider will monitor your symptoms over time. Most people with BPD improve with treatment, though it is possible to experience relapses. This is why it is important to follow up with your healthcare provider even if you feel that you are improving.


The four types of BPD include impulsive, discouraged, self-destructive, and petulant. Each highlights a different aspect of BPD.

For example, people with impulsive BPD tend to act without thinking about the consequences. People with self-destructive BPD struggle with self-hatred and suicidal thoughts.

Anyone with BPD may have one type or more than one, though some people don't squarely fit into any of these categories.

A Word From Verywell

A person who has BPD typically experiences a significant amount of emotional pain. Remember, though, that no two people experience BPD the same way. Similarly, the same person may experience BPD in different ways.

Working with a mental health professional can help you navigate all of this. You may also find participating in a BPD support group helpful.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can you have all four types of BPD?

    You can have more than one type of BPD at once, though all four is not likely. BPD type can also change over time, however, so you may experience all four over a lifetime.

  • Is there medication to treat BPD?

    Psychotherapy is the first step in treating BPD. Medication may, however, be used for some symptoms or to treat co-occurring mental disorders. Antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and other drugs known as psychotropic agents have been shown to be effective.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Alliance on Mental Health. Borderline personality disorder.

  2. Smits ML, Feenstra DJ, Bales DL, et al. Subtypes of borderline personality disorder patients: a cluster-analytic approach. Bord personal disord emot dysregul. 2017;4(1):16. doi:10.1186/s40479-017-0066-4

  3. Millon T. Disorders of Personality: DSM-IV and Beyond. Second edition. Wiley. 1995.

  4. Biskin RS. The lifetime course of borderline personality disorder. Can J Psychiatry. 2015;60(7):303-8. doi:10.1177/070674371506000702

  5. Bozzatello P, Rocca P, De Rosa ML, Bellino S. Current and emerging medications for borderline personality disorder: is pharmacotherapy alone enough? Expert Opinion on Pharmacotherapy. 2020;21(1):47-61. doi:10.1080/14656566.2019.1686482

By Michelle Pugle
Michelle Pugle, BA, MA, is an expert health writer with nearly a decade of contributing accurate and accessible health news and information to authority websites and print magazines. Her work focuses on lifestyle management, chronic illness, and mental health. Michelle is the author of Ana, Mia & Me: A Memoir From an Anorexic Teen Mind.